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V. F. Cordova Describes Energy

V. F. Cordova Describes Energy

We’re excited that you’ve joined the conversation! At HMU, we want to continue the great authors’ conversations in a contemporary context, and this blog will help us do that. We look back to Aristotle and the early philosophers who used reason and discourse to gain wisdom and now we endeavor to do the same every day.


October 27, 2023

Thanks to Alissa Simon, HMU Tutor, for today’s post.

Viola Cordova was one of the first Native American women to earn a degree in philosophy. Born in 1937, she grew up in Taos, New Mexico. Embracing both her own past and her curiosity of the world, she discarded notions that philosophy should be separated into categories like white or western. Instead, she focused on using all of the tools that we have been given, including Native voices, in addition to the stereotypical philosophical canon. She writes, “My question became, ‘Where do those ideas come from?’ The view that ideas had origins led me to philosophy. Philosophy, I thought, was uniquely prepared to deal with questions about origins of ideas and concepts…” Instead of discarding opposition, she embraced voices that disagreed with her own. In studying the history of philosophy, she came to better understand her own perspective. Although she passed away in 2002, her work lives on in her book How It Is.

Not only are her insights valuable and instructive, but she also demonstrates a way to incorporate the great idea of “Same and Other”* into coursework. According to the Syntopicon’s introduction of “Same and Other,” Adler writes, “[U]nlike the comparing of an idea with itself, real identity, according to Locke, requires us to consider a thing ‘as existing at any determined time and place’ and to ‘compare it with itself existing at another time.’” Furthermore, Adler notes that here “we are concerned with the notions of same and other as they apply to everything in the universe. Hence we must face all the problems of how two things can be the same, not merely the problem of self-sameness or the identity of a thing with itself.” In other words, it behooves us to understand multiple perspectives of a single thing if we truly intend to understand it at all. Understanding is multi-faceted.

From the section titled, “What Is the World?,” Cordova explains that Native Americans often tie creation stories to a localized place. This place becomes sacred to the community or individual that has experienced it. However, it does not stand as the creation story for all. She continues, “The Native Americans take some general commonality for granted – we are, after all, all manifestations of the ONE thing. But it is the differences which intrigue us. An assumption of difference has built into it a tolerance that is absent from those views that see only one possible way of being-in-the-world. My difference, it can be said, is based on our mutual tolerance for our essential differences. Without it we would all meld into a field of sameness without distinction. The signature of the One, however, is to manifest itself into as many things as possible.”

In order to illustrate the way that Cordova incorporates notions of the great idea of “Same and Other,” the rest of today’s blog will focus on excerpts from her poem “How It Is: A Native American Creation Story.”

How It Is

Before there was any thing

There was something

It was mist.

And in the mist

            was absolute Motion.

Some call this circumstance


Some call this Energy

We call it,


We call it,


Some call the wind


and they call the

            many things


and so they see

            two things

where we see

only one.

            It is matterized


            That we call


            when it becomes


There is not absolute space –

            if Wind is everywhere

            how could there be void

            and emptiness?

There is no absolute time –

            if Wind fluctuates

            how could there be

            anything but motion?

Time is the counting

            Of motion.

Space is the discounting

            Of the in-between.

We are not grass

            nor water

            nor bees.

            We are not those things

            but it is by those things

            that we are.

We are all equals

            for how could inequality arise

            if we are essentially

            the same?

Because we are not alone

            there are no meaningless actions.

I affect the universe.

*As a sidenote, the idea of Same and Other may benefit from a new label more fitting our contemporary world. The term Other carries many connotations now which are likely not intended by the authors of the Syntopicon.

Photo credit: PopTika/Shutterstock

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