The following will be interspersed with the indigenous voice of an Australian tribal leader.
Putting aside the man-made lenses of ‘time,’ ‘space,’ ‘race’, ‘gender,’ and ‘money,’ and so on, is the only way to integrate into life’s true course. This is how we can best begin to repair the damaged links of the broken chain of existence, as we perceive it. The human race has interfered persistently with what is natural, almost insisting on creating its own reality and then imposing it on others, instead of listening to the truth and staying put. We have traditionally searched outside for our sensual satisfaction and the realisation of dreams, when all the time the glories of our human existence lie inside, deep within our divine spirit.
We have therefore become disintegrated beings because we block what is natural, always choosing to ‘live’ indirectly, vicariously, or ‘outside’ reality in our minds, our noses pressed up against the glass. We were given life 2.5 million years ago, but why do we still utilize so little of our cerebral potential (10% maximum) and fail to realize our divine potential. We claim that we are ‘civilized’ when we lie and cheat, abuse and kill, suffer and seek revenge so readily.
Given the passage of so much time since our birth, is it reasonable to assume that we are handing down the information and knowledge needed to improve and develop us? Or are we unable to access our immense resources because we have lost the skills and tools to do so? We mostly defer to one crude tool only, the intellect. Is this why we are swallowing our pride and seeking the help and ingenuity of indigenous people whom we once pronounced ‘savages’ to live in a way meaningful to the planet?
In our present state, it seems that we may never repair the conceptual ‘circles’ and ‘cycles’ and ‘phases’ of universal energy we have adopted to try to understand it. The irony is that we were never meant to understand it, just accept it, integrate with it, because our personal energy is already a component part of it. The leaves of a tree do not question their existence.
We are already on the inside if only we looked directly, but education in the developed world is designed to develop individual intellects, to produce leaders and hierarchies, to control. In contrast, indigenous people in their traditional lives are always inside looking out; they are active participants in the centre of a universal reality. They stand in the eternal stream of energy, both visible and invisible, and in their natural, uncorrupted state, they are entirely accepting and consequently wise. There are no choices for them because they are finely tuned to something far greater than the human ego.
ninija, traditional landowner and spiritual leader, says:
White-fella they come before, talking on and on. They tell ninija what ‘best.’ We not understand ‘best.’ We not choose. We no choice. We just. White-fella choose, count, talk and point with long-long white finger.
By way of an example of this ‘disintegration’ mentioned above, we outsiders can visualise beautiful things in immense detail by virtue of our superb memories. Beautiful flowers have been immortalised by photographs, and works of art, and are also quickly recalled. Thousands of images are stamped onto our memories, in fact, so there is no need to go to find the real thing. Indeed, even if we do encounter the real flower, it may be in a contrived garden and we may compare it with those in our mind collections. We are addicted to recalling its name, both common and scientific, its country of origin, the soil and climate type it prefers, as well as its use as a motto or symbol, its rarity and health benefits, and so on. So, we are rarely experiencing the flower directly, but instead through interpretations or representations.
Add to this that the species has probably been transplanted from its original site, changing as it adapts to a new environment, and is analysed in great detail so we know its every characteristic. No stone is left unturned in the present world it seems so that the drive to make all things common knowledge is at its height. Traveling to remote places to bring back mementos is applauded, and now the Internet is at our disposal to further accelerate these global trends. Indeed, we have become inveterate consumers with the means to go anywhere and everywhere to acquire whatever takes our fancy.
Indigenous peoples in their traditional state ‘own’ nothing except what they can custom-make from raw materials provided by the Earth. Here is a description of what the tribal members I helped to move from a state settlement back into their traditional lives were carrying as they departed into the Lands in the very center of Australia.
…they took only a few handmade possessions which they habitually carry or wear. Their dilly bags woven from Mangrove string, containing personal effects such as churingas (totemic identity badges). Their Wood and Grass carrying bowls, coolamon, sported on heads, shoulders or against bellies. Their custom-made digging sticks slung across shoulders with ornate Kangaroo straps. A range of beautifully crafted decorated boomerangs for hunting both for children and women. And perfectly cylindrical Hollow Log coffins containing Bones of their deceased. Churinga. Coolamon. Hollow Log Coffins. All hand-crafted and customised from Desert materials.
