The Sad Story of the Sioux

I had a lot of trouble prying meaning from the translated words of Black Elk. Because the account is taken from the spoken Lakota words from an actual Sioux, I trust that Neihardt gave the most accurate depiction of the Native American people that he possible could. However, the account was given with plenty of description and a lack of story line content. Naturally, my mind focused on the historical plot that provides the setting for the story: the interaction of Native Americans with European settlers up until the battle at Wounded Knee or rather, the massacre at Wounded Knee.

Meeting before entering battle

I found a lot of morbid irony in the fact that the Native Americans, a peace loving people who value the sacredness of all life forms, were forced to defend their people against the west settling “white man.” The Great Sioux were not a violent people, but were killed by the millions as they faced inescapable genocide. We can see the Sioux’s peaceful tendencies as Black Elk explains with his sacred bow in-hand that he “was a little in doubt about the Wanekia religion at that time, and did not want to kill anybody because of it.” (Black Elk Speaks xxxv) It is a feeling of vengeance invoked by the suffering of his own people that drives his will to fight.

The account makes me think that in many ways, the Native Americans were more advanced than his white counterpart. The Native Americans did not have the technological innovation to stand up to the United State’s armies which ultimately led to their defeat, but the Sioux people understood an important concept that we so often talk about in class: unity. The conflict caused between the Native American people and the invading white settlers was the result of the white man’s poor reconciliation with diversity. The Sioux people found meaning in, “pleasing to the Powers of the Universe that are One Power.” (Black Elk Speaks xxxii) The White man found meaning in furthering his own success and beliefs. Black Elk has trouble comprehending the white man’s senseless killing as he recalls when “the bison were so many that they could not be counted, but more and more Wasichus came to kill them until there were only heaps of bones scattered where they used to be. The Wasichus did not kill them to eat; they killed them for the metal that makes them crazy, and they took only the hides to sell.”(Black Elk Speaks xxxi) Just as the bison were killed for unjustified reasons, the Sioux people were killed for land, religious differences, cultural differences, and other ignorant reasons.

I could rant on the countless injustices of the white man when it comes to the treatment of Native Americans, but instead of focusing the rest of my entry on the tragedy of the fall of the Sioux, I’d like to acknowledge their great culture. Although simple, the Sioux people were nothing less than a wise people. They understood that land can’t truly be owned by any one person. They understood that all living and natural forces are in some manner sacred. We can all learn from Black Elk’s continual appreciation of the beauty around him.

Published in: on March 29, 2010 at 10:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Connections with Nature

Native Americans have a connection with nature

What amazed me most about Black Elk Speaks is the sense of duty that the Native American people have in regards to nature. It is admirable for several reasons. Consider our own society in which animals are treated as products under a market driven utilitarian society. Efficiency comes before justice in too many places. Here in Black Elk Speaks, the Native Americans are not one, but two steps ahead of the rest of us in terms of showing compassion for nature and life. First, the Grandfather’s drive home the beauty of the nature around them. The Native Americans’ respect for nature keeps them from unnecessary killing. There is a very real spiritual belief that “the morning star lives to give men wisdom”(Anthology 359) and that their exists a “holy tree that should have flourished in a people’s heart with flowers and singing birds.” (Anthology 359) In other words, nature is truly a spiritual entity that can offer divine revelations for mankind.


The movie Avatar takes a similar approach. In the movie, the humans have forgotten the value in appreciating nature around them. The humans, in a cliche manner, seek out the creatively named unobtanium. As expected, the futuristic race of man has nothing in mind but economic gain. On the other hand, the native Na’vi live in harmony with the surrounding life of planet Pandora. The spiritual journey of the cold marine Sully, into the  wiser Na’vi form of himself symbolizes the value in what some would call, “returning to your roots.” While technology and progress are obviously beneficial, the movie tries to remind us that we as a race still have ethical responsibilities towards the planet that we live upon. Speciesism is a widely used example used to argue how man has fallen from his ability to empathize with other life. Back to Black Elk…

Wolf Pack

The second manner in which the Native American people are superior in their treatment of nature is that they go beyond respecting nature and help it flourish. As the Grandfather said in the story, ‘you shall walk upon the earth, and whatever sickens there you shall make well.’ (Anthology 364) Supporting wildlife out of compassion is an extremely rare occurrence in present day. As my totem animal, the wolf, suggests, we should think of life as a family or pack. Why not consider the unity between life and use it as a driving force for good?

