One day Dudley Patterson, a Cibecue (Western Apache) horseman, was talking to his anthropologist sidekick, Keith Basso. Basso had been hanging around him asking dumb questions for a long time, which is what anthropologists do. Basso had been asking “What is wisdom?” for a few days and finally Patterson said:
The trail of wisdom – that is what I’m going to talk about.
I’m going to speak as the old people do, as my grandmother spoke to me when I was still a boy. We were living then at Tak’eh Godzige (Rotten Field).
“Do you want a long life?” she said. “Well, you will need to have wisdom. You will need to think about your own mind. You will need to work on it. You should start doing this now. You must make your mind smooth. You must make your mind steady. You must make your mind resilient.
“Your life is like a trail. You must be watchful as you go. Wherever you go there is some kind of danger waiting to happen. You must be able to see it before it happens. You must always be watchful and alert. You must see danger in your mind before it happens. If your mind is not smooth, you will fail to see danger. You will trust your eyes but they will deceive you. You will be easily tricked and fooled. Then there will be nothing but trouble for you. You must make your mind smooth.
“If your mind is not resilient, you will easily be startled. You will be easily frightened. You will try to think quickly, but you won’t think clearly. You yourself will stand in the way of your own mind. You yourself with block it. Then there will be trouble for you. You must make your mind resilient.
“If your mind is not steady, you will be easily angered and upset. You will be arrogant and proud. You will look down on other people. You will envy them and desire their possessions. You will speak about them without thinking. You will complain about them, gossip about them, criticize them. You will lust after their women. People will come to despise you. They will pay someone to use his power on you. They will want to kill you. Then there will be nothing but trouble for you. You must make your mind steady. You must learn to forget about yourself.
“If you make your mind smooth, you will have a long life. Your trail will extend a long way. You will be prepared for danger wherever you go. You will see it in your mind before it happens.
“How will you walk along this trail of wisdom? Well, you will go to many places. You must look at them closely. You must remember all of them. Your relatives will talk to you about them. You must remember everything they tell you. You must think about it, and keep on thinking about it. You must do this because no one can help you but yourself. If you do this, your mind will become smooth. It will become steady and resilient. You will stay away from trouble. You will walk a long way and live a long time.
“Wisdom sits in places. It’s like water that never dried up. You need to drink water to stay alive, don’t you? Well, you also need to drink from places. You must remember everything about them. You must learn their names. You must remember what happened at them long ago. You must think about it and keep thinking about it. Then your mind will become smoother and smoother. Then you will see danger before it happens. You will walk a long way and live a long time. You will be wise. People will respect you.”
Basso, Keith H. Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language among the Western Apache (1996) University of New Mexico Press, pp 126-127