Eulogy for BigStick 2/7/2007
Home Up The Black Hole Literary Review Wm. E. Allendorf, Prop.

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#1236992 - 02/07/07 02:53 PM A shaman's eulogy   from

A Shamanic Eulogy for the Recently Departed Big Stick
PT I -- Introduction

The shaman sat on a long hump of dirt near the Campfire. Someone had built a mock grave so that folks could come around and remember Stick, for better or worse. It was a mound of dirt about 8 feet long and about 4 wide. To mark it, a large stick had been inserted at one end. Someone had rolled some logs over from the main fire on which to sit. They'd built a small campfire of their own to stay warm over the winter chill.

The shaman was brooding. He'd thought Big Stick had died and had composed a rather elaborate eulogy. Now it seemed that perhaps it was for naught. Pooh Bear happened by and decided to see what was up with the shaman.

"Halloo." said Pooh

"Hello yourself, Pooh."

"Why so glum?"

"Big Stick isn't dead."

"Isn't that a bit morbid." said Pooh. " I mean. Isn't that a good thing?"

"Oh, don't get me wrong." said the shaman. "I'm quite happy for Stick. It's just that the string that goes from my tin can to the one at the ISP lost its knot, and I was without internet access for several days. I'm just now getting back to normal. Here, all this time I though Big Stick was dead and gone. Now, after writing this elaborate eulogy I find out he's just gone."

"Oh." said Pooh. "I think I understand." That really meant he did not understand, but he did not know, being a bear of attenuated faculties, whether showing his lack of understanding meant he was being dense, or the shaman was being. . . well, shamanic. Pooh Bear decided that being polite was the best course of action in any case.

"So what are you going to do?"

"I was debating whether to file Big Stick's Eulogy away with my other stuff in the back of the cave, so that someone can discover it after I'm gone too, or use it as tinder to get this fire going again."

"Perhaps if you tell me what it's about, I can be of some assistance." said Pooh.

"It's about race."

"Oh, I love races. Poohsticks is one of my favorites." said Pooh. "Everyone throws a stick off the bridge and the first one to come out the other side wins."

"Not that sort of race." said the shaman. "Although you bring up a good point-- about poohsticks, I mean. Save that thought; we'll come back to it later."



"Where should I save it." said Pooh. "I'm not a bear of much brain. I'm afraid if I'm left to it all by myself, I shall misplace it."

"I'll save it for you," said the shaman. "Race. That's the topic."

"Yes," said Pooh. "I'm all ears. . . er, that is to say that I'm probably mostly stuffing, if you look at it as total volume, but-"

"I think I understand." said the shaman.


The Shamanic Guide to Race

as told to Winnie The Pooh

You see I had race explained to me by my German Grandfather. He had a totally different take on it than "those other Germans." He'd lived both sides of it. The way he explained to to me was that when things get bad in your valley, you take your best young men and send them off to look for work. You have to be strong and smart to survive, so only the best are sent. They climb out of their valley and go look for a new place to live, with the idea that if they find a better spot, they'll write home and send for the others.

Eventually the young men will find a new spot that's better than home, and they try to settle down. Of course, these young men look nothing like the men of the village they've come to. They look funny, they sound funny, they may even pray to a funny god. Nobody knows what to do with them, and they talk so funny there isn't much you can get them to do. Except . . .

The one thing that everyone knows how to do is dig a hole. So they hand the new guy a shovel and tell him to dig a hole. The new guy asks how deep, and how long, but the villagers just point to the hole and say "Dig! Dig! We'll tell you when to quit." That's how strange people come into a new world.

Mind you, these are usually the strongest and the brightest young men, and they are good at digging holes. They dig them better than the villagers can. They earn enough to send for their families,and pretty soon you've got a whole mess of hole-diggers living on the outskirts of the village. They have to live there, because most of the holes they dig are for privies, and the hole diggers smell like privies, and no one wants them around. The privy diggers don't mind, because they think the villagers are a little strange too.

Eventually the villagers find a name for these new guys. Everyone knows these names. Everyone has a whole collection of these names, but they all translate to one thing "Privy Digger." You have a word for "yellow privy digger" "Dark privy digger" "Privy digger with a big nose" "Privy digger that eats soured cabbage." It's just that the villagers just don't know them as anything but privy diggers.