Published in: on March 25, 2010 at 4:32 am  Leave a Comment  

My leadership vision

Good leadership visions come from great leaders with even greater dreams. Such leaders do not serve others under petty pretenses; they work towards a larger contribution to society.  Additionally, the best leaders have true passion that drives their work. I have only begun to unearth my passion and potential, but I know that I hold a sincere interest in the betterment of children. Keeping in mind the examples set by leaders of purpose, I hope to improve the lives of handicapped children.

My brother Dominic

As previously mentioned in my passion essay, my interest in aiding children comes from my brothers, especially my brother Dominic who was diagnosed at birth with cerebral palsy. After identifying where to focus my energy, I had to determine the best way to materialize a meaningful leadership vision. My vision will be implemented in two manners. First, I will help disabled children on an individual basis. This hope can become realized by setting a series of manageable goals and working my way into the medical field. The second part of my vision will support the handicapped on a broader community-centered scale. This part of my vision requires more creativity and innovation, and a set of stretch goals.

Mother Teresa profoundly encouraged others not to “wait for a leader; do it alone, person by person.” In this manner, I hope to lead by example and better the lives of children one by one as a pediatrician. In order to become the example I hope to spread, I need to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to fill an occupation that will allow me to do so.  As a pediatrician, I can work in a hands-on setting with mentally disabled children. Providing the treatment for even one handicapped child would be a worthwhile cause. Acquisition of such skills can be obtained through manageable goals I set throughout my collegiate academic career.

A good doctor is a well rounded person.

Under the Plan II curriculum, I study in two both liberal arts and the natural sciences. Liberal arts courses help build an ability to connect with others. Consider a doctor who has spent the last 10 years of his life enveloped by his academic work. If a successful student, the new doctor would be able to give a proper diagnosis given the correct symptoms. However, whether a doctor or not, successful leaders have to connect with the people they work with. Without empathy, a doctor is missing the vital “human” component of his job: to understand a patient’s emotional, physical, and mental state. The plan II world literature and philosophy courses serve to expand my understanding of peoples’ thoughts and ideals. Through great works of fiction and philosophical logic, I can better understand the inner workings of a person’s psyche. Specifically, the fostering of emotional intelligence in my world literature class is a rarely addressed subject that will prove invaluable to my understanding of people both integral and distant from my occupation. The ability to listen and the ability to follow complicated directions are other skills that my world literature class focuses on. Obviously, a skilled physician must be able to listen to the problems of a patient in order to provide them with the care they need. My science courses serve a different objective. I must learn the basics of biology, chemistry, and physics not only to gain admission to medical school, but also to build the foundation needed to absorb the thousands of details taught in medical school.  Other courses that may at first seem like a hindrance like fine and performing arts requirements would still prove beneficial.  As Dass points out, “a growing burden of personal responsibility leads to exhaustion and frustration.”

[1] Taking history and arts courses will prevent the burnout that correlates with leadership and service.

Manageable goals beyond schoolwork during college include volunteering at the Dell Children’s Hospital, University Health Services Center, participating in laboratory research and embarking on a medical mission in South America. Working at the Dell Children’s Hospital will provide interaction with children that will not only bring aid to sick children, but also will confirm my passion and provide experience helpful towards my leadership vision. Volunteering at the University Health Services Center will teach me what it is like at the bottom of the medical profession totem pole. Robert Greenleaf once stated, “good leaders must first become good servants.” As a volunteer at the university, I will be working hand and foot for the nurses and patients they serve. The experience will undoubtedly help me empathize with the same kind of people I would interact with in a professional setting. Participating in laboratory research will fuel more hopeful long-term goals like finding cures for chronic children conditions. Participating in a medical mission to South America will help me keep things in perspective.  By understanding how blessed a life I have been granted, I can better serve those who are not as fortunate.

