Racial Unity Through Ceremony
Racial Unity Through Ceremony
Over the years, after wars and famine, peace-time and floods, few things have persisted to survive. Society, art, and other intangible objects as these are survivors of two millennia of human “progress”. Intelligent concepts and premises have also survived, as have emotions and morals. Even as these outstanding examples of humanity have survived, so have some less affirmative ideals lived on through our fore-bearers. Cultural, ideological, religious, and political supremacy are still abound today, as much as they were 50, 100, and even 5,000 years ago. In a shorter context, racism, the “cockroach” of human mentality, is still alive. It is the immortal insect that will live on as long as people tell their children to stay away from strangers, and others as equally unknown and different from the norm. Actively, society attempts to do away with it, while unconsciously, and quite willingly, hand feed its mandibles ourselves. There are, however, ever so few individuals in the world, that work to illustrate these infesting notions, and bring them to light, utilizing some of the constructive assets of the psyche, mainly arts and literature. One such person is Leslie Marmon Silko, a Native American author, and a target of such racist practices. In her book Ceremony, the topic of race and culture differences are dealt with thoroughly, as are the views that humanity should band together, or should accept that they are already tied together by fate, and face the problems that face every man. She utilizes inherent prejudices to draw lines between specific character groups, such as half-breeds, full-bloods, and quite otherworldly personalities, and then turns the readers intolerances about, bring to their notice that there are all characters are important to the “web”. Quite simply, Silko re-educates the reader by displaying equality through inequality and interconnection, while carrying them across time, planes of existence, and through their own minds.
Within the structure of Ceremony prose and poetry, story and narrative, are shaped to fit the challenges of Silko’s vision of racial equality. Her world of special consciousness is, in a very special word from the book, “fragile.” The old man Ku’oosh explains the meaning of fragile to Tayo, who is seeking (almost constantly) an understanding of the implications of ritualized vision, and the meanings of his own tormenting visions. Ku’oosh uses language with particular care, the narrator explains, as he reveals the meaning of “story in a story” Tayo is grouped with the reader as he hears the explanation:
“The word he chose to express ‘fragile’ was filled with the intricacies of a continuing process, and with a strength inherent in spider webs woven across paths through sand hills where early in the morning the sun becomes entangled in each filament of web. It took a long time to explain the fragility and intricacy because no word exists alone, and the reason for choosing each word had to be explained with a story about why it must be said this certain way. That was the responsibility that went with being human, old Ku’oosh said, the story behind each word must be told so that there could be no mistake in the meaning of what had been said; and this demanded great patience and love.” (Silko 36)
For Silko the responsibility that went with being human is expressed through the clarity of the story. Great patience and love are demanded of the story-teller not only so “that there could be no mistake in the meaning,” but also as a reflection of the full significance of the act of storytelling. Such as action interpenetrates the story-teller with other story tellers before him, showing that he is one and the same as every man before him, and with the intricacies of a continuing process of art. In a world of vision no word exists alone, that is to say, that each word is also just as important as the next; equal. Each word is caught within the fragile web of humanity to meaning, and each serves to reveal that very process of interconnection through it’s expression.
Tayo’s quest, though representative of his contemporaries, whether black or Native American, is more than allegorical. His is a journey within the metaphors that extend