Hozho of the Navajo:
A definitively beauty-centric culture is that of the Navajo, or the Diné (meaning “the people” as they refer to themselves). It is guided by a fundamental principle of “hozho,” which embodies a pervasive philosophy of integrated balance, order, harmony and well-being.
Difficult to fully translate into English, hozho is at the core of the Navajo essence. It is a sense of elemental rightness that is central to their way of living. Hozho is a multilayered concept; meaning a state of harmony and beauty, truth and balance. I believe that the state of being Hozho is to be at one with all in the universe.
Soni Pitts puts it well in her ezine:
“To be in hozho is to be at one with and a part of your environment and the world around you in such a way that the notes of your life complement and resonate with the symphony of life all around you. You neither pitch above nor below the thrumming chords of the Universe, but yet at the same time your melody stands on its own merits and is heard with utter clarity – pure in tone and pitch and strength, singular yet subsumed in the whole. (Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/3603)
Then, in his book, Six Names of Beauty, Crispin Sartwell names “hozho” the most comprehensive concept of Beauty:
“It [hozho] refers above all to the world when it is flourishing; it refers to the community, flourishing in the world; it refers to things we make, which flourish and play a role in the flourishing of other things; and it refers to ourselves, flourishing as makers, as people inhabiting a community that inhabits a world. It is a word for the oneness of all things when they are joined together in a wholesome state.”
OK, one more quote — as this is my most favorite…In this culture of hozho a person’s wealth was measured by what he or she created, specifically the number of songs created, according to one source. The arts, their practice and sharing are integral to every aspect of Navajo culture. So Sartwell goes on — and here is my favorite:
“…this integration of values and activities is simply an expression of the universal fact that human beings are connected to environments and to each other: it makes explicit an integrated system no one can evade. That is, hozho is a Navajo concept, but a cross-cultural truth…. Hozho has many things to teach, but it teaches first that beauty is one thing: everything.”
Now that is exactly so: True Beauty is “one thing: everything.” And with an ethos like that… sounds like a civilization I would be most happy to live in!
I do not know if the Diné acknowledge a specific consciousness state of Hozho, but when I was a small child, maybe four?, I had an intense experience of what I now imagine achieving such a state might feel like; it is a consciousness of being one with and of the universe. I was standing outside on a second-story balcony looking at tree leaves moving in the breeze. A blue jay was calling. A plane droned above. The morning sun was shining. All at once I felt no “I”. For clarity’s sake I will say: “I” was all and all was me. I was at one with the universe around me. The moment I became aware of this phenomenon it began to end.
And it occurred again, around the same age. This time I was standing outside on the ground and holding my father’s hand. We were in a field, perhaps a cemetary, or something that had scattered monuments. There were no other people around. Again it was sunny and the sky was very blue. On a distant pole a flag whipped in a strong breeze. It was quiet. I think another plane might have gone by overhead. The universe and “I” melded together.
These were two of the most powerful and influential life experiences I’ve had so far…
And truly, this concept of Hozho is the kernel of The Way of Beauty. It is the seed from the heritage plant for the new cultural paradigm I am touting, one that we must plant in the compost of our decaying culture in order to reap the sustainable true beauty of justice, harmony and balance of continual creation.
Joseph Campbell, a great voice for the mythic in humankind, reminds us repeatedly in his various lectures that our Judeo-Christian culture is one of the few that has separated itself so thoroughly from Nature, its beauty, and its wisdom. We would do well, as our culture moves forward, to take a page (or twenty) from the ancient Tea Masters of Japan and the Diné of North America.
Here is the ending portion of the Diné’s “Night Prayer”:
Happily may I walk.
Happily, with abundant dark clouds, may I walk.
Happily, with abundant showers, may I walk.
Happily, with abundant plants, may I walk.
Happily, on a trail of pollen, may I walk.
Happily may I walk.
Being as it used to be long ago, may I walk.
May it be beautiful before me.
May it be beautiful behind me.
May it be beautiful below me.
May it be beautiful above me.
May it be beautiful all around me.
In beauty it is finished.