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Shut Up, Grandma's Talking

"When the wisdom of the Grandmothers is heard, the world will heal."
--Native American Prophecy

Whoever really listens to Grandma? Seriously. She doesn't email, she doesn't text, she certainly doesn't have a blog. If you tell her you have one, she'll probably suggest you get it off before it stains. And she'll recommend you use baking soda or something else you don't have anyway.

The world is moving too fast for Grandma now. She's like Brooks in Shawshank Redemption - likely to get mowed down from behind by current events, or the camera crew from TMZ. She tends to find quiet places where she can stay out of our way, as we rush around doing all the very important, plugged-in things we do.

We see her sitting there as we scurry past, and we know we ought to spend some time with her, but we just can't be bothered to stop and listen to her stories. Which is part of the problem. Because Grandma knows a lot of things.

The Native Americans didn't text either, except in a smoke-signal kind of way. Which, when you think about it, was just about as efficient as broken sentences and emoticons. I think they saved it for big stuff though - like "OMG! The US Army is totally coming your way!" Many native American tribes had what they called a "Council of Grandmothers". While the tribe's chief was in charge of major decisions about when and where to hunt, to camp, to go to war or not, how to punish Running Skunk for graffiti-ing the teepee, etc, these councils of elderly women actually had veto power over the chief. They reviewed every major decision he made, and they did it based not on whether it was a good idea for today, but on the "Seventh Generation" test. That is, how will this decision impact our tribe seven generations in the future? Now that's taking the long view. Our leaders today have compressed that down to about a seven-day test. How will this stimulus package affect my poll numbers next week? Come to think of it I may be giving them too much credit - Washington may be on the seven-minute test.

Things have gotten a bit out of control, in case you hadn't noticed. GM CEO Bob Lutz may still think global warming is a hoax, but when methane gas starts bubbling up through the polar ice cap, we have a problem. Fortunately, there is a growing movement towards listening once again to our elders. If you google "Council of Grandmothers" you'll find there are a number of them active around the world. One in particular, The Indigenous Council of Grandmothers, consists of women of various ethnicities as their name suggests, and travels the world's poorest areas dispensing their wisdom about environmental and social issues. Another one, called the "Great Council Of Grandmothers" www.grandmothersspeak.com is active in California. Their main message: our world is out of balance. As spokesperson Sharon McErlane says, "Today planet Earth and the life it sustains are in jeopardy; the energy of yin and yang is and has been out of balance for several centuries. As this imbalance increases, fear and violence hold sway, horror escalates and loving sensitive souls find themselves depleted and running on empty."

The trick, of course, is getting governments and people in power to listen. For that we are going to need more foot soldiers - ordinary people like you and me - to keep talking about these issues. Already the ground has shifted a bit, as I see more Priuses and fewer Hummers on the road. Our children will grow up to do a better job than we as stewards of this earth. That's only a one-generation test, but it's a start. We just have to keep hammering away.

A basic tenet of all the Grandmother councils holds that women are more open to this message. I think that's true, but as a man, I see that changing as well. I'm going to do my part: my Nana isn't around anymore to share her wisdom with me, but I do know some grandmothers, and I plan to spend some time listening to them. I may even go get some baking soda, just in case of accidents.

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