We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion-year-old carbon.
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.
– Joni Mitchell
The rejoicing is everywhere. Just today, while walking down the street, someone walked past me, put his hand up in greeting. ‘Yes we can!’ he said. There is no doubt in my mind that the United States has ignited a transformative new chapter in human history with the election of Barack Obama, not only in the eyes of Americans, but in the eyes of the world.
Let me preface this by saying this election is not about Barack Obama, nor even in the improbable victory of a black man being elected President of a country that only forty years ago was lynching his kind. And just like it’s not about Obama, it’s also not about America. It is about you and me. It is about humanity’s dream of living intelligently and compassionately with one another. And it is about the miracle of individuals creating a fire-storm mass movement of positivity, unity, and empowerment in the face of hugely powerful forces—the Democratic Party establishment, Fox News, the right wing power elite, and entrenched corporate alliances.
This present moment in history, regardless of our country of residence, is the time where we roll up our sleeves and participate in what could be the most important endeavour of the ages. Now is the time to show up, come together, and contribute—each person in their own way—towards meaningful change, in our personal life, with our families, and in our communities.
The day after the election, I bumped into a friend. ‘So, what do ya think about Obama?’ he asked. I was effusive. He groaned. He said he couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. ‘So now we just have a different head on the Medusa,’ he said.
I could understand his moroseness. Obama is just one lone man being inserted into the mosh pit of a behemoth bureaucracy. He is not the messiah. But it is the circumstances in which he finds himself elected that make this presidency different. For one, Obama takes office when the financial system is spiralling into crisis. Unlike economic crises before, this one is not cyclical, it is structural. Second, this is the first time in governmental history that a president faces the biophysical limits of this planet. And third, this particular President was voted in through the leverage of an unprecedented degree of mass mobilisation—people like you and me, who have been inspired to stay active and continue working for change, rather than simply go home celebrating victory. These three points add up to brewing a veritable ‘perfect storm’ from which something new can happen, if we take the challenge.
I think Tom Engelhardt (www.tomdispatch.com) says it best in one of his recent posts:
But hard as his election may have been, that was surely the easy part. He is now about to enter the hornets’ nest. Entrenched interests. Entrenched ideas. Entrenched ideology. Entrenched profits. Entrenched lobbyists. Entrenched bureaucrats. Entrenched think tanks. An entrenched Pentagon and allied military-industrial complex, both bloated beyond imagining and virtually untouchable, along with a labyrinthine ‘intelligence’ system of more than 18 agencies, departments, and offices.
Washington remains an imperial capital. How in the world will Barack Obama truly begin to change that without you?
Political Washington is a conspiracy—in the original sense of the word: ‘to breathe the same air.’ In that sense, there is no air in Washington that isn’t stale enough to choke a president. Send Obama there alone…and you’re not doing him, or the American people, any favours. Quite the opposite, you’re consigning him to suffocation.
Leave Obama to them and he’ll break your heart. If you do, then blame yourself, not him; but better than blaming anyone, pitch your own tent on the public commons and make some noise.
But here’s the clincher: How are we meant to pitch that proverbial tent? People have been earnestly working for change for centuries. And look at where we are now. How is this time different, and how are we going to meet it differently? The key is in the basic tenet of this election: unity.
Andrew Harvey, spiritual activist and mystic, stated in an interview recently, ‘I know that within every human being there is a spark of the divine consciousness and this is the universal testimony of all the mystical traditions. This testimony, that at the core of everyone lies the divine consciousness waiting to be experienced, is crucial for the future. We’ve created an increasingly violent, desolate, meaningless, desperate world out of our mistaken belief that we are separate beings. This terrible belief—that is profoundly untrue—is the root of growing devastation that we see everywhere. The healing of this devastation can only come from two linked things: our universal mystical awakening to the innate divinity of human consciousness, and a wholly new kind of sacred action born from that consciousness.’
So the message is resounding all over the world now, loud and clear—from the profoundly symbolic election, to the threat of environmental annihilation, to the dead-end financial system—we must come home. We have to literally, not just theoretically, turn inwards, acknowledge our connection to all things, and re-emerge true agents of change, informed by that connection. This is not something done over time. It is not something we have to evolve into by going to more workshops. It is done now, in this moment. And then every moment.
Nothing inspires this radical return to the heart like meeting a truly great person. We may even have the privilege of meeting more than one over our lifetime, each meeting inspiring in us a deeper and richer recognition. For many around the world now, such inspiration seems to be ignited by Barack Obama.
In my lifetime, I’ve had the extreme good fortune of meeting a few great beings, some of them well known, others residing quietly undiscovered. My world was recently turned upside down by a beautiful man named Bob Randall, one of the listed custodial elders of Uluru, a place some call The Centre. I first knew of Uncle Bob through the important film Kanyini (if you have not yet seen this film, do. You can buy it at www.kanyini.com, and then show it to all your friends). He caught my attention because he had this ability to descend into the despair of his people and explain it articulately, but all the while extending profound kindness and compassion towards us, the audience.
