“These people were really engaged in a struggle that was of a spiritual nature much more than a material one, I think. You talk about the economics, and I talk a great deal about that in what I’ve written, but I have come to the opinion that the really important thing that they were engaged in was a search for themselves, for their own sense of values. I believe that what they were engaged in out here was a process, a process of understanding the elements, and of rising above material circumstances. It was a process of fattening on disappointment; of invigorating amidst challenge; of growing amidst grief.
These people were in the process of rising above themselves- of looking at these difficult times and becoming something better because of them. I think that they were really involved in becoming disappointment proof, calamity proof, despair proof. Now, of course, not all achieved this sublime state, but a few did, a few: And most realized something of that kind of understanding…
You often had a person who had gone through these tough times who understood what human compassion was all about; who understood what pity was about; who understood what co-operative living was all about; who understood what helping one’s fellow man and woman was all about. These people were helpers; they were individuals who saw others amidst trouble, and turmoil, and somehow could go there and lift them out of it. I don’t think those spiritual values, if you want to call them that, ever left those people. I’m not talking about them all, there were some who left immediately; there were some who renounced God; there were some who said that no one in their right mind should ever have been here, who complained the rest of their lives about how they had been fooled: I’m talking about those who really grew from this experience, and there were a few.”
“If you look at the best of them you will find those factors. If you look at the finest of them, those who have some time to sit down and ask what all this disadvantage did for them, what all of that despair did for them; those people that took that despair, that disappointment, and turned it to positive account, those are the ones who understood.”
– David C. Jones, Empire of Dust, CBC Radio series
Chronicling the forgotten people and places of southern Alberta, Canada's Badlands region.
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