The value of simple things

February 8, 2018

In a world like ours, where we have thousands of technologies that simplify our lives, it often happens that we look for happiness in material things.

But what if we took a step back and were deprived of all our "advantages" discovered over the years? Almost everyone would state: "I would not be able to live a month without a mobile phone" or "without the objects I'm used to, I would feel incomplete and unhappy".

Well, I am excited to ascertain that it does not always work like this, and I am going to discuss this thanks to the support of a concrete experience: Loretta Emiri’s story.

Loretta is an Italian indigenist who, at the age of thirty and already full of curiosity and solidarity, decided to spend twenty years of her life living in the Brazilian Amazon forest in close contact with the so-called “Yanomami”. Yanomami are one of the biggest indigenous populations in South America, living in isolation in either rainforests or mountains between the northern part of Brazil and Venezuela.

By sharing experiences with this people, she took the unique opportunity to observe their behavior and, at some point, to learn from them. At the beginning, her project’s aim was about acknowledging the Indios about the surrounding developing world and thus helping them organizing in order to survive, in particular, because new epidemics were making a lot of villages disappear. As a matter of fact, due to their isolation, simple illnesses such as flu or measles were lethal to them, who did not have the means to protect themselves. Despite the successful result of the project that granted more autonomy to the village, the crucial discovery for Loretta was that it was a bilateral exchange: also our world had a lot to learn from the Yanomami population.

Among the most amazing discoveries, there was the fact that in their everyday life habits there were deep values. For example, in the simple transportation of stuff of the Yanomami woman, there is an intense meaning: the woman carries all the belongings owned by the whole family, meaning that, in reality, in the basket on her head there are contained values such as protection and humility.

In addition, one of the toughest problems faced by the population is the accumulation of waste; this is a topic on which they feel particularly disappointed: despite the concrete toxicity related to waste, they felt failed because of the superfluous, of the continuous accumulation of things, that leads away from introspection, reflections, and emotions.

 

The young indigenist learned from their culture that peace, serenity, and happiness are not part of the bunch of material stuff we accumulate in our search for happiness; on the contrary, they raise when we set objects apart in order to leave some space for human interaction and feelings. Moreover, she verified that people need very few things to be truly happy and none of them is a material one: affection, health, and education.

During her journey, she was emotional to see entire villages celebrating a new birth, children curious about their lessons at school, and families joyful to share their few belongings with the other inhabitants.

There is, in particular, one word that Loretta will always keep in her heart, which is “xiihete”: it means “generous”, and it represented the most important value for the Yanomami population, so that, according to their religion, only those who have been generous in life would have access to the Otherworld.

 

Angela Gambuti

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