We don’t want to be told that we can’t have something. We no longer respect seasons of any kind - of weather, of produce, of bodies. The insatiable thirst for material gain has become the model of our time; we've forgotten, that things that are intangible are the most crucial for the survival of our souls.
We build indoor ski parks when it’s 40 degrees outside. We spray exotic fruits with poison so they can reach the other side of the world. We are told to buy and buy and buy some more.
How long can this way of living really last?
Our incessant consumption and desire to triumph as the most intelligent species speaks to a much bigger phenomenon inside ourselves. We can trace it back to every story in history - we are always searching for something.
Is it happiness? Peace? Connection? Is it longing for a culture and community that is rooted in infinitely more profound philosophies that can guide us through all facets of life?
“Traveler, there are no paths. Paths are made by walking.”
- Antonio Machado
When we think about the time that Indigenous peoples have had to develop their cultures, we can begin to understand how profound and intertwined the roots of those beliefs are.
They say their land and water is important... but why?
Isn't there other land they can occupy, other water they can drink?
To understand the grandeur of its' significance, we must first map out the philosophy.
The cumulative love, respect and wisdom in lessons passed down through generations mounts to a seemingly unfathomable notion to those of us who have not experienced it directly.
But we can try.
Take the love for our birth mothers. We’ve only known her in our lifetime, that bond runs only for a few decades. But in Indigenous Australian culture - over 60,000 years of bonding with the Great Mother, this connection goes far beyond a notion that sits in the background of your life. It goes beyond being 'environmentally conscious' or thinking trees are nice. It goes beyond thinking nature is important, but you can't really describe in exactly which way and why.
No, this connection with the Earth is not just about the physical livelihood, but the sustenance of our souls. It illuminates meaning and purpose through this ceaseless, wild journey of life, by interpreting all physical and non-physical parts of existence as forming one single phenomenon. And this, in itself, is the most precious and divine gift that there is.
So to harm a tree, to blow up soil, to poison rivers - is beyond a disgrace - it is destroying a part of ourselves.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, writes: “It’s not by accident that the pristine wilderness of our planet disappears as the understanding of our own inner nature fades."
It 's optimistic to say that we are perhaps in a phase of transition, of stripping back after having gone to the extremity of consumption of material goods. Of re-connecting with ourselves, in new and familiar ways, a phase of redirecting our path towards a future that bears flowers and fruit. Is this extreme pressure what's necessary to guide us back to a natural way of life? And can it all be taken in such a way that doesn't dampen our spirit or make us lose hope... Is it all just part of a bigger lesson, on how to find our way home?
Tyson Yunkaporta's latest book: Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World, offers a title that adequately matches the urgency with which we need to change our ways.
Yunkaporta inverts the lens from outside looking in, to inside sharing outward.
Written from an Indigenous perspective, this book is honest, and it doesn't provide answers.
It provides us with the basic - not as in simple, but as in crucial and fundamental - tools to decode the universe for ourselves. The arts of listening and learning, of talking and feeling and finding meaning; of rummaging through the remains of old teachings, dusting the bones and putting them back together, hopefully to learn something that those wiser once knew.
Other books like:
Treading Lightly: The Hidden Wisdom of the World’s Oldest People by Karl Erik Sveiby, Tex Skuthorpe,
Deep Time Dreaming by Billy Griffiths, and
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer,
and thousands of others you may have found published in recent years, have all been on the journey of collecting these old bones, the bones of stories that were once forbidden and in most places still are, forbidden to contradict the farce of modern society.
We may hear some stories of love and death and life and pain, and think of them as myth, or far-fetched, but they do something beyond than recount literal events. Stories attempt to clothe the complex phenomena of the creation of life, of us, into language that we humans can understand.
Symbolism is a language in itself, one that magnetises our attention to a different dimension, beyond where words are made. In recent times, the concept of the self has morphed into an unnatural and extrapolated interpretation - I am me. You are you. I win. You lose. Every man for himself.
Ancient knowledge tells us: we are in separate bodies, yet we are not separate.
Polarity, an illusion, represents the different aspects of ourselves.
This knowledge is dressed in stories so we can understand and relate to them in a more simplistic, digestible way.
In many ways, Western culture can be seen as developing and Indigenous culture: advanced.
Despite all the words in the world, the only true compass lies within us.
We are the ones who feel. We feel that a cymbal played in celebration is different to a 'ping' from a cash register, we know how having sex is different to making love, we know the sharp burn of betrayal and the weeping wound it leaves behind.
We all know our mother too. We just have to remember her.