There is no need for us to say anything about others. There is no need for you or for me to regard other's actions in our thoughts one way or another. The worst thing we can do is to force people to agree with us. I mean that we shouldn't try to impose our will when people don't behave the way we want them to. The worst thing one can do is to confront human beings bluntly. A warrior proceeds strategically. If one wants to stop our fellow men one must always be outside the circle that presses them. That way one can always direct the pressure.
* * *
Fright never injures anyone.
* * *
What injures the spirit is having someone always on your back, beating you, telling you what to do and what not to do.
People hardly ever realize that we can cut anything from our lives, any time, just like that. For example, smoking and drinking are nothing. Nothing at all if we want to drop them. Only one thing is indispensable for anything we do; the spirit. One can't do without the spirit.
I have no routines or personal history. One day I found out that they were no longer necessary for me and, like drinking, I dropped them. One must have the desire to drop them and then one must proceed harmoniously to chop them off, little by little. If you have no personal history, no explanations are needed; nobody is angry or disillusioned with your acts. And above all no one pins you down with their thoughts. It is best to erase all personal history because that makes us free from the encumbering thoughts of other people. I have, little by little, created a fog around me and my life. And now nobody knows for sure who I am or what I do. Not even I. How can I know who I am, when I am all this?
Little by little you must create a fog around yourself; you must erase everything around you until nothing can be taken for granted, until nothing is any longer for sure, or real. Your problem now is that you're too real. Your endeavors are too real; your moods are too real. Don't take things so for granted. You must begin to erase yourself.
You've said that you want to learn about plants. Let's put it this way then. If you want to learn about plants, since there is really nothing to say about them, you must, among other things, erase your personal history.
Begin with simple things, such as not revealing what you really do. What's wrong is that once people know you, you are an affair taken for granted and from that moment on you won't be able to break the tie of their thoughts. I personally like the ultimate freedom of being unknown. No one knows me with steadfast certainty, the way people know you, for instance.
From now on you must simply show people whatever you care to show them, but without ever telling exactly how you've done it. You see, we only have two alternatives; we either take everything for sure and real, or we don't. If we follow the first, we end up bored to death with ourselves and with the world. If we follow the second and erase personal history, we create a fog around us, a very exciting and mysterious state in which nobody knows where the rabbit will pop out, not even ourselves.
When nothing is for sure we remain alert, perennially on our toes. It is more exciting not to know which bush the rabbit is hiding behind than to behave as though we know everything.
You have to curl your fingers gently as you walk in order to keep your attention on the trail and the surroundings. Your ordinary way of walking is debilitating and you should never carry anything in your hands. If things have to be carried one should use a knapsack or any sort of carrying net or shoulder bag. By forcing the hands into a specific position one is capable of greater stamina and greater awareness.
If you really want to learn, you have to remodel most of your behavior. You take yourself too seriously. You are too damn important in your own mind. That must be changed! You are so goddamn important that you feel justified to be annoyed with everything. You're so damn important that you can afford to leave if things don't go your way. I suppose you think that shows you have character. That's nonsense! You're weak, and conceited! In the course of your life you have not ever finished anything because of that sense of disproportionate importance that you attach to yourself.
Self-importance is another thing that must be dropped, just like personal history. The world around us is very mysterious. It doesn't yield its secrets easily. Now we are concerned with losing self-importance. As long as you feel that you are the most important thing in the world you cannot really appreciate the world around you. You are like a horse with blinders, all you see is yourself apart from everything else.
To help you lose self-importance talk to little plants. It doesn't matter what you say to a plant, what's important is the feeling of liking it, and treating it as an equal.
A man who gathers plants must apologize every time for taking them and must assure them that someday his own body will serve as food for them. So, all in all, the plants and ourselves are even. Neither we nor they are more or less important. From now on talk to the little plants, talk until you lose all sense of importance. Talk to them until you can do it in front of others. You must talk to them in a loud and clear voice if you want them to answer you.
The world around us is a mystery, and men are no better than anything else. If a little plant is generous with us we must thank her, or perhaps she will not let us go.
You have to be aware of the uselessness of your self-importance and of your personal history.
Your death can give you a little warning, it always comes as a chill. Death is our eternal companion, it is always to our left, at an arm's length.
How can anyone feel so important when we know that death is stalking us. The thing to do when you're impatient is to turn to your left and ask advice from your death. An immense amount of pettiness is dropped if your death makes a gesture to you, or if you catch a glimpse of it, or if you just have the feeling that your companion is there watching you.
The issue of our death is never pressed far enough. Death is the only wise adviser that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you're about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you're wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you, "I haven't touched you yet."
One of us here has to change, and fast. One of us here has to learn again that death is the hunter, and that it is always to one's left. One of us here has to ask deaths advice and drop the cursed pettiness that belongs to men that live their lives as if death will never tap them.
Think of your death now. It is at arm's length. It may tap you any moment, so really you have no time for crappy thoughts and moods. None of us have time for that. The only thing that counts is action, acting instead of talking.
* * *
When a man decides to do something he must go all the way, but he must take responsibility for what he does. No matter what he does, he must know first why he is doing it, and then he must proceed with his actions without having doubts or remorse about them.
Look at me, I have no doubts or remorse. Everything I do is my decision and my responsibility. The simplest thing I do, to take you for a walk in the desert for instance, may very well mean my death. Death is stalking me. Therefore, I have no room for doubts or remorse. If I have to die as a result of taking you for a walk, then I must die.
You on the other hand, feel that you are immortal, and the decisions of an immortal man can be cancelled or regretted or doubted. In a world where death is the hunter, my friend, there is not time for regrets or doubts. There is only time for decisions.