The party of shiny black skins with their blond and red topknots of wild hair was occasionally joined by competing Kangaroos. On one side, they were flanked by a massive flock of high Emus, great scratching Bird of the Lands, and on the other by a troop of wild Camels. Above the whole assembly, white Pelicans flapped their slow wings through an indigo Sky, muttering to full Moon.
They most probably will die if they leave their Lands for any length of time, especially moving into synthetic, urban environments. Following is a description of the experience of ninija and her granddaughter gina, going to ‘white-fella’s city’ to collect the body of dead ginger-son. lumaluma is the ghost of white-fella who comes to plague ninija to be his concubine, all the time distracting her from her duties to officiate at her son’s Burial Ceremony. The Djang is the greatest of all rites of passage for their people. (Notice the writing convention of all things belonging to Mother Nature are capitalised, and all those to humans are in lower case. ninija insists on this to show utter respect and gratitude)
When we bring ginger body back to Lands from city, lumaluma, he follow us. He bring him terrible sounds with him. Car. Truck. White-fella whirring engine. Many many people loud. i think i stop breathing because i not hear my own lungs crinkling shut then open again. i not hear lovely sweet flapping sound of just-knowing – lumaluma he call it “waiting.”
And smell? Smoke! They fill Sky so it like white night. i breathe fast because white night sting if it inside me. i pant like Dingo. i look out but only see white-fella wall, wall, and more wall. wall bigger than ninija Rock or Buga Mountains in Lands. wall and roof so I not see Sky. I cannot run without big hard concrete stop!
Camera photo lens with shutter. Vector EPS10roof so I not see Sky. I cannot run without big hard concrete stop!”
In fact, knowledge of something is an indirect way of ‘knowing’ it. It stimulates our intellects and memories, but it is not reality. The phrase ‘snap-shot’ has become popular in recent years to describe how our minds are continually opening camera shutters, recording, archiving, attempting to make everything we encounter permanent. We are image consumers with very little need to turn away from our fantastic internal collections. But, so and is then imaged and archived for our collections. This habitual activity always pulls us back to our minds where everything is convenient and controllable. How can this be reality?
This is how I felt before I went to the Desert and encountered ninija and the Dreaming, and before ninija became my spirit guide.
Before the Desert and ninija ‘back-then,’ i was a human camera. i was an archivist, and a respository for captions. “Say it. See it. Check it. Now prove it!’ After arriving here, i soon stopped looking and listened instead, and so slid into my rightful place. Now, if i cease listening to the Universe for an instant, ninija strides into to my mind and elbows me roughly in the ribs. she strictly guides me back from the needy eye, and from the very needy ‘i’ of my ego.
Another aspect of the integration/disintegration mentioned above involves the concept of time. Indigenous peoples use only the moon and sun to regulate their days and nights, so they never wait, recover/change gear, or smoke a cigarette or swig alcohol to help them to overcome the ordeal of living. Rarely do they become stressed by external pressures as we do, counting the seconds ticking on. They move smoothly from one instance of their life to the next, listening for their roles, so there are no concepts of work or leisure, etc. There is nothing else except seamless immersion in what the Earth and Great Mother Nature, their totem group, and their fellow tribesmen need. There is no media, but instead the songs and stories of celebration and morality, which are handed on orally and need no interpretation because they are concrete.
There are no gaps in this integration into their natural life for thinking, or planning, for speculation or analysis, for exaggerated emotions. So the idea of ‘time’ and its measurement has never been born. By comparison, modern urban dwellers continually seek stimuli, and understandably are rarely connected into their own hearts and sincerity.
The original energy source of modern urban humans is permanent and indestructible, as it is for indigenous peoples, but we moderns have become compulsive archivists and rebuilders and therefore have damaged it. Surely, it is not possible to compartmentalise and analyse such sacred energy as we do: Concepts and theories will never heal the diseased flora and fauna, rebalance the planet or prevent us from destroying each other. These interferences and interruptions in what is natural, fueled by human hubris and synthetic, excessive emotions, have turned us into an invasive species, a common garden weed, an alien. Shockingly, we move around intently seeking pleasure and status, and the fulfilment of our desires and wishes, almost exclusively to any other concerns.
