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Something I Just Learned from the Australian Aborigines

November 13, 2018

Tags: order, food, Aborigines, aging, Amazon, Australia, Australian celery, ballads, bush medicine, China, clams, coast, envy, desert, emu, environment, First Nation, Flights, forest, Freedom of Speech, global warming, Gmail, Google, greed, grubs, immigration, kangaroo, Kardashians, knowledge, land, lizard, lobsters, Maine, midden, mussels, Native Americans, Nobel Prize, Noongar medicine, Perth, philosophy, place, Polish, revisitings, roots, seasonal, Shanghai, sightseeing, Something I Just Learned from the Australian Aborigines, song, spirit location, spirit of place, strength, summer, time, Tokarczuk – Olga (1962-), totem, totem spot, travel, tribe, Twitter, USA, Western Australia, war, winter

Waiting for my transit airplane - already pretty stinky after traveling now for 24 hours, and not having farther advanced yet than from Perth to Shanghai - I find out that China does not allow access to Gmail, Amazon, Twitter or Google – so much for Freedom of Speech . I can as well use this time to write about things I learned in Western Australia recently. I learned about Noongar medicine, from the Aborigines in the South West – bush medicine, that is.

The Aborigines are First Nation of Australia, just like our Natives in the Americas. The Aborigines believe that each person has a totem that is also the place where one belongs to, the spirit of that place, and the linchpin, so to speak, of your life. You see, the place from where you came, and where your soul is bound up, cannot be changed.

That is some heavy stuff for somebody who, at age forty, left everything behind in Germany, and immigrated to the USA. But it is an interesting idea – one with many consequences.

For instance, Aborigines are not interested in waging war, because you can only inhabit your own totem land, never the one of somebody else. His land will never be your land. So there’s no use for war. Nor for greed and envy, it seems. If you always live smack in the middle of the life that belongs to you – and only you – you are always home. You are also always at the most interesting, most fulfilled spot of your life. You wouldn’t have use for the Kardashians …

Traveling – like I am doing now – has a different meaning under this aspect. Aborigines travel across the land according to changing food supplies throughout the seasons. Like Native Americans went from their winter dwellings in the forest to the coast in summer, to gorge on mussels and clams and lobsters – we still have an unexcavated midden near out Maine cabin. The Aborigines had an even harder life, roaming the arid regions of Western, North and middle Australia. They needed to know their seasonal foodstuff well – lizards and grubs and roots mostly, occasionally a kangaroo or an emu. All food is shared. I tried a piece of Australian celery last week. Very tasty. Seasonal is the keyword here. Aborigines don’t do sightseeing; they revisit their spirit location again and again. Because from there, strength and knowledge emanates.

Place is important with such a concept; time is not. The seasons are revisitings. Life is a string of revisitings. Aging is not a problem. Any time you revisit your totem spot, you gain more knowledge, and – like the food – you share your knowledge with your tribe. The knowledge is handed down mostly as songs – long ballads, with repetitive lines. And the song is your totem, too.

It is fascinating that I come to this Aboriginal knowledge just when I am also reading Flights, by the Polish author Olga Tokarczuk. I have been told she might win a Nobel – she certainly has written here a profound account of our restless, traveling lives.

Not to hammer in the moral of this Aboriginal philosophy too much – you can do that for yourself. But I have found myself contemplating this new thought. New for me, of course. Very old for the Aborigines. So old that people estimate they have lived that same kind of life for at least 50,000 years. Without destroying their environment in the process. Compare this to our man-made global warming. (more…)
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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