anton treuer, bemidji state university, bono, chief hole in the day, god, mother theresa, ojibwe culture, oprah, purpose in life, self-help books, superhero grandma, the assassination of hole in the day, the poor
Last night Anton Treur gave a talk at the museum where I work, imparting his knowledge of the history, language and culture of the Ojibwe people, specifically in relation to Chief Hole in the Day II. He has written a book called “The Assassination of Hole in the Day” and his appearance was part of his promotion of the book. He is a professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University and has worked extensively to keep the language, history and culture of his people alive. (Bio of Anton. Video of Anton on Almanac.)
I’ve read a small portion of his book (okay, the history geek in me flipped to the Bibliography and citations first) and already I can tell that he is giving Minnesota historians a perspective that is rare; he is discussing the history of the Ojibwe from the position of being an insider, rather than from the typical European/American perspective. It’s an invaluable addition to our collective body of state history.
While I was listening to Anton, I was smacked in the face with the idea that he has a singular life purpose. He is saving Ojibwe culture through his work. It’s not mantle most of us get to wear, saving a culture. In fact, most of us probably can’t even claim to have a singular life purpose.
I sure can’t. There is not one specific thing I can point to and say, “That’s my purpose.” Instead, I’m all loose-y goose-y with my life. I tend to describe myself as a writer, artist and historian. I’m not a Writer with a capital “W,” or an Artist with a capital “A,” or an Historian with a capital “H.” I can’t seem to stick to just one of those roles and push it for all it’s worth. I keep taking turns with all three. It’s why I had such a stinkin’ hard time coming up with an artist statement.
There are peeps in this world who can successfully combine a couple passions to come up with a singular life purpose (Bono as Rock Star Social Activist comes to mind), but I don’t seem to be one of those. It’s not for lack of trying that I don’t have a singular life purpose. I went through a long phase of reading self-help books trying to divine what my singular life purpose was supposed to be, but all I took away from that was to listen for that still, small voice inside (i.e. “God,” who doesn’t talk loud enough for me to hear) and the notion that I was so fucked up that I needed to read another self-help book. (Thankfully, I’ve jumped off the self-help roller coaster.)
I keep looking for a singular life purpose, but I’m not terribly serious about it. What if I picked one thing and it was the wrong thing? I mean, look at Mother Theresa, for goodness’ sake. She was synonymous with her work with the poor, a calling supposedly from God, yet it shook her faith in God.
That poor woman needed a break. She ought to have listened to Oprah: “Take time for yourself. You can’t give what you haven’t got.”
I do think a critical part of a singular life purpose is joy and passion. If you don’t have either for what you’re doing, you haven’t found your life’s purpose. I have loads of joy and passion for art, writing, and history, which is why I can’t give up any one of them. So, then, do I need a singular life purpose, or can I get away with multiple life purposes? Or do I need to wait until I’m ninety-one to find my singular life purpose, like this Superhero Granny?