After working my way through my short-term goals and reaching a position where I can provide medical care to children on a daily basis, I can best serve by example.  Either through a private practice or large hospital, I would provide invasive care to adolescents blighted with neurological diseases. Helping each child one by one reminds me of the man “throwing starfish back into the ocean….mak[ing] a difference for that one.” As a doctor I would be devoting my time to a cause greater than myself. While not as easily recognized as leadership, helping people on a smaller scale is definitely leadership by example. Still, I hope to go even further.

With true passion and willingness to lead others towards a greater cause, my interest in serving children will hopefully extend past my occupation. After obtaining the proper financial backing, I plan on forming a local charitable organization with a very specific outreach. At this point, my manageable goals are not enough to drive my dreams. The path to becoming a doctor can be walked through defined steps, toil, and determination, but the formation of a non-profit charitable organization requires that “ability to think outside to box” as stated by the P4 instructions. I will form a society of Advocates for Pediatric Neurological Disorders (APND). The group will be a non-profit charitable organization that increases awareness of children with hampering neurological disorders, provides funds for care, and works to raise money for research in the greater Austin area. My current tutorial course, Pathways to Civic Engagement, discusses all the major topics pertaining to my idea: justice, healthcare, entrepreneurship, education, place, and innovation. Of course, a simple freshman course does not even scratch the surface of such a stretch goal. Regardless, I am positive my undergraduate education will ignite the flame of passion I need to tackle such a massive community endeavor.

Although a premature prototype, I have outlined the model of Advocates for Pediatric Neurological Disorders. The society would focus on bringing relief to children with autism, mental retardation, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, Tourette’s and rare neurological disorders. Funding will start on a smaller scale by obtaining capital from individual doctors willing to contribute to the cause. With enough advertising, additional money could be provided by private sponsors and altruistic individuals. Beyond expanding the organization, a majority of the revenue will be spent providing material needs for low-income families with disabled children. Families will be supplied with wheelchairs, formula, medicine, and any other goods that they need but cannot afford. Leftover capital would be channeled to the already existing Gordon and Mary Cain Pediatric Neurology Research Foundation Laboratories. The research foundation is part of the Texas Children’s Hospital and would utilize the money to, as the foundation states, “uncover the basic causes of presently incurable and devastating neurological disorders in infants and young children.” With financial aid being provided to socioeconomically disadvantaged families, neurological research and organizational outreach, Advocates for Pediatric Neurological Disorders will strengthen the community fight against Neurological disorders in the Austin area.

My work as a pediatrician in conjunction with the foundation of Advocates for Pediatric Neurological Disorders will allow me to serve as the leader who helps the needy on an individual basis, and as the leader who tackles the big picture. Over a dozen children a day could be diagnosed in a clinical setting, and hundreds of children with ruinous medical conditions could be given aid otherwise not affordable through the APND. Who knows? The charitable organization could find enough success to spread beyond the Austin area and increase awareness and relief across Texas and even the U.S. Currently I must focus on my manageable goals here in college, but still keep in mind the aspirations of my long-term goals. As I learn to empathize, become a citizen of the world, and further my scientific knowledge, I do so with a sense of purpose. Despite unavoidable setbacks, failures, and roadblocks, I approach my leadership vision in the hope of leaving the world a better place than I found it.

The best leader is the best servant:

Word Count With Quotes: 1487

Word Count Without Quotes: 1438

[1] Dass, Ram, and Paul Gorman. How Can I Help? Stories and Reflection on Service. New York: Knopf, 1985.

Published in: on March 23, 2010 at 2:17 am  Leave a Comment  

Alice and Diversity

Alice Approaching the Mouse

Alice’s young age and innocent predisposition help her deal with overwhelming diversity of her wonderland. Consider some common tendencies of people today in regards to diversity. Many people handle diversity on far ends of the same spectrum. Some people try to ignore differences, trying not to group anybody but in an ignorant fashion. Other people attribute everything to differences and demonstrate preferential treatment in the process. Alice, like any other innocent child, is able to acknowledge visible differences amongst the creatures she meets, but does not show signs of discrimination. Her interaction with the Mouse in The Pool of Tears is a prime example of the way Alice deals with diversity. Here she recognizes the Mouse for what it is, but does not make judgements about its ability to speak and comprehend as she asks, “O Mouse, do you know the way out of this pool?” Even after no response, she does not make judgements about its speaking abilities but ponders whether if it’s a French mouse that “doesn’t understand English.” (Alice in Wonderland p. 25-26) It makes sense when you think about it. Feelings of animosity and scorn are the unfortunate products of an environment that implants unjust ideals into the minds of adolescents. Children aren’t born racist or sexist. Alice approaches diversity the way we all should, with understanding and free of prejudice.

