To paint things in rather broad strokes, most if not all Native American cultures use animal behavior to teach them about the right way to live.  Coyote’s antics tell us what not to do. Rabbit tells us how to avoid negativity, mouse shows us what happens if we keep our nose too much in our own business and don’t look at the bigger picture that could possibly be swooping down on us, hawk shows us how to soar above the day-to-day etc, etc, etc.  And then there’s skunk medicine.  I see it being used all the time especially now in this world of electronic connectivity.  People seem to think that it’s the best way to deal with things, especially since its all ‘out there’ in cyber space.

But what is Skunk medicine?  Well, it’s blank and white thinking.  Everything is either one or the other just like the stripe on Skunk’s back. There are no alternatives and no shades of grey.  Also, skunk just goes about his business, not bothering anyone, walking around the forest or climbing up in to trees.  Then other creatures come up to him and he sprays them with the most noxious smelling oil substance every created.  Which they can’t get off because its oily and it soaks into everything.  It’s the original pepper spray, makes the eyes water, the nose run, clogs the lungs and makes you cough.  It’s awful.  The thing is, skunk isn’t really particular who he sprays or when.  He doesn’t do it to be mean.  He always feels justified because he is small and people do try to eat him at times.  But he doesn’t usually wait to see if the animal coming towards him has bad intentions.  He just gets scared and when they are in proximity, he shoots.

People connecting through the internet many times act the same way.  They are living their lives, doing amazing, weird, wacky and wonderful things.  Then someone says something they don’t like.  Maybe it’s hurtful, maybe it’s angry, or maybe it’s just a comment from someone who sees things differently.  But they don’t like it and instead of waiting to see what is going on or why, they let go a stream of ugliness and anger that is flaming.  That’s skunk medicine.  It’s black and white thinking.  “Either you are with me or you’re against me”.  “Either you like me or you need to shut up”.  “I’m doing this for me and nothing you say makes any different so go away”.   It doesn’t hurt anything permanently, it definitely sets a boundary that people can see (er smell?) and let’s everyone around you know that you’ve been scared, offended, and are ready to defend yourself.

But is there another way?  Did it really require a full on shot of stink?  Is skunk really who you are out there in the cyberworld?  Is that who you are in the real world?  All honor to skunk who serves a vital role in the Universe and can teach us many thing.  Sometimes it’s appropriate to see things black or white, to spray a bear that is looking at you as an appetizer before lunch, at a spouse who is abusive, a boss or coworker that is harassing you, or a mugger that is trying to take your money.  But when it comes to someone who just has a different opinion, you might want to hold off and just shake your tale at them a bit in warning.  Most creatures know what it means and will back off.  You can always spray them later if they can’t figure it out.