#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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Oh." said the Chinaman. "Well, perhaps what I was going to say will still be
"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
"He's still breathing? "
"But he's going to die soon?"
"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
"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
"'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
"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
"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
"Not for your friend, Mister Stick." said Chin. "I'm sure he'd prefer it this
"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.