A Zen koan provides an unexpected but appropriate comment on how we observe the operation of human ecosystems. Two monks walking through the countryside with Enō, a Zen Master, stopped to observe a banner fluttering in the wind. The first student said, “Look, it is the banner that moves.” The second said, “No, it is the wind that moves.” They argued back and forth without ever reaching the core of the matter. Finally, Enō, as all Zen Masters will, hit each on the head with his stave to clear their minds, and said, “It is not the wind that moves. It is not the banner that moves. It is your mind that moves.” What Enō was ultimately referring to, at least when translated into Western terms, is that things are shaped not only by natural processes, but by the very process of observation.


Human Habitat Human Ecology Cautionary Tale Subsistence Strategy Northwest Coast 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • George P. Nicholas
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA
  2. 2.Research DepartmentAmerican Indian Archaeological InstituteWashingtonUSA

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