We are also frantic to achieve something notable before our visible life ends and we become invisible and, as we see it, powerless. Whereas those who protect the natural environment and never ‘die’ have no status, find contentment and pleasure exactly in the natural world, and live in the moment. They never hanker after tangible signs of their existence or use filters to alter their perceptions, change their mood, forget or bury the things that are distasteful or brutally honest.
We are all animals and yet we diverged from animal species as our brains developed. We wanted to be different, standing on two legs instead of four, reaching for the best fruit at the top of the tree instead of groveling for grubs. In this divergence, we lost touch with our instincts and intuitions, refusing to fit in with the natural order, and went all out to exploit the world’s resources for personal, religious or national gain. In so doing, we needed to stamp out the traces of ancient and indigenous cultures, as they presented an obstacle to our betterment. This was when we broke the virtuous circle, becoming determined to create something entirely new. And because we turned our backs wholesale on natural wisdom, we were forced ironically into a ‘survival’ mode, using trial and error, making fatal or fortunate mistakes, and supposedly learning from them.
This crude hubristic way of living is epitomised in the Greek legend of Icarus, whose father Daedalus made wings of feathers and wax for them so that they could escape from their peril in Crete. Daedalus warned his son first about complacency, and then of hubris about their flight, demanding that he follow his flight path, neither too high nor too low. However, Icarus disobeyed and flew too close to the sun, which melted his wings and plunged him into the sea and he was lost. Icarus had become oblivious to the natural laws of balance and harmony, and so he lost his human life. Such pride and ignorance has been and will continue to be our downfall or nemesis as a species. It compromises our potential and creates suffering for the majority of inhabitants of planet Earth.
It has frequently been pointed out by religious and spiritual wisdom that ‘there is nothing new under the sun,’ and yet we constantly think we can invent and innovate, throwing out what already exists. Our motivation is often power, recognition, money and worse. And while we are investing all of our precious life’s moments in this ‘progress’ pursuit, ancient peoples are absorbed in being the stalwart custodians and protectors of reality. They are single-mindedly devoted to preserving, blending in, and living in awe of what already exists. Without a doubt, radical change is needed inside our minds, but not in the natural world. Our leaders need more wisdom to be able to work in equal partnership with what is natural.
In hindsight, it is easy to see that it is absolutely not necessary to make devastating often fatal mistakes, rushing blindly into situations and taking over officiously. We ‘developed’ people are constantly end-gaining, striving to reach goals which are often arbitrary in terms of the planet and the natural world, not to mention our spiritual well-being. As indigenous peoples and the enlightened will tell you, there actually are no ends as there are no beginnings. Existence is one eternal circle.
So, why can’t we use our higher minds to innovate and extemporise to enhance what already exists, rather than sweep it under the carpet? We can effortlessly stay in the universal circle in harmony, integrated and eager to gather wise beings around us. After all, rash acts spring from rash thoughts produced from our lower minds; whereas wise and considerate thoughts emanating from our higher minds, our true and divine origins, produce wise and balanced acts. Thoughts are after all acts in rehearsal.
In contrast, in their traditional lives Australian aboriginals are fully integrated. They flow with the tide of reality not against it, and so are absolutely ready to catch any ball that may be thrown to them. For them, there is no meta-reality, no perceived reality, no personal interpretation, because they are reality itself. They absolutely embody their Dreaming Lands. They are their feelings not simulacra as we are. But above all they are love and respect and awe for each other, and for the forces of nature and the Universe, which they consider to be their loving parents. They just embody what is – never thinking or speculating, selecting or deciding, always subjective (or submissive) to and fully aware of their divine origins. That’s why they easily die or succumb to outside influences if they are removed from their Lands.