Born in 1934 on Tempe Station in the Central Desert region of the Northern Territory, Australia, Uncle Bob is a member of the Yankunytjatjara people. As such, he is part of arguably the oldest continuous cultural system in the world, on the oldest continent in the world, and is one of the few remaining on this earth who remembers our true legacy as human beings. When I write ‘remember’ I don’t just mean mental memory, I mean that his remembrance abides right through to his bone marrow.
As was the Australian federal policy at the time, Bob was brutally taken away from his mother when he was just seven years old, and raised by the mission system which sought to ‘civilise’ the young Indigenous people. With this he joined the tens of thousands of children known as the ‘Stolen Generation’. He never saw his mother again. Such policy, ironically called the Aboriginal Protection Act, sought to totally eradicate the Aboriginal race. As the Chief Protector of Aborigines in Western Australia, AO Neville, wrote in an article for The West Australian in 1930:
‘Eliminate the full-blood and permit the white admixture to half-castes and eventually the race will become white.’
Two months ago I arranged to meet Uncle Bob in person so that I could record his story for an anthology of stories of belonging I’ve been commissioned to edit. We arranged to meet in Sydney and work together there.
I never expected the opening that would happen in his company. Between his genuine warm kindness towards me, his love for the earth and nature, and his vulnerable willingness to share his stories and knowledge, I broke. I simply broke—quietly, tenderly, willingly.
Tears came, tears that would not stop for days. At first they were for Bob and his people, but then the tears came harder—they were for me and mine. In the reflection of Uncle Bob’s way of being, I saw the sadness of modern man’s true face. What have we done to ourselves? Who have we become? Are we not the spiritually destitute, the soulfully impoverished? And we haven’t the tiniest clue that this is so—cocooned by our material possessions, subdued by screens and laptops, brainwashed by the mythology we tell ourselves.
In Uncle Bob’s undeniable connection to, and interaction with, nature and its vibrational recollection of the earth’s origin, something a few remaining Indigenous Australians still live from, dwells the key to our future—connectedness, unity and unconditional love.
One morning, while having a coffee together, Uncle Bob spoke to me of the wisdom available through the simple act of listening to a tree. Robert Lawlor writes, ‘In the Aboriginal worldview, every meaningful activity, event, or life-process that occurs at a particular place leaves behind a vibrational residue in the earth. The shape of the land—its mountains, rocks, riverbeds, and waterholes—and its unseen vibrations—echo the events that brought that place into creation.’
‘No one knows how to understand the trees and the rocks,’ Uncle Bob said. ‘So, we Aboriginal people are here to translate for you,’ he laughed.
What an opportunity.
What kindness to offer the deepest understanding so that we all might survive.
Might I add here that it would be profoundly unfortunate if we miss this opportunity by simply ‘apologising’ to our Indigenous family and not recognising the profound wisdom and knowledge that these ancient people can share with us.
Thomas Berry, the Catholic monk credited for inspiring much of the deep ecology movement said, ‘We are talking only to ourselves. We are not talking to the rivers, we are not listening to the wind and stars. We have broken the great conversation. By breaking that conversation we have shattered the universe. All the disasters that are happening now are a consequence of that spiritual “autism”.’
It is this autism that causes the symptoms we now know as the War on Terror, materialism, militarism, environmental destruction, medicalisation, etc. And until we intimately reacquaint ourselves with the fundamental nature of nature, that is to say, our interconnectedness with all things, then our solutions—regardless of how progressive they may seem—will be useless. They will still reflect our belief in separation. A road to hell, paved with good intentions.
What is upon us now, heralded—if only symbolically—by this election, is an invitation to step into our legacy. It is the story of greatness, love and oneness. Are we to perish in a poof of nuclear smoke—all evidence of our presence decimated? Are we to slowly die out like idiots, one desperate text message at a time? I doubt it.
We are made of the stuff of stars, of the very first breath of the universe. It’s that sameness that is our connection with all things. This is what is spoken in the ‘great conversation’ to which we’ve forgotten to listen—a conversation that is available every moment, in between two heart beats, in the glow of a sunset, in the rustle of a leaf, in the song of a cricket. Our ability to live from that oneness is in our DNA.
Can we start to listen again? Can we touch, in this moment, that tiny millisecond of non-separation? Can we create another destiny for ourselves? Can we get back to the garden?
Yes, we can.
Resources for tent-pitching:
A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, Eckhart Tolle, Dutton, 2005.
The Heartmath Solution: The Institute of HeartMath’s Revolutionary Program for Engaging the Power of the Heart’s Intelligence, Doc Childre and Howard Martin, HarperOne, 2000
Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind, Joe Dispenza, HCI, 2008
Voices of the First Day: Awakening in the Aboriginal Dreaming, Robert Lawlor, Inner Traditions, 1991
Kanyini, DVD, www.kanyini.com
Songman, Bob Randall (an autobiography), ABC 2008
The first half of this editorial was inspired by email exchanges with Kenneth McLeod of The Wollumbin Institute, Mark O’Brien and Bharat Mitra Lev of Organic India.
Published in Kindred, Issue 28
You can read more of Kelly’s writing at EQUUS, here.