A major theme in Ceremony tracks the ways that each aspect of the Earth interacts with and affects everything else. For their own well-being, Tayo, and the other human characters have to learn how to be in harmony with the people around them, the environment, and the spiritual beings of the Earth. Tayo’s well-being is shattered by his experiences and loss while fighting in World War II, where Tayo was unable to properly honor the spirits of his fellow warriors, is traumatized by the death of his cousin, Rocky, and loses touch with his connection to Laguna history and stories. Tayo’s time at war also affects his life back home, as his prayer that the incessant rain in the Philippine jungle stop is portrayed by the novel as one of the reasons that the American Southwest is suffering a massive drought. When Tayo returns to the Laguna reservation, his problems are exacerbated by the conditions of poverty and discrimination, as well as the news that his uncle Josiah died because he had no help on the ranch with all the young men at war. Faced with these interrelated traumas and their resulting despair, Tayo and his fellow soldiers turn to alcohol. But while alcohol offers a form of comfort, it is a deadening comfort that cuts off the drinker from the world and offers numbness and self-destruction rather than healing.
Tayo’s predicament at the beginning of Ceremony mirrors what the novel sees as a problem facing the entire world. Put bluntly, the novel portrays the world as out of balance, full of people who have lost connection with and respect for it. The lack of balance shows through in the extreme weather conditions, which are made even worse by farmers who do not care about the world or other people enough to use sustainable methods to preserve the resources that are left. Even more powerfully, the lack of balance in the world is symbolized by the creation of the atomic bomb, which threatens not only human existence, but all life. The novel never resolves this profound imbalance and loss of connection that it sees in the world. The atomic bomb does not magically disappear. However, Tayo does manage to reconnect with his family, the environment, and the spiritual world in the journey that culminates in saving his uncles’ stolen cattle by honoring a mountain lion and meeting the possibly divine Laguna goddess of Ts’eh who helps end the drought. The healing culminates in Tayo’s decision to maintain a spirit of life by refusing to kill Emo. In Tayo’s successful quest for his own healing, in his reconnection to the physical and spiritual worlds and his own past, the novel offers a path forward and a kind of hope: that the rest of humanity, too, can shift its path and reconnect to the world, and in doing so heal themselves and the Earth.
The Interconnected World ThemeTracker
The Interconnected World Quotes in Ceremony
I will tell you something about stories,
They aren't just entertainment. Don't be fooled.
They are all we have, you see,
all we have to fight off
illness and death.
He rubbed his belly.
I keep them here
So Tayo stood there, stiff with nausea, while they fired at the soldiers, and he watched his uncle fall, and he knew it was Josiah; and even after Rocky started shaking him by the shoulders and telling him to stop crying, it was still Josiah lying there.
“But you know, grandson, this world is fragile."
The word he chose to express "fragile" was filled with the intricacies of a continuing process, and with a strength inherent in spider webs woven across paths through sand hills where early in the morning the sun becomes entangled in each filament of web.
"They took our land, they took everything! So let's get our hands on white women!" They cheered… Maybe Emo was wrong: maybe white people didn't have everything. Only Indians had droughts.
Christianity separated the people from themselves; it tried to crush the single clan name, encouraging each person to stand alone, because Jesus Christ would save only the individual soul; Jesus Christ was not like the Mother who loved and cared for them as her children, as her family.
Some people act like witchery is responsible for every- thing that happens, when actually witchery only manipulates a small portion." He pointed in the direction the boy had gone. "Accidents happen, and there's little we can do. But don't be so quick to call something good or bad. There are balances and harmonies always shifting, always necessary to maintain.
Take it back.
Call that story back."
But the witch just shook its head
at the others in their stinking animal skins, fur and feathers.
It's already turned loose.
It's already coming.
It can't be called back.
So he had gone, not expecting to find anything more than the winter constellation in the north sky overhead; but suddenly Betonie's vision was a story he could feel happening - from the stars and the woman, the mountain and the cattle would come.
He lay there and hated them. Not for what they wanted to do with him, but for what they did to the earth with their machines, and to the animals with their packs of dogs and their guns. It happened again and again, and the people had to watch, unable to save or to protect any of the things that were so important to them.
"The end of the story. They want to change it. They want it to end here, the way all their stories end, encircling slowly to choke the life away. The violence of the struggle excites them, and the killing soothes them. They have their stories about us – Indian people who are only marking time and waiting for the end.”
From the jungles of his dreaming he recognized why the Japanese voices had merged with Laguna voices, with Josiah's voice and Rocky's voice; the lines of cultures and worlds were drawn in flat dark lines on fine light sand, converging in the middle of witchery's final ceremonial sand painting. From that time on, human beings were one clan again, united by the fate the destroyers planned for all of them, for all living things; united by a circle of death that devoured people in cities twelve thousand miles away, victims who had never known these mesas, who had never seen the delicate colors of the rocks which boiled up their slaughter.
It had been a close call. The witchery had almost ended the story according to its plan; Tayo had almost jammed the screwdriver into Emo's skull the way the witchery had wanted, savoring the yielding bone and membrane as the steel ruptured the brain. Their deadly ritual for the autumn solstice would have been completed by him.
"I guess I must be getting old," she said, "because these goings-on around Laguna don't get me excited any more." She sighed, and laid her head back on the chair. "It seems like I already heard these stories before . . . only thing is, the names sound different."