Privy diggers are usually the best their village had to offer up to the world, so pretty soon folks find out these are not the worst folks to have around. Eventually the villager's daughters,the most adventurous ones, sneak out and start meeting up with the privy diggers. This is scandalous, but the villagers eventually get over it. The next thing you know you have sons of privy diggers and daughters of privy diggers, and after a number of years it's hard to tell a privy digger from a villager, and things settles back down.

This process is repeated over and over again. The old villagers who can think of nothing but privy diggers eventually die off, and the sons of privy diggers eventually find some strange face showing up on the edge of town and they immediately realize they've found someone to whom they can pass off the shovel.

"Dig that hole." says the son of the privy digger. "Don't mind how deep or how long. I'll tell you when to quit. If you dig good, I'll give you some bread, and you can stay in my barn. Savvy?"

That's how my German grandfather explained race to me. You see, he'd gotten tired of living in Germany, and climbed out of his little valley and came to America. Sure enough, someone handed him a shovel and told him to start digging. When he stopped digging, he was a rich man, and he passed off his shovel to somebody else and got even richer telling them where to dig holes.

Shaman and Pooh

"That's a nice story," said Pooh. "Does that make you a grandson of a privy digger?"

"We're all the grandsons of privy diggers." said the shaman.

"That isn't much of a eulogy." said Pooh.

"Well," said the shaman. "I'm not done yet. In fact, I'm just killing time until my friend arrives. I had asked him to meet me here. I wanted him to speak over Stick's grave. However, now that Sticks's just gone. . . Oh well, he's coming from China, and I could not reach him to tell him to go home."

"China?" said Pooh. "But . . ."

"Yes, that would make him a Chinaman." said the shaman.

"Does he dig privvies?"

"Close," said the shaman. "He's a Taoist philosopher."

"Remind me again: What's the Tao?" asked Pooh.

"Oh, you know the Tao." said the shaman. "It's like pooh sticks. Remember how you win the game of pooh sticks."

"Eeyore said his trick was to drop your stick in the water in a twitchy sort of way." said Pooh. "I never knew what he meant."

"Well," said the shaman. "The trick to poohsticks is that you drop your stick into that part of the stream that is flowing the fastest. In that way, the faster water carries your stick under the bridge the fastest."

"Oh, I think I understand." said Pooh, being polite.

"Well, the Tao is like that." said the shaman. "Taoist philosophy teaches us to consciously choose what we place a value on and then find the flow of life that will get us to where we will attain it. If you want your stick to go to the other side of the bridge the fastest, you put it in the fastest part of the current."

"Is the fastest always the best?" asked Pooh.

"That's up to you to decide." said the shaman. "Yes, if you decide to win a race. No, if you want to go slow and enjoy the view."

The Taoist Sage Weighs in

Pooh and the shaman were interrupted by the arrival of an old man, of obvious oriental extraction.

"Pooh, " said the shaman. "This is my old friend, the Chinaman."

"Pleasant to meet you." said Pooh.

"The same here," said the Chinaman. "It has been a long time."

"Yes," said the shaman. "What have you been up to?"

"Digging privies." said the Chinaman. "I landed this gig last year. It's amazing what they'll pay you dig a hole in the ground these days. I bought a new backhoe and a truck and trailer to haul it around-- paid cash!" The shaman and the Chinaman both laughed. " I work from March to November and then take off for Florida and camp all winter on the beach."

"It's really good to see you." said the shaman. "I'm sorry to bring you so far. You see, the fellow that I thought had died. . . well, he didn't. He's just gone."

"Oh." said the Chinaman. "Well, perhaps what I was going to say will still be fitting."

"What is that?" asked Pooh. "By the way, I am Winnie the Pooh."

"Ah," said the Chinaman. "I am indeed honored. The illustrious Pooh. Your reputation as a Taoist sage is without equal."

"I didn't know I was. Is that anything like Purple Sage?"

"Er. . ." said the Chinaman. "Probably in some way."

