Most traditional people just call themselves, The People. Other ways of describing traditional people is to say, First Nation People. These titles respect these people and indicate some sort of understanding of why identity is very important to THE PEOPLE.
In traditional lifestyles of our Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders the role of The Elders was paramount. The Elders held the stories and the wisdom of the past. In telling the stories the Elders made sense of The People’s everyday lives.
Knowing that the earth provides just as a mother does must be respected and cherished. It not only makes sense but it is not a mystery to be solved or ignored. Elders gave counsel to those in need; listened to the problems of the group; helped shed light on difficult situations; told and guided the young and in return they were revered, nurtured, respected and cared for until they passed on in to the spirit world.
The People looked forward to passing on; they didn’t fear it. Passing on was not dying. Life after you pass on is not an issue if your life on earth has meaning.
Meaning was in everything. Every part of creation had meaning and purpose. The People relied on each other for their very existence. Without co-operation life was impossible.
Without The Elders where would life be?
The Elders had the answers to the questions of:
Who are we?
What are we doing on the planet?
What do we need to do and who do we need to be to give our life meaning and purpose?
(Notice how it is we not ‘I’ who is asking the questions but ‘we’)
Without The Elders life was meaningless and had no purpose.
Oh Great Spirit
Make me ever ready to come to you,
With clean hands and straight eyes,
So when life fades like a fading sunset,
My spirit may come to you without shame.
In traditional life The People had more fulfilment in their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual lives. Every part was recognised as important. They viewed their lives as whole. Surviving was about 5-10 % of their time and the rest was devoted to living and being with the group; telling stories, participating in ceremonies and rituals and having fun. In Australia it lasted for tens of thousands of years until the white people came.
What appeared to be a simple and childlike culture was actually a rich and spiritually alive life. When the white people came they saw only the externals of the life of the Aboriginal people, only the outside; and because they didn’t value or even understand their own spiritual life, the white people didn’t know what to look for in others. This pattern was repeated in Australia and throughout the world for hundreds of years until The People of the world were colonised.
In the white people’s ignorance, they almost wiped out completely lifestyles that were based on spiritual understandings.
It is that spiritual understanding that we all long for today but are too busy doing our lives to stop and reflect on what has happened to both peoples in the process. So now we have an opportunity to learn from the very people we almost destroyed.
We now long for this less sophisticated and more balanced lifestyle. It’s often called a tree change, a sea change, early retirement, getting out of the rat race, to name a few.
Some questions to reflect on:
Where do we look for some answers?
Have we finally done the full circle of development?
Are our current systems serving the people they were designed to?
Is our world working for us?
What does it take for us to embrace change?
The simple fact is that what we are doing in the world isn’t working for most of ALL the people.
What are you going to do about your life?
Change starts with each of us. As an old Jewish saying goes, “If not you, then who? If not now, then when?”
I remember reading, “when the last whale is left to die on the ocean floor we may well have killed the most intelligent species on this earth”.
What do you think about all this?
Please join us in a conversation.
Wendie has co-facilitated residential programs with Petrea for more than sixteen years. Prior to that Wendie spent over 25 years as a teacher, school principal and was involved in educational leadership and facilitation of school executive groups.
Ten years of this time was spent in PNG where she taught and worked for the government. Wendie has been travelling since the early sixties and is especially attracted to Asian cultures. She holds degrees in Anthropology, Education, Sociology, Theology and Political Science. Her current passions are her grandchildren, travel biographies, exploring Asia, 4×4 driving, reading everything she can get her hands on, and watching movies on the big screen at home.