Avoiding Your Mohegan Bluff

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In 1590, a war party of 40 Mohegan Indians left the mainland of North America, from what is now called Rhode Island. They traveled out into the ocean in a number of large war canoes, headed to an island 13 miles off the coast. They thought this island to be part of their home territory. They had heard others were living on it and decided to take back what they considered to be rightfully theirs. After making the dangerous ocean journey in the small crafts, the warring band of Indians landed on the rocky shoreline of what is now called, Block Island.

After scouting through the lush, hilly island, they located the inhabitants, called the Manissean’s, and decided to attack them. What the Mohegan’s did not know was that these Indians had lived on the island for many, many generations. This was their home, and even thought it was only 10 square miles in area, it was their land and provided everything they needed to live peacefully. There were deer and rabbits, plenty of fish to be caught at sea, trees to build shelter and provide fire wood, plenty of berries and vegetables growing in the rich soil and fresh springs in abundance. They were isolated from the outside world, and happy to live at peace in this secluded island kingdom.

What the Mohegan’s also did not know was that the Manissean’s were substantial in number, and well able to defend their territory. In fact, their spotters had been watching the war party coming when it was still miles out to sea, and the whole tribe was ready for the invading force when it hit the shore. Waiting to see what the invaders were up to, the Manissean’s made a plan to quietly encircled them, using the numerous small valleys and ridges for cover, and if need be, drive them off the island and back into the sea. Once it was clear this foreign tribe, with it’s foreign language, was going to aggressively take their land, the Manissean’s put their plan into action, and into the history books as well.

The band of Mohegan’s were indeed surprised, and forced into a backwards retreat as their only escape. They were badly out numbered, and driven up the inclined slope at one end of the Island. Their final destination was a high ridge topped in thick brush, now called “Mohegan Bluff”. This slope abruptly ends in a 200 foot cliff that drops straight down onto the rocky, ocean-swept shoreline. A fierce battle ensued, and the invaders were all killed by being driven over the edge of the cliff and falling to their deaths. The Manissean’s celebrated this great victory for days and were rewarded with the acquisition of the Mohegan canoes, axes, spears, arrows, bows and animal skins. Little did they know that in a few years, settlers from England would land on the island. With that arrival, the Manissean’s would vanish almost over night, many meeting the same fate as their Mohegan enemies.

This true story from our pre-colonial history serves to remind us that nothing lasts forever. Every area we consider to be ours by right, and every enemy we fight off to defend it, only gives us a temporary victory at best. At any moment, something can come along to challenge or change all we thought we had established. We are simply a job loss, an illness, a bad decision or a selfish choice away from the upheaval of all we have worked for and wanted. Even if we have reinforced everything with a backup plan, or a safety net, in life, “stuff” just happens. When it does, the sobering question you must ask yourself in that moment of truth is; “is it worth it?” If the answer is yes, then you need to stop complaining and embrace that change, because in the end, you were the one who put it in motion. The point is, every change comes with a price. Even on Block Island, there has been a great price paid by those who live here, and a few examples may help you to understand what I mean.

Until a few years ago the island’s electric grid was supplied by five massive, World War II diesel powered generators. When two of them caught fire, most of the island was left without power, and a plan was devised to build a modern power plant to supply the growing energy needs of the island’s growing “summer people”. You see, the permanent residents number 800, but the summer population is about 27,000, which is compose of city people who are quite wealthy. Everyone rejoiced over the new power plant, until they realized the pristine ocean view was marred by five massive windmills just off shore. Now the “summer people” are angry and want a tax break. They say their view is ruined and their property values have gone down.

With the onslaught of wealthy “summer people”, the cost of a 400 sq ft, one bedroom condo, if you can find one, is $380,000. The cost of a small, two bedroom, 1000 sq ft camp is $750,000, and the price for a very modest home starts at $1.5 million and goes way up from there. To buy a typical lunch, like a bowl of soup, a cup of tea and a simple sandwich for two runs $55 plus a tip. Shopping for food? Well butter is $8 a pound, yogurt is $3 a small cup, fresh Salmon is $25 a pound, milk is $6.50 a gallon, and a dozen eggs is $6.50. The round trip ferry trip ride to the mainland and back for two people and a vehicle, is in the neighborhood of $140. If you buy food in bulk on the main land, you can’t just pack it in your car and return. Oh no! At the ferry you must unload the food into a shipping container and pay for your vehicle, each passenger and for the shipping container of food as well. Basically, all this is another “Mohegan Bluff” of a different kind.

Be it large or small, there is a price to be paid for everything we insist we must have, and every change that comes with it. This is why Scripture says it is so important for us to “count the cost” before we forge ahead. Clear thought, calmed emotions, honest evaluation, wise counsel and prayer are essentials before you jump headlong into something, no matter how good it looks. This is the prescription for a healthy, well-balanced life, that will not be filled with regrets and “what-if’s”, at it’s end. Let’s face it, looks can be very deceiving, and there are always unknown things that show up after we have all the facts.

The final reality check for a good life is that we must slow down and survey things, before they have been put in place. The spiritual, emotional and natural topography around us must be understood, or we could end up at our own “Mohegan Bluff’s” one day. In this season of life, where rapid change has become the norm, do yourself a favor and take the time to really pray and look things over, before you make that “have to” decision. Who knows, it may not be so pressing after all. You could save yourself, and those you love, a great deal of emotional distress, and personal expense, by avoiding an unnecessary fall over a cliff you should never have been standing on in the first place. Think it through you may find yourself standing at the precipice of your own “Mohegan Bluff”.

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