When you get angry you always feel righteous. You have been complaining all your life because you don't assume responsibility for your decisions. To assume the responsibility of one's decisions means that one is ready to die for them. It doesn't matter what the decision is. Nothing could be more or less serious than anything else. In a world where death is the hunter there are no small or big decisions. There are only decisions that we make in the face of our inevitable death.
In order to find the proper place to rest all one has to do is to cross the eyes. The technique takes years to perfect. It consists of gradually forcing your eyes to see separately the same image. The lack of image conversion entails a double perception of the world; this double perception allows one the opportunity of judging changes in the surroundings, which the eyes are ordinarily incapable of perceiving.
Looking in short glances allows the eyes to pick out unusual sights. They are not sights proper, they are more like feelings. If you look at a bush or a tree or a rock where you may like to rest, your eyes can make you feel whether or not that's the best resting place. I don't care what you see. How you feel is the important issue. It takes a long time to train the eyes properly. The trick is to feel with your eyes. Your problem now is that you don't know what to feel. It'll come to you, though, with practice.
No one can tell you what you are supposed to feel. It is not heat, or light, or glare, or color. It is something else. Once you learn to separate the images and see two of everything you must focus your attention in the area between the two images. Any change worthy of notice would take place there, in that area. The feeling that you get is what counts. I can't tell you how to feel. You must learn that yourself.
I hunt in order to live. I can live off the land, anywhere. To be a hunter means that one can see the world in different ways. In order to be a hunter one must be in perfect balance with everything else, otherwise hunting would become a meaningless chore.
Today we took a little snake. I had to apologize to her for cutting her life off so suddenly and so definitely; I did what I did knowing that my own life will also be cut off someday in very much the same fashion, suddenly and definitely. So, all in all, we and the snakes are on a par. One of them fed us today.
Hunters must be exceptionally tight individuals. A hunter leaves very little to chance. For your purposes it doesn't really matter whether you learn about plants or about hunting. I am a hunter. I leave very little to chance. Perhaps I should explain to you that I learned to be a hunter. I have not always lived the way I do now. At one point in my life I had to change. Now I'm pointing the direction to you. I'm guiding you. I know what I'm talking about; someone taught me all this. I didn't figure it out for myself.
I'm having a gesture with you. Other people have had a similar gesture with you; someday you yourself will have the same gesture with others. Let's say that it is my turn. One day I found out that if I wanted to be a hunter worthy of self-respect I had to change my way of life. I used to whine and complain a great deal. I had good reasons to feel shortchanged. I am an Indian and Indians are treated like dogs. There was nothing I could do to remedy that, so all I was left with was my sorrow. But then my good fortune spared me and someone taught me to hunt. And I realized that the way I lived was not worth living ... so I changed it.
I laugh a great deal because I like to laugh, yet everything I say is deadly serious.
* * *
It is getting dark. The world is very strange at this time of the day. We are very noticeable here and something is coming to us. It may seem to be wind to you, because wind is all you know. Here it comes. Look how it is searching for us. It's something that hides in the wind and looks like a whorl, a cloud, a mist, a face that twirls around. It moves in a specific direction. It either tumbles or it twirls. A hunter must know all that in order to move correctly.
To believe that the world is only as you think it is, is stupid. The world is a mysterious place. Especially in the twilight. This can follow us. It can make us tired or it might even kill us. At this time of the day, in the twilight, there is no wind. At this time there is only power.
If you would live out here in the wilderness you would know that during the twilight the wind becomes power. A hunter that is worth his salt knows that, and acts accordingly. He uses the twilight and that power hidden in the wind. If it is convenient to him, the hunter hides from the power by covering himself and remaining motionless until the twilight is gone and the power has sealed him into its protection.
The protection of the power seals you like in a cocoon. A hunter can stay out in the open and no puma or coyote or slimy bug could bother him. A mountain lion could come up to the hunters nose and sniff him, and if the hunter does not move, the lion would leave. I can guarantee you that.
If the hunter, on the other hand, wants to be noticed all he has to do is to stand on a hilltop at the time of the twilight and the power will nag him and seek him all night. Therefore, if a hunter wants to travel at night or if he wants to be kept awake he must make himself available to the wind.
Therein lies the secret of great hunters. To be available and unavailable at the precise turn of the road.
You must learn to become deliberately available and unavailable. As your life goes now, you are unwittingly available at all times. To be unavailable does not mean to hide or to be secretive but to be inaccessible. It makes no difference to hide if everyone knows that you are hiding.
We are fools, all of us, and you cannot be different. At one time in my life I, like you, made myself available over and over again until there was nothing of me left for anything except perhaps crying. And that I did, just like yourself.
You must take yourself away. You must retrieve yourself from the middle of the road. Your whole being is there, thus it is of no use to hide; you would only imagine that you are hidden. Being in the middle of the road means that everyone passing by watches your comings and goings.
The art of a hunter is to become inaccessible. To be inaccessible means that you touch the world around you sparingly. You don't expose yourself to the power of the wind unless it is mandatory. You don't use and squeeze people until they have shriveled to nothing, especially the people you love.
To be unavailable means that you deliberately avoid exhausting yourself and others. It means that you are not hungry and desperate.
A hunter knows he will lure game into his traps over and over again, so he doesn't worry. To worry is to become accessible, unwittingly accessible. And once you worry you cling to anything out of desperation; and once you cling you are bound to get exhausted or to exhaust whoever or whatever you are clinging to.
I've told you already that to be inaccessible does not mean to hide or to be secretive. It doesn't mean that you cannot deal with people either. A hunter uses his world sparingly and with tenderness regardless of whether the world might be things, or plants, or animals, or people, or power. A hunter deals intimately with his world and yet he is inaccessible to that same world. He is inaccessible because he's not squeezing his world out of shape. He taps it lightly, stays for as long as he needs to, and then swiftly moves away leaving hardly a mark.