Friday, March 10, 2017

Hozho: Finding Balance

Some time ago the Brigham Young University Museum of Art mounted an exhibit of Navajo basketry woven by the Douglas Mesa weavers. In conjunction with the display, the concept of honzo was highlighted. According to the information accompanying the weavings, hozho is a Navajo concept which “[E]ncompasses beauty, order, harmony, and expresses the idea of striving for balance.” After recently rediscovering the BYU material, and looking for further clarification, I consulted The Navajo Language: A Grammar and Colloquial Dictionary, which defines hozho as “[B]ecoming peaceful, harmonious.”

Having concluded many phases of life, I finally arrived at the conclusion that hozho is an ideal that deserves a larger role in my day-to-day activities. Unfortunately, this realization did not came quickly or easily. Although Barry has been “discoursing” and “speechifying” on the subject for years, until recently I had not paid adequate attention.

Several years ago Jana came home with a copy of Amy Irvine’s book, Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land. I had been told Ms. Irvine’s autobiography described her struggle to find balance in this rugged red rock desert populated with equally rugged individuals, and I finally decided it was time to tackle the story. Since the tale is based on real-life events and involves characters I know from my youth, I was interested in the narrative.

The memoir describes the author’s attempt to establish herself in the small southeastern Utah town of Monticello, a community where my ties run strong and deep. I had hoped to find some insight that might help me address numerous environmental, cultural, political and religious questions that have confounded me over the years. Despite what I had been led to believe, I did not discover much balance or compassion in the writer’s description of the people of southeastern Utah. Neither did I find a way to begin addressing the issues that have been pressing in on me for some time. The book did, however, lead me to look more profoundly into hozho.

Having finished what for me was a divisive manuscript, I better understood the conclusion that there cannot be real, long-term progress without compromise—not the kind that involves caving in and abandoning your principles, but the type that requires finding a middle road where all parties can safely, if not fully comfortably, travel. Although I know it is all too common, as a young man I viewed the world as only black and white, right or wrong. As I have grown older, however, I have more and more trouble distinguishing the two extremes. I often find myself trying to justify both sides of an argument, searching for common ground.

Those who know my background contend my formal training is the reason I see the world as polychrome. I, however, believe it is Twin Rocks that has caused the philosophical shift. The trading post has taught me that the polar extremes are inconvenient and uncomfortable places to reside, and that the “It’s my way or the highway” philosophy only leads to conflict.

Unfortunately, for many of our artists crisis is a way of life. Consequently, things at Twin Rocks are in a constant state of flux. As a result, flexibility and a focus on compromise, balance, peace and harmony—hozho—is inherent in our trading post model. Living the trading post life often requires an earnest attempt to understand the individual’s overall needs when negotiating the value of a Navajo rug, patience when settling the selling price for a turquoise and silver bracelet, and empathy when determining just how much to help an artist out of a self-directed catastrophe.

In attempting to comprehend both sides of the issues, I am often reminded of the Lone Ranger and his trusty sidekick Tonto who one evening were lying in their bedrolls not far from the fading fire, staring into the night sky. After a while Tonto asked his friend, “Kimosabe, what you see?” Taking a long time to consider his response, the Lone Ranger finally said, “I see numerous constellations, the Milky Way and . . . well . . . eternity. In those stars I see the hand of God, His divine plan and tremendous beauty . . . What do you see Tonto?” Also carefully considering his reply, Tonto said, “Kimosabe, me see someone stole tent.” At times we are too focused on our own interests and biases to see the other person’s perspective. With all that is going on in the world today, a healthy dose of hozho might be good for us all.

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