"Oh, that sounds like fun" said Pooh. "I'd like to be a cowboy."

"I am Ch'in Shih," said the Chinaman. "You can call me Chin."

"So what's all the hubbub?" said the Chin, sitting on the mound of dirt. "Who's the dead guy?"

"Well, he's not really dead." said the shaman. "We called him Big Stick."

"I like that." said the Chin. "It's always good to offer that as a ray of hope to the family. Don't dwell on the fact that their loved on has assumed ambient temperature, smells bad, and is spoiling to be worm food. I make quite a bit of money off delivering eulogies. Trust me on this."

"No," said the shaman. "No, that is not what I mean. The fellow in question is not dead."

"He's still breathing? "


"But he's going to die soon?"

"Probably not."

"He must be awfully mad you put him in that box and stuck him in the ground then." said Chin, pointing at the mound of dirt.

"Oh," said the shaman. "This? Well, he's not really there. They just put up this mound so there would be something against which to mourn his loss I guess."

"Aye!" said Chin, clasping his hands to the heavens. "These fools. Nobody ever learns."

"I knew you would see why I called on you." said the shaman.

"I tell this story over and over," said Chin. "No one seems to hear me. They all have stuffing between their ears."

"And?" said Pooh.

"No offense meant." said Chin.

"None taken," said Pooh in a non-committal sort of way. "I think I understand."

"Years ago," said Chin. "My buddy Lao Tse died. A few of us over at the monastery decided to go over and pay our respects. So I get to the funeral home and there are all these monks, disciples of Lao Tse, acting like a bunch of women. They're crying, they're wailing, they're pulling their clothes, they're falling on the floor and rolling around, and the noise? It sounded like they were slaughtering sheep!

"So I went in and I let out three big wails, and then I turned to my buddies and told them 'Let's blow this place. I know a bar around the corner that has cheap buckets of Miller until Five.' One of the monks gets off the floor and runs over to us.

"'Where are you going?' asked this monk. 'Is that all you can summon for your friend? Three lousy little wails?'

"That's when I got steamed. I went around the parlor, kicking butt. I knocked those monks upside the head with my staff. I kicked their sorry backsides. I put a hurt on them like they had never seen. 'I'll give you something to wail about!' I said.

"'But Master!, said the monks. 'This was your best friend.'

"'No!' I said. 'I can see Lao Tse was a fool. And you are all fools too. I had believed him to be the man of all men, but now I know that he was not. When I went in to mourn, I found old persons weeping as if for their children, young ones wailing as if for their mothers. And for him to have gained the attachment of those people in this way, he too must have uttered words which should not have been spoken, and dropped tears which should not have been shed, thus violating eternal principles, increasing the sum of human emotion, and forgetting the source from which his own life was received. The ancients called such emotions the trammels of mortality. The Master came, because it was his time to be born; he went, because it was his time to die. For those who accept the phenomenon of birth and death in this sense, lamentation and sorrow have no place.'

"I kicked all their sorry butts, and as I left, I told them this: ' There was a fire. It burned brightly once, and now it is gone. It may burn elsewhere in this world, I know not where, but these sticks have burned out and grown cold. '"

With this, the Chinaman got up from the mound of dirt and walked over to the little campfire that someone had left. With his boot, he kicked the embers. A few were still hot, and once they hit the snow, they sizzled and went out.

"Just like this." said Chin. "And then I walked out of there and got drunk with my friends."

"Yes," said the shaman. "That is the story I wanted you to tell at the funeral. I thought it would have made a great eulogy. It's a shame no one will be able to hear it."

"Not for your friend, Mister Stick." said Chin. "I'm sure he'd prefer it this way."

"You know, I was thinking about what you said." said Pooh, pointing at the trammeled campfire. "It occurs to me that these sticks might come in very handy if we could just find a bridge with some water running underneath it."

"Wha?" said the shaman.

"Pooh sticks?" said Chin. " I'd love a game of pooh sticks. It would be an honor to play with the bear that lent the game its name."

"It started with pine cones, actually." said Pooh.

And so the shaman, the bear, and the Taoist sage gathered up what remained of Big Stick's wake and went off looking for a bridge.

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