Humpty Dumpty

Innocence, however, is not perfect. While innocence may free a person of prejudice, it does not free them from ignorance. A person like Alice must take the time necessary to learn exactly what makes people different. Alice must take time to understand what is behind all the diversity she sees. Although Humpty Dumpty expresses his discontentment towards Alice quite rudely, he has a point when he tells Alice, “It’s very provoking…to be called an egg-very!” (Through the Looking Glass 208) Not trying to be mean or discriminate, Alice only made an observation and applied it as she addressed Humpty. Sure, unknowingly making an insensitive remark is better than doing so maliciously, but the fact remains that Alice lacks a form of tact. The same problem can be applied in real life. Students are educated to inspire open minds and build knowledge. Someone older is less likely to make insensitive remarks that children might make simply because they don’t know any better.

Dealing with diversity necessitates two states of mind. One, a person must be “innocent” or free from prejudice. Second,  a person must understand the background of such diversity. So though Alice has innocence that frees her from malicious prejudice, she does not have enough knowledge to handle the diversity she encounters in her wonderland. As students, we try to erase any biases we have built up over the years and form knowledge so that we can deal with diversity ourselves.

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Published in: on March 9, 2010 at 11:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Siddhartha 3


Siddhartha learns listening from Vasudeva the ultimate listener.

Siddhartha demonstrates this ability and in some cases lack thereof in regards to our class’ immediate practical goals. As Siddhartha looks for meaning in his life he shows willingness to listen to the ideas of several mentors. In some cases he absorbs and hangs on to every word his mentor has to say as is the case of Vasudeva. With Vasudeva “he listened neither to the suffering nor the laughter and did not bind his soul to any individual voice but submerged his self into [the river].” (Hesse 126) On the other end of the spectrum, Siddhartha listens to Kamaswami only to disregard his mentor’s anxiety and worldliness. In between the two extremes, Siddhartha listens to Gotama extremely carefully, but expresses disagreement over finding enlightenment. Because Siddhartha knows “how to listen” (Fall Anthology 14), he can ultimately find his way to self unification.

Unity and Finding Yourself

Like the character's in Minfong's stories, Siddhartha is soul-searching by spiritual means.

The question, “Who are you?” posed to us by both Alice’s Caterpillar and Professor Bump is the central theme of the novel. Siddhartha spends the whole  novel searching for enlightenment but in reality is going through a”soul-searching” that all individuals go through in order to answer the question, “who am I?” While there is some disparity between our course goal’s advocacy of community and the novel’s advocacy of individualism, both look “to unify the self.” (Fall Anthology 18) In both the novel and in our class, unification is found by understanding the “various courses and activities of…life” (Anthology 18) While in our case it is University life, Siddhartha reaches this synthesis by discovering piety, lust, love, loss, and wisdom. It’s not until his talk with Vasudeva that he becomes “devoted to the flow and dedicated to the unity” (Hesse 127)

P4 and Leadership

I kind of thought Siddhartha’s conclusion was that leadership is limited. Siddhartha’s aim is not to “become the kind of person who can lead others for the benefit of society” (P4 instructions) In fact, when spending time with Vasudeva, the god-like character of the novel, Vasudeva rarely talks but instead demonstrates simple acts of kindness like, “offering [Siddhartha] a bowl of cocunut milk.”( Hesse 119) I guess in that way we can learn from Siddhartha that being a leader is “more about composition of self” (P4 instructions) and being able to listen and empathize with others.

