Think about language. Humanity is a social species. Not only our bodies, but our minds are interwoven. Human beings speak to each other. I am able to create sounds with my voice, and a certain meaning awakens in your mind. When I say the color blue, you can hear the word blue, and see it within your imagination. When I say the word love, you can call to mind a whole wealth of feelings and memories.
We belong to each other. We are part of a larger whole. And yet, we forget. Wars rage on in the Middle East, millions die from disease in Africa for which treatments are already known, poverty sits alongside wealth, industry pollutes the air and water. This is why we need to understand brokenness as well as wholeness. Chickasaw writer Linda Hogan tells a beautiful story of a broken clay woman. She writes:
I remember the first time I saw the clay woman …in a museum gift shop. …Her black hair flowed behind her, and on her clay feet were little black shoes… Her stomach attached to earth, just above North America. Her name was written on a tag, “The Bruja Who Watches Over the Earth.” Bruja is the Spanish word for a woman healer, soothsayer, or sometimes a witch.
I loved the flying soothsayer who protected the lands beneath her. She was connected to them by her very body, the very same clay. …I bought the clay woman and asked the clerk to mail her back to me, then I returned home, anticipating the day The Woman Who Watches Over the World would appear.
When she arrived, she wasn’t whole. Her legs were broken off, the gray interior clay exposed beneath the paint. I glued them back on. Then she began to fall apart in other ways. Her nose broke. Soon one of her hands fell off. The woman who watches over the world was broken. Despite my efforts she remained that way, fragmented and unhealed. At first I was disappointed, but then I thought, Yes, the woman who watches over us is as broken as the land, as hurt as the flesh people. She is a true representation of the world she flies above. Something between us and the world has broken. That is what the soothsayer says.
Linda Hogan’s bruja is an image of a creator who is connected to us in our actual reality, broken as we are broken, not merely a perfection to which we might strive. The brokenness is within us, the brokenness is between us, and also between people and the earth. But—this is important—we feel broken because we are meant to be connected.
Quote from Linda Hogan,The Woman Who Watches Over the World: A Native Memoir (New York: Norton, 2001) pp. 17-18.