Taos Council and Thoreau

Taos Pueblo, Kathy Weiser, Legends of America (2008)

I’ve not the citations in front of me, but I remember the stories.  One is about the time that the elders of the Taos Pueblo talked over the possibility of bringing electricity into the heart of the pueblo, there on the plaza with the flowing stream between the two big houses.

The Taos council decided not to allow electricity to be brought into the heart of the pueblo.  Outside of the plaza, electricity could be brought into homes.

The reasoning of the elders was that electricity brings with it appliances: refrigerators, toasters, radios and other machines.  And, with those machines and gadgets, people would have to go to work, earn a living to buy those things to plug into electrical current.  Introducing new technology would upset the balance within the community, taking people away from daily activities within the pueblo.  Ceremonies would be forsaken–or, less important– because of the pressure to work to pay for machines to plug into electricity.  Much would be lost and little gained.  A simpler life would be complicated.  A way would be lost, all by the introduction of electricity.

And, so, electricity never came to the plaza.  The plaza still remains the old way.

Henry David Thoreau, Green Mentality Files (WordPress)

The other narrative is somewhere in the Henry David Thoreau journals or maybe it was Walden.  Thoreau proposed a distance race and a puzzle to his readers.  Thoreau wrote that he could walk across Massachusetts faster than someone could take a train across the state.  He could start walking immediately, live off the land, do an odd chore and meet people as he walked across the state.  If one took the train, one had to buy a ticket.  To buy a ticket, one had to have money and to get money, one had to work.  So, before one could even board the train a whole sequence of things had to happen.  And, then, you had to travel on the train’s schedule.  To walk was faster, to travel the train was slower.  Race over, walking won, Thoreau wrote.

These two stories illustrate the dependency and attachments that occur when technology enters our lives.



Filed under Taos

10 responses to “Taos Council and Thoreau

  1. I never realized the reasoning behind no electricity at the pueblo, but I see how technology would interrupt their old traditional ways.
    Technology has its good and bad points when it comes to changing our lives.

    • Evangeline, yes, good and bad points. I did not develop this post. Maybe I will later. I need to go and find the citations for each narrative before I write more. I wanted to put something down before I went to school this morning and this had been in a draft for several weeks.

  2. Oh wow, love this post. It reminds me of how my neighbor Betty Sanchez, who passed away the same day as Shari Lewis in 1998, in her talks with me over the fence once said, “I feel for you young folks starting out – there are so many things you all feel you need to buy these days, it makes it really hard to keep up.” I realize that Betty and her husband gave me so many very wonderful and useful ‘things,’ the simple things like plants to transplant, water from their irrigation well, sweet handsewn gifts for our daughter … and shining examples of being caring people.

    • Betty was a fine, good person. Wise, too. You are so lucky to have good neighbors like that (I know you’ve told me about some that aren’t so good). Seems out here in the brush, people stay to themselves. There’s not much activity except to go to church to see people on a weekly basis. When I retire, I’m going to have to find me an active pueblo nearby and get adopted.

  3. Anonymous

    A good post.

  4. Jack: Thanks, once again, for teaching me something I didn’t know (and boy, is there a lot). I agree with the wisdom of the elders, even though I know once the genie has been released from the bottle, you can’t put it back.

  5. Kittie Howard

    Of course, I’d take the train and not walk, I’d fly and not swim to Europe, but the point stands that we ignore others, waste too much time, misuse our time at the expense of gadgets. There’s a time and a place for everything. The cell phone and driving, no. Ignoring one’s kids to play computer games, no. Putting off exercise to watch tv all day, no. And so on. As always, Jack, your post is spot on!

    • Kittie, I know. Balance of technology versus social obligations. There’s a lot I want to write about this. When I went to graduate school, I wanted to write about the transition from agriculture to industry in the late nineteenth, early twentieth century. Didn’t do it on master’s level and was into other things on the doctoral. Still wish I had followed my heart. You do have it down…too much television, computer.

  6. Jack, One of the biggest issues I’m looking at is how to get back to the land and simplify my life. To simplify still means hard work, because it involves doing pretty much everything for yourself. I hope I’m up for it as much as I want to think I am. 🙂 I looked at a beautiful piece of property today. Now, I sit quietly and listen to my heart… Not always easy to do. Reading this post is very timely…. T

    • Teresa, Yes, hard work. I think striking a balance using technology and simplifying works best for me. Getting back to the land with a beautiful piece of property would be a good thing. I’m sure you are up to it as much as you think you are. And, it will be different from what you think it will be, but you are up to it. We have to work at jobs in the city to keep things together in the country. When I retire, we will have to simplify a lot more. Can’t wait for you to describe your property or what you are looking at.

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