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Published in: on March 8, 2010 at 11:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Siddhartha 2

The Flow of Life

In part two of Siddhartha, Hesse builds on a wonderful analogy between living life and a flowing river. Siddartha spends years aggressively and consciously searching for enlightenment. However, Siddartha learns from Vasudeva that enlightenment can be found simply by letting go.


This “letting go” is something I can relate to. Personally, I resonate with Vasudeva’s teachings.(Although ironically, mentioning any likeness to Vasudeva brings forth a contradiction as Vasudeva has an unspoken philosophy of humility.) As I go to class, eat at J2, and go to Gregory, sometimes I forget how surreal everything is. Millions of people don’t have the opportunities that I have nor the basic necessities I have, not due to their own faults, but due to sheer misfortune. I simply got lucky; the concept is easy to grasp but hard to remember. Because of this realization, I enjoy the “go with the flow” philosophy of Vasudeva and eventually Siddhartha. Instead of sweating the small things like the average person, I try to always remain grateful and happy with who I am.

Godavari River

Of course, there are many virtues that I don’t possess and several things I need to work on. I do not possess the “ferryman’s virtue,” the ability to “listen like few others could.” (Hesse 98) Additionally, I don’t possess “the joy and cheerful benevolence of [Siddhartha’s] face [that] were the only things that were unchanged and flourishing.” (Hesse 123) Still, I recognize the importance freeing ourselves from the sorrowing anchored in a preoccupation with time. In the end, Govinda realizes this, “not knowing any more whether time existed.” (Hesse 140) Siddhartha spends a majority of the novel over thinking his life, tackling everything with a philosophical and spiritual approach. Eventually, he learns the wisdom of just letting things “be”, of just letting life run its course. Sometimes in my own life, I realize that the same wisdom applies. Again, it’s better just to let things be as they are. Everything happens for a reason. I have much to learn; at my young age I am hardly wise, but I honestly believe there is wisdom in accepting what some may call destiny.

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Published in: on March 4, 2010 at 3:49 am  Leave a Comment  


Talk about giving up worldly possessions, Herman Hesse’s protagonist Siddhartha doesn’t search for truth like the average teenager. He gives up the life of a wealthy Brahmin, high in the caste-system, for a life as an ascetic Samana. However, like any other guy, he changes everything for a beautiful woman-throwing away his ascetic Samana-like lifestyle. But first, Siddhartha takes a couple of years to make decisions about accepting the teachings and lifestyles of others.

Tensions between the Group and Individual.

The Ascetic

I would probably be wrong to call Siddhartha prideful as the author professes his good character throughout the first two chapters. However, Siddhartha is definitely skeptical of the teachings and characters of others, in part due to his intelligence and his awareness of such. While he struggles in the beginning to find separation from himself, he still comprehends his ability to muse about such ideas. He uses his own wisdom, despite his young age, to even address Gotama Buddha. In this conversation lies the major tensions between group and individual. From Buddha’s enlightenment, Siddhartha comes to the realization that, “Only for myself, myself alone, must I pass judgment, choose, or reject.” (Hesse 36) Still respectful to Gotama and his teachings, Siddhartha simply comes to the conclusion that he must take the time to discover himself, by himself. Whether or not he reaches his goals of self-realization I am not sure; all I could tell from the following chapters was that Siddhartha is not immune to the power of good looking women.

Siddhartha’s Sympathetic Imagination

Decaying Jackal

During his time as an ascetic, Siddhartha is “thirsty” for freedom from self or emptiness. Specifically, he wants to be “empty of thirst, of wishing, of dreams-empty of all joy and pain. He wanted the Self to die…”(Hesse 16) He attempts to achieve this through sympathetic imagination and “out-of-body” experiences. He allows his soul to enter the body of animals. After his spirit enters a dead jackal, “his soul had died, it had decayed, it had crumbled to dust.” ( Hesse 17) However, he always finds “himself awakened once more…in the cycle of existence.” (Hesse 17) Ultimately, he comes to the conclusion that he had approached life in the wrong way: stripping his Self in search for something greater when he should have been embracing who he is. As a class, we can still use this means of sympathetic imagination as a way to evoke compassion for beings who endured suffering.

Siddhartha…the Movie!

Published in: on March 2, 2010 at 3:36 am  Leave a Comment