note: no criticism of wispfox is intended or implied
Wisdom From an Indian Elder, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer - Indian Elder
It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for,
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.
It doesn't interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love,
for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow,
if you have been opened by life's betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain!
I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own,
without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own;
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers
and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic,
or to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn't interest me if the the story you're telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself;
if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore be trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every day,
and if you can source your life from God's presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine,
and still stand on the edge of a lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon, "Yes!"
It doesn't interest me to know where you live or own much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief
and despair, weary and bruised the bone,
and do what needs to be done for the children.
It doesn't interest me who you are, how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me
and not shrink back.
Boring old factual corrections
The "Indian Elder" part wasn't tacked on there the last time I saw the poem being circulated. Oriah Mountain Dreamer is not an Indian Elder. She is a white female poet. (Note, no disparagement implied; so am I.) The poem is not called "Wisdom from an Indian Elder." It's called "The Invitation."
The poet describes some of the other ways the poem has been changed as it has circulated. One change she didn't mention is that the line breaks and stanza breaks she put in have been mangled. (The original poem is posted on her web site.)
It tells me something I really don't like about the culture I live in that some people need to pretend this is written by an "Indian Elder" instead of a white female in order for it to speak to them.
It also tells me something I don't like that anyone believes stuff like this comes directly out of Native American culture, which (from my limited understanding) has a very different view of individuality than what's expressed here.
The kind of ignorance that erases cultural differences and goes on to ascribe parts of one's own culture to another group's culture is an insidious form of cultural imperialism.
Talking back to the poem's message
This is a good poem that expresses a feeling of frustration about superficiality. But I really hate it when people think it's a good way to approach life and other people in general. It's way too limiting, self-righteous, and judgemental for that.
Yes, I want to know what someone is like on the inside. I also want to know what their situation in the world is, what they're like on the outside, and how that affects the inside.
And I certainly care whether what someone tells me is true. If they want to invoke poetic license to say something, by all means they should, but that's a long shot from not caring.