Once,  Joseph Campbell spoke to Bill Moyers of Igjugarjuk.  (This is drawn from The Power of  Myth, the book version of the series of interviews that Parabola had a hand in bringing to the world many moons ago).  The ultimate cause of all suffering  is mortality and the uncanny, unstoppable way that everything and everyone and we ourselves keep changing and slipping away.  James Joyce called this the “grave and constant” in human sufferings.  Igjugarjuk, Campbell told Moyers, “was the shaman of a Caribou Eskimo tribe in northern Canada…who told European visitors that the only true wisdom ‘lives far from mankind, out in the great loneliness, and can be reached only through suffering.  Privation and suffering alone open the mind to all that is hidden to others.”

When I was a child, I would often look out at the frozen St. Lawrence River or out across snow covered fields on bitter cold days and think about what it would be like to be in out alone in arctic, out in “the great loneliness.”     There also seems to be a natural correspondence between our deepest experience of solitude, of being a small self relating to the big unknown, and the world around us.  Merton associated his earliest yearning for God with the sound of bird song and church bells mingling together one Sunday morning in Queens, New York (where he moved with his family during WWI).   For others, snow and cold have the intimacy of a cathedral.

6 thoughts on “Igjugarjuk

  1. I read this yesterday, and came back to it again today — all day long the air was poised right at the edge of freezing, I’d see the rain thicken up into big fat snow-or-maybe-sleet drops, then thin out again, all day long. It was the closing line that brought me back here, it’d been playing in my head all day long, the snow and cold’s “intimacy of a cathedral” — I have to concur, sir, that’s exactly how it is.

    Google brought me, I’d come across the line from Igjugarjuk about privation and suffering opening us up to hidden things, and wanted to know more. Funny bit of propinquity there, your posting the day before my sudden need to know came knocking. So thanks for heeding the call.

  2. — Or madam, as case may be. (Quoth he, abashedly. Having subsequently discovered that his host Tracy was in fact, hostess. Imagine my chagrin!) But you’re quite right, and thanks for saying so — propinquity’s a real honey of a word / concept. I’ve often thought that space is our ur-metaphor … like, where’d we be without prepositions, mm?

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