They are part of the Dreaming reality at all times, fully integrated, and not at all separate. They are immersed in what is known as the seamless ‘here-and-now.’ The arrogance of ‘civilized’ people tears them out of their own origins, their Lands, and leads them to pursue life for gain and power, always at a distance from reality, and often insincerely. They are rarely submissive, and if they are, they are often viewed negatively by the mediocre majority and feel a sense of shame.
Right now, in this 21st centu ry world, the traditional existence of peoples of the Lands is about sustaining life in harmony with the environment which has been provided entirely due to the kindness of the Creation Heroes, as it has always been. The Dreaming Lands that embrace them indicate all they need to know for their spiritual elevation, and when they are ready, their spirit is released from their human vessel into the sky at the Djang, the most longed for Burial Ceremony, where they go on traveling in spirit form to learn more lessons.
ninija longs to tell lumaluma just how much her people are in love with death, but she daren’t. How they are in love with always moving on to what comes next in the grand plan, in love with travelling on in the eternal Sky. Each of them has a unique part to play, a particular mission to execute. They never worry about what might happen next, or had happened before. She knows civilised people see death as suffering and something to be afraid of. But to the Desert peoples the moment of death is the glorious culmination of their physical lives when their Spirits are released. They adore ‘death’ eternally as if it is a physical presence like the Spirit of Fire or Water. Instead of looking for the where-when-who-why-what-which of death, they just-know or hear its gentle approach. They are rarely shocked at its arrival. Then, when the Djang arrives and the whole tribe celebrates their release in the Spirit World, pure joy consumes them.
Even in death they are not separate: in fact, they mostly long for the glories of death so they can go on to the next stage. They are listening people, aware of their intuitions and a multiplicity of ways of seeing into invisible realms. This deep flawless awareness creates a sophisticated consciousness which we developed peoples have almost completely lost touch with.
Because they do not think or speculate, or invest in the products of such intellectual processes, their spirits are not trapped like ours can be in the developed world. We can become stagnant, our goodness corrupte may alsobecome vulnerable to strong pressurization from beliefs imposed on us by others, such as religious, political or cultural, easily losing our sense of self-honesty and sincerity. Indeed, we are weakened by intellectual processes and imprisoned in a synthetic reality.
Perhaps if we can keep in mind that our energy has taken on other forms in the universe, in the vast invisible world and eternity, so there will inevitably be ‘imprints,’ or ‘traces’ – call them eccentricities or idiosyncras – which may cause us to become either confused, or else fixed, or perhaps liberated. We need to remain supple, moving or flowing with life to avoid friction, to avoid fixing our characters or our views. If we release our grip on the visible, the flashing pictures, staying still and quiet and not struggling, we will open to other more subtle influences in the great silence and stillness. Indigenous Australians may stand entirely still on one leg on a high ridge for many hours. They are becoming one with the rock, sinking down into their native element Earth where they are utterly content and at rest.
Our arrogance, a product of the mind, has led us to see permanence in the world when in reality every atom is ephemeral, a mere flash. In truth, we are pure energy taking on a temporary human form to enrich our greater spirits and those around us. Our mission is to blend with the cosmic and universal energies of the universe, and of the invisible world. It is scientifically attested that energy flows where it will or is needed, so if we put aside our hubris and complacency as Daedalus recommended, we will be able to find balance and recognize our true mission. This is real freedom, not the synthetic free will which bamboozles us into thinking we are free when we are in fact prisoners of our own distorted minds.
The intellectual pursuit of Science also has unearthed the concept of DNA from which we can trace back our origins to 150,000 years ago on the plains of Africa. However, persuaded by the fragmentary view of scientific enquiry, we are convinced that only cutting edge, exorbitantly expensive instruments can measure this DNA. Be assured that we can learn to discern it the way the ancients do at no cost if we simply listen . Listen to our imprints laid by our ancestors and related spirits – a trait of our great-grandfather’s penchant for plants, a tendency towards cuisines or environments/cultures other than ‘our own,’ a talent or skill, passed down through energy configurations and cell constellations. We may dismiss these as fancy or imaginary, but that feeling or sense of some different presence other than what we fix in our minds as constituting ‘self,’ is a remnant of our discerning or divining powers. These are messages to help us to become integrated, to make us stable, content, fulfilled during this brief human sojourn.
