The Ethics of Ceremony at Standing Rock


15 Responses

  1. Jane Eagle says:

    This is an important article, and a beautiful read!
    Several years ago I was introduced to the idea that environmentalists are actually cells in the immune system of Earth; that we are spreading as the threats to the health of Earth increase. I like that. Of course, the planet will still be here when we have destroyed all life; but life has been a billion year long project of the living Earth, and she does not want it destroyed.
    I also have learned that people only protect that which they recognize as sacred. Most of us are brainwashed from birth to believe that if we acknowledge Spirit, we are crazy. We have been successfully distracted and seduced by shiny things to buy that “will make our lives better”…farther than the nature that is the life in our veins.

    We Were Made For These Times
    My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

    You are right in your assessments. The lustre and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

    I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

    Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

    In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

    We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

    Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

    What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

    One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these – to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

    Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.
    There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

    The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

    By Clarissa Pinkola Estes
    American poet, post-trauma specialist and Jungian psychoanalyst, author of Women Who Run With the Wolves.

    • Charles Carlin says:


      Thanks so much for your comments and supportive words. What I like about the idea of environmentalists as cells that you shared is how it is a description that has us living within the earth and not exploiting it, defending it, or speaking for it as if we were something different.

      Thank you also for the poem. Her work is new to me. Her words seem especially apt to me today. I was struck by this line: “Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.”

      It took me right to the scenes of violence from Standing Rock yesterday that I watched on video streams. Police from several states along with the National Guard “cleared” a camp that was set up directly in the path of pipeline construction. It is unceeded territory, land the water protectors are saying rightfully belongs to the Sioux. I felt anger, desperation, and so much sadness as I watched the police use sound cannons, bean bag guns, rubber bullets, batons, and armored vehicles to force the water protectors to leave the camp.

      The demonstrations at Standing Rock are being met with a tremendous of violence right now, which amplifies the contrast between the North Dakota government’s efforts to use the force of the state to defend resource extraction and the ethic of caring for a place as both the site of material sustenance and as sacred ground.

  2. miranda says:

    powerful article sir chuck, keep on 🙂

  3. Meghan Dana says:

    the article above needs editing. it rehearses arguments many have already made. it feels like the author used this “blog post” as a chance to write a second-rate academic article. it reads like an expository piece of academic writing, filled with jargon. the author tries to label every cultural “ritual” with some anthropological concept. that’s fine, if you actually have something original to say. but it feels like the author just wanted to practice using big words, not actually make sense of anything.

    It’s like the writer followed a How-To guide; every sentence feels careful and overly-formulated. It seems like EdgeEffects gives bumbling graduate students a chance to mansplain. Get your head out of your ass. most people don’t have the luxury or time to rehearse arguments that say so little. It would be one thing if you actually had something original to say. But it just feels like this author takes himself way too seriously. It’s absurd how long this is. The author is so elitist to think that most people would read this whole thing. How self-important is he? That we’re all just supposed to sit here while he soliloquizes some rehearsed academic argument? Wake up. You’re not that important.

    • Rachel Boothby says:

      Meghan, as managing editor of Edge Effects I was sorry to read your complaints! Since we’re a publication of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, we do our best to feature work on topics of interest to the broader public while maintaining a scholarly perspective. While you’re right that this perspective entails a certain amount of privilege, we’re very proud of the quality of our authors’ work. If you have specific feedback on types of articles and perspectives you’d like to see featured on our site, feel free to email us and let us know at

    • Charles Carlin says:

      I’m sorry you didn’t find this piece meaningful. I hope you find some other good reads here at Edge Effects.

  4. Ric says:

    Fantastic article full of provocative insights.

    In radical Christian circles (inspired by the Berrigan brothers and others) we speak of “liturgical direct action”. One source here is a 1991 book Seasons of Faith and Conscience: Explorations in Liturgical Direct Action, by Bill Wylie-Kellerman.

    Good work. Keep it up.

Leave a Reply