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I’ve been reading pieces of Indigenous religious thought and history lately. Something that has come from two very different cultures—one African and one Native South American — is the idea that white people have a hole in their souls, an emptiness in their hearts that is never filled. No matter what is gained, from gold to property to sexual conquests, it is ever enough.
As a white male, I am a bit befuddled on many levels at once. This does in fact describe virtually every white male of any age that I know. The basic, white male is not — and cannot — be satisfied. I don’t like this at all. But it is not a new idea.
Decades - CS - Lewis - Men - Chests
Decades ago, C.S. Lewis wrote of “men without chests” in his book The Abolition of Man. He focused on men in particular, living life without character, integrity, and solid beliefs. His premise was that money but also something more than money — pride or arrogance perhaps — separated these people from their own humanity.
To say we see a crass, unfillable emptiness more now – even cultivated and celebrated in our culture, media, and everyday relationships – is almost a cliché.
Hole - Soul
But why? And what does a hole in one’s soul even mean?
My study and work with Indigenous people and cultures may shed some light on this strange turn in our identities. In my observation, Indigenous belief systems (from Ancient Africa, the Americas, or across Asia) emerge, literally without exception, from lived experience. Certain plants or actions or creatures are “propitious” or cursed. This not necessarily because of some moral boundary, but they are a blessing or a curse simply because encountering them teaches us — if we have ears to listen. And Indigenous cultures value “wisdom” precisely because their culture will literally not survive if...
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