There is a traditional Yup’ik tale that tells the story of a young man that goes to hunt for the first time. On an attempt to find big animals for his family, he ends up eating all the animals he finds trying to gather energy for get yet bigger animals. He is never satisfied. He ends up eating a seal, a walrus and a whale (I know, it looks like the Yup’ik like their magical realism).
He becomes a giant and feels ashamed for what he has done as he can’t even get through the door of his house. However, his grandmother tells him to climb on the roof and jump in through the smoke hole. Obeying, he jumps up and falls right though the smoke hole into his house. In the process, his size is restored.
This young man went through the eye of a needle.
This story is used as a coming of age story, when the men are old enough to go out and hunt. It tells them what it really means to become human. It is also used to illustrate the pitfalls of over-consumption and avarice. Yet, it is also used to illustrate that becoming human requires focus and the ability to fit in our house, our society, our people. A coming of age means that we go to difficulty, something as difficult as going through the eye of a needle.
Why am I thinking of this story now, a day before we take off for Alaska? Well for a couple of reasons.
First, I think that this “coming of age” story is appropriate for our group, specially after a long week of video/theology/writing bootcamp. I think that we are ready to go to Alaska!
Second, I need to fit all of my stuff through the eye of a needle that is my backpack.
Third, having discussions about the documentary, I feel like we could be compressing the lives of the people in Bethel into a 20 minute documentary, which is just like the eye of a needle.
And finally, we run the danger of looking at and meeting these people only through the eye of our lenses, which makes them go through the eye of a needle.
Therefore it is my hope that we can all have the strength to go through the eye of the needle that is our trip, packing, experiencing a new culture, and so on. But at the same time, I hope that we are conscious of meeting people where they are, creating strong friendships and not looking at them only through the hole of a needle, or camera.