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Around The Sun: Life-Changing Words

Steve Harrison is stirred to the depths of his being by the words of a North American Indian chief.

How can you sell the Earth, the sunshine, the rivers and streams? The idea is foreign to us, but perhaps because we are savages we do not understand the white man's ways Chief Seattle of the Suwashimi Tribe.

Some dumb American president in the 18th century decided he wanted to buy Washington State from the native American Indians, offering them blankets, trinkets and of course fire water. The Indians were insulted by the offer. Chief Seattle sent a letter to the president. It is one of the most profound pieces of writing I have read, second only to the Bible.

While working for Powney Furness Compton, my first job in advertising, I was introduced to Michael Pearson. Michael was a man of few words, but when he opened his mouth people paid attention to what he said. I clearly recall the day he handed me a copy of Chief Seattle's letter. "Read this,'' he instructed quietly.

I read the letter, then I read it again. The words cast a spell on me, awakening a variety of emotions. It changed the course of my life. The words rang in my head, fashioning new thoughts. I carried a copy of the letter around with me for many years. I often read it, sometimes aloud to other people. I made copies of it and handed them round.

The Earth was precious to those North American Indians. And I was not in sympathy with North American capitalists. I loved nature: frogs, newts, badgers, hedgehogs... The words of an "ignorant savage'' spoke to my heart.

Michael Pearson and I became friends, co-conspirators. We shared ideas and values, discussing what the world could be like if mankind were not so greedy. We also shared a hunger and thirst for knowledge and wisdom.


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