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Stone Child’s Secular Education
Page 56 of Napi Mephisto by Ron West


His father had told Stone Child he would begin his education the next morning. When Stone Child was roused from his sleep at 6:AM and told to shower, he did so. Then Stone Child was told to run the property boundary with his soccer ball on his left foot only, five laps, he did that. After breakfast at 7:00, Napi brought out Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language and the 800 page Washington Irving historical fiction ‘Astoria Goldsmith’ in the original 1857 edition and set them together on the kitchen table with a ruled notebook and pencils

Napi told Stone Child: This is a great and wonderful book, but you will not understand most of it right away. Understanding what you read just now is not the point. The point is learning vocabulary. It has many, many short chapters. At the end of each chapter you must choose five words you did not know and look those words up in this dictionary. I want you to write what each of those five words mean in this notebook together with the chapter number. You will be doing this for two hours of each weekday morning except Mondays and Fridays, for the next few years. Monday mornings you will study with the monks at the Buddhist temple in town and in the afternoon you will be doing community service work I have arranged for you, caring for injured animals. I have found you a math tutor for Friday mornings. Friday afternoons you will have scientific field trips. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, depending on the lesson plans I will devise, you will study either History, Civilization, Culture, and the Physical or the Social Sciences

It had actually been Stone Child who had chosen Buddhism. Not long before Napi had said to Stone Child: I have raised you Indian, you have grown up in the wild with Grandpa explaining the many Indian understandings of our life. But now we must devise you a mask. Because Indians are never really accepted out there in the bigger world, people have always either been afraid of us, or cannot understand us. Anyway, we don’t even look like Indians if you had ever stopped and thought about it. So sometimes we need to be able to be something people are not afraid of, because the people beyond the forest are often afraid of what does not fit their ideas. So we have to make ourselves fit

Napi had then explained to Stone Child the tenants of the major religions Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and… Buddhism. Stone Child, as Napi had expected, did not hesitate for a moment and stated: “I am Buddhist.” It was an unequivocal statement. But then Buddhism, as Napi’s friend and action anthropologist Karl had once stated, only differed from the Native Indian perception of our existence in the reincarnation ideas of the transmigration of the soul and the Buddhist prohibition for lay people the more general Indian practice of external meditation. Strip away some of the various superficial cultural influences of the societies in which they were immersed and the Blackfeet and Cheyenne tribes of Indians and a high form of Theravada Buddhism would practically see many of the principle ideas of our existence in identical terms

Napi had then brought out a newspaper article about the new Buddhist temple in town and Stone Child had picked up the phone, called the temple abbot and made an appointment to meet. A few days later Napi had driven Stone Child to the temple to meet the abbot

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