My gut feeling is that at the height of our folly we have been killing the goose that lays the golden egg - in this case killing off those with the vision and wisdom to get us out of our present predicament. Solomon, when given the opportunity to choose anything he wanted, asked for wisdom - wisdom alone. But with that gift he became the wealthiest man of his era and everything else was given to him. We also lack vision and Proverbs tells us that a nation without vision shall perish. Today our shortcoming is that we lack vision and wisdom and what is more we are so ignorant that we don't even suspect that we lack vision and wisdom. And in that ignorance and the greed, arrogance and contempt that it generates we have almost destroyed the last remaining semblance of a people who had the vision and wisdom that the wise would have traveled the earth to receive. Fortunately, we have this book and through these most wonderful writings the wise of today can tap into that vision and wisdom.
Humans have two natures - the materialistic and the spiritual. In the west today our materialistic side has grown big and bloated while our spiritual side has shrunk to an almost imperceptible size through non-use. Black Elk was a person where the materialistic and the spiritual were in balance. We, too, can regain that balance if we are willing to listen to Black Elk. As the back cover tells us this book was named one of the ten best spiritual books of the 20th century, I am not alone in thinking that this is a good book to read, study, absorb and implement - but only if we are wise enough to understand that, of course.
Black Elk had visions of the unity of humanity and the author tells us of his first visit in August 1930: "It was not of worldly matters that he spoke most, but of things he deemed holy and of 'the darkness of men's eyes'" and that "from early youth he had lived in and for a world of higher values than those of food and shelter, and his years had been one long, passionate devotion to those values as he conceived them" and that Black Elk had said "As I sit here, I can feel in this man beside me a strong desire to know the things of the Other World. He has been sent to learn what I know, and I will teach him." At this point I could not help but think that the author and Black Elk were both exceptional people. How is it that a near-blind man could feel the author's goodness radiating out?
Having arrived at noon and with the sun now setting, Black Elk said: "There is so much to teach you. What I know was given to me for men and it is true and beautiful. Soon I shall be under the grass and it will be lost. You were sent to save it, and you must come back so that I can teach you." Neilhard returned the following spring and listened to the old man talk because he wanted this great vision to be saved for you and me. The author then faced the difficult task - and the sacred obligation - to re-create for us in mood and manner the old man's narrative.
Stephen Covey in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" told me to imagine that I have just died and people are gathered together to talk about me, reflect on my life and provide ideas of what might be written on my tombstone. What, in a few words, would I want a visitor 100 years from now, to know about me? I think that I would be content if my gravestone said: "Here lies a man who lived the vision and wisdom of Black Elk in his every thought, word and deed."