It is asserted by scientists also that we were able to survive successfully as a species because we had sophisticated brains skills. This enabled us to create the concepts of time, and so it is that ‘the past’ and ‘the future’ have captured our attention to the exclusion of the ‘now.’ The past and the future are illusionary: animals and plants do not have such a way of classifying.
Perhaps at this moment of cerebral sophistication in our evolution, we were able to outwit slower and less adapted species and so overtake them, but then our new consciousness made us arrogant, we ceased to listen to the natural laws, and wanted to replace everything in the name of progress. A concept of the future may be ingenious and effective in the short-term. However, it is evident now that even with scientific and technological advancement and all the measurements of environmental deterioration and the predictions of our ‘future’ decline, we remain arrogant and evasive about it. We apparently have not learned anything from the shocking mistakes we have made and consequences we have generated, and continue to make.
Cause-and-effect is perhaps a more useful model than ‘the future,’ in that every thought and its action creates an effect. It should not concern us in an intellectual way where and when that effect may be felt, but it does. Instead, we could focus more or making all our thoughts and actions positive and infused with the goodness we are endowed with naturally. That requires being ‘here-and-now’ always, like indigenous peoples, so that we can embody the abundance of love, compassion, humility, generosity and so on. We could work to extend them to those around us and to our environment, becoming custodians rather than capitalist hit-and-run types. Foresight is a wonderful tool at our disposal, but if the motivation to use it is dubious or entirely self-interested, then it becomes a dangerous weapon.
Two words in common currency in environmentalism are ‘ survival’ and ‘sustainable.’ We have tended to view desert life or indigenous life-styles as a hand-to-mouth ‘survival,’ always judging based on what we see. It is true that living close to nature is hard and we moderns have been weakened by our self-cherishing to the point where we would probably not survive in such a situation as indigenes can. But even though ‘traditional’ life may look hard – nakedness may seem ‘savage’ and prone to misunderstandings, dirty fingernails and outside latrines unsupportable – it is certain that such lives are carefully controlled to maintain harmony and the thriving of all species. There is no sense of ‘self’ or personal needs: those come second. The environment, if respected, will always provide enough if not always the abundance which our insatiable minds crave. It is we modern urban dwellers who are surely the ‘survivors,’ lost in the wilderness of our negative realities, and of scarcity and lack. It is these realities which drive us towards greed and pre and post-posthumous acknowledgment and even glory.
‘Sustainable,’ on the other hand, is in origin ‘to hold from below’ implying stability, steadiness and acceptance. It is indigenous peoples who hold the key to sustainability, and it is certain that if we do not show respect and refrain from interfering with natural order, they will outlive us, returning to their place we invasive capitalists ousted them from.
Much of this way of seeing is based on my experience living with a tribe of aboriginals returning to traditional life. The adult members had either been taken or tempted away by white settlers to a convenient modern way of living, to money and work enslavement, and eventual death as victims of drug and substance abuse. The elders and young children had remained quietly in their settlements, weakened by convenience foods and alcohol, the children by white-fella education and concept-making to prevent the development of spiritual elevation and desert skills. Then they received a sign in the Dreaming Lands to move out of their inappropriate settlements and walk back slowly into their traditional lives deep in the South Australian Desert to resettle in their Lands once appropriated by the Government and Multinational companies.
I experienced, though briefly, what life was like without concepts, and was initiated by the tribal leader as a custodian of their stories and wisdom. It has therefore become my mission to convey her messages for sustainability to urban civilizations.
You can read ninija’s story in ‘Easy-Happy-Sexy: on the Twelfth Day,’ Strategic Books, 2013 PB, 2015 epub., to get a taste of desert integration and wisdom. I wrote this article Integration in response to David Suzuki’s article in the Vancouver Sun, Aboriginal people, not environmentalists, are our best bet for protecting the planet. June 8th, 2015, link: http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/David+Suzuki+Aboriginal+people+environmentalists+best+protecting+planet/11112668/story.html