Naidoc Week 2021
We are not gathering at Open Sanctuary this Saturday 10th July for the next instalment of Preparing for Parousia. That will be on the second Saturday in August. But we are acknowledging NAIDOC Week in Tilba, and encouraging people to attend the Exhibition in the small hall on the 8th, 9th, and 10th from 10am to 3pm. This will be an opportunity for a cuppa and a chat as well. The exhibition will end with a performance by the Four Winds choir Djanama Yilaga at 2.30pm on Saturday 10th. Bookings for this are essential at firstname.lastname@example.org The official flyer is on the Open Sanctuary website.
The theme for NAIDOC this year is ‘Heal Country’. It is a theme very much in line with Preparing for Parousia and Jo Marchant’s book The Human Cosmos. As a scientist Jo is documenting how we human beings have progressively separated ourselves from the cosmos, the world around us, and become subjects over and against objects, manipulating the world to our will with science and technology. The situation has become critical. Our planet is under real threat at a number of levels. We are increasingly living in a digital world of our own making while pleas to respond to the crises we face within our natural world struggle to be heard. Not even catastrophic bushfires and a global pandemic seem to have made much difference. There seems to be a blindness at work that does not make sense. In some cases lies are preferred to truth, and corruption is being normalised. And where there is good response by individuals, businesses, and corporations, there is still the sense of self interest at work, rather than real concern for our planet and natural systems as they are in themselves.
As I see it, at the centre of this dilemma are scientists and science, and the technology that comes from them. They are both the good guys and the bad guys. They are the good guys in that they are the ones warning us of what is to come unless we do something soon. Many are alarmed and frustrated at the lack of response. Other good people say, ‘If only we would listen to the science’. Some governments even think that the way out of our crisis is more and better science and the technology that flows from it. They have put their faith in science and technology and want us to do the same. The pressure to see science as the ‘good guy’ is resisted by some but accepted by most. But this is not the whole story.
What is not acknowledged much is that it is science that has got us into this pickle in the first place; or rather we have been seduced into thinking science is the only real knowledge that counts, and we are now paying the price. Scientists themselves have not on the whole helped; they have not upheld the boundaries of science. Even some very intelligent people seem to not understand that science has boundaries. Many have embraced what others call scientism and have been unconscious of the implications of this. And given that our whole culture is now so entrapped in technologies, ‘sons’ of science as it were, not even our best philosophers get much of a hearing when they warn us science is only one way to know the world, and not even the most important at that. More than that, science has now projected a digitalised world ‘out there’ that we all think is the real world regardless of our everyday experiences. So successful has this become that most think the world is only matter, and anything mental, let alone spiritual, is only complex matter, not real in itself. Our capacity to experience the mental and spiritual and know it is greatly diminished as a result. We are increasingly dead to the mystery. We have stopped listening. We have to take drugs and stimulants and psychotropics to compensate. Science seems to believe its own hype, and we have all as a culture got caught up in the hubris of this. This is ‘bad guy’. What do we do to counteract our blindness?
Scientific knowledge is justified by being useful. It is knowledge about the means of doing things; it is instrumental. As such of course it is good, if balanced by other forms of knowledge about ends. The problem comes when it also determines not just means but ends. Then the technological fallacy kicks in: if you can do something, you should do it. The cultures of the world, under the influence of what has developed in the West, is now in the grips of the technological fallacy. And this in turn is driven by self interest that sees technology as the means to power and wealth. It is within this world that perhaps the blindness is greatest, admitting that there is some self-interested realization that perhaps there is more at stake, like the future of the planet. We can only hope that this form of self interest will become greater. But it does not address the real issue.
The real issue is that we cannot go on relating to our world as something primarily for our use, as something that is a means to our self-determined ends. The paradox is that we are seeing the world as object over and against our active scientific subject; it has become the means, as physical matter, to our ends that are just about entirely ego-centric and self interested. We are treating nature and the world as if it has no being in its own right, but is there for our use regardless. We are not allowing ourselves to see the world objectively, as it actually is, as something that is really there regardless of us. We are seeing it as objects for our use, not objectively as it is itself. That is the paradox. That is the crisis. Science cannot help us. This is about the feeling and acting sides of our human being, not our intellectual. This is about domains that science cannot touch, except to provide technology to control us, as is beginning to happen. This is about the knowledge traditionally called wisdom, knowledge forged through relationship and reflection.
My own belief is that there is no way out other than waiting for disaster and then acting, or eating ‘humble pie’. I am for eating ‘humble pie’. I mean really serious ‘humble pie’. It is not just about white Australia owning up to what we have done to our First Nation peoples. It is about that of course. But it is also about recognizing that First Nation peoples, here and around the world, have something absolutely fundamental to teach us about how to relate to the world, to the environment, to ‘Land’. We cannot survive unless we stop just using the Land; we have to relate to the environment and everything in it as of value in itself, not inert value or monetary value but living value. We need to really see and really value our world as it is in itself. We need again to believe nature can teach us. We have to again learn to listen. We need to regain what we have progressively lost, wisdom borne of personal relationship. We have to admit from our hearts we are in trouble and we don’t have the answers. In traditional religious language we have to really repent and mean it; there is no other antidote to our increasing blindness.
Of all the things written to promote NAIDOC 2021, the following sentence captures what I mean: Country that we speak about like a person, sustaining our lives in every aspect - spiritually, physically, emotionally, socially, and culturally. And as we speak to any person, so also we listen to them. It is not enough to think passing laws can bring this to pass. Even if laws are passed that designate an endangered river or mountain as a ‘person’ so that ‘rights’ can be applied, as has happened in several parts of the world; it is not enough. Law is not enough; it needs heart, real, felt, considered actions motivated by goodwill and well thought out intentions. It requires us to stop worrying about our rights and start worrying about our responsibilities. It requires us to learn to listen to the Land, and to be willingly taught by our First Nation peoples. We need to regain something of the Paleolithic without losing what our science and separation have given us; we need to know and exercise our own spontaneity and creativity and not let it be stifled by our technology.
Probably the best known invitation to learn to listen to Land is the work of Miriam Rose Ungunmerr Bauman, the 2021 Senior Citizen of the year. Her work in inner deep listening and quiet still awareness that she calls Dadirri has been often talked about at Open Sanctuary. I have friends who have studied with her, and would love to do so myself. What I am wanting to do in Preparing for Parousia is the same thing, more or less, but approaching it from within our western tradition. Because despite the fact that ‘the hour is late’ and the crisis is upon us, there are remnants in our souls of living in personal relationship with the world that can be re-activated and developed. I believe we can again listen and hear the wisdom of the universe, the voice of God. I am hoping next year to offer some pilot workshops in Practising Parousia, learning to discern the Presence in and of all life forms, even supposed inert matter, awakening our imagination and capacity for spontaneity. I believe we can discern not only mind in nature and the universe, but also spirit; and I am not alone. There are many white Australians doing it in their own way, and we have our First Nations fellow Australians to guide us on the Way. But only if we get stuck into the ‘pie’ and enjoy it!