“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. ” Maya Angelou
As an artist it is easy for me to connect with a thought like this. The greatest struggle of each creative soul is to find the method to communicate the soul’s loudest song. Some through music, art, writing. But creativity isn’t relegated to the fine arts and is applied to every aspect of our lives. How we deal with relationships at work or in our personal lives is entirely dependent, for example,on how connected we our with our own method of expression and communication.
I have been told by many people that I should write my biography, because I have, in their opinion, a unique story that inspires them in some way.
I struggle with the thought, probably like most writers, about what the value of such a thing is – everyone indeed has a unique a dramatic life story. that is the essence of life. Why should my story be unique or interesting to anyone?
It used to be that we taught our children everything they needed to know about life through our stories. I learned while traveling through in the Australian desert that aboriginal people object to teaching their children reading because it dilutes the purity and wisdom of the elders. Theirs is a culture based on (debatably) 40 to 60 thousand years of repeated stories. The land around them is used as a classroom and children are taught before anything to understand and live with the land they live on.
Just to give you a perspective check, our native people’s genetic origins date back only about 17 thousand years. The aboriginal Australian culture is by far the oldest culture on the planet, historians now believe dating back nearly sixty thousand years. They use cave illustration to teach the stories they tell, and myths and legends that sound like our fairy tales. Each story holds a very important lesson about the laws or “jarkupa” of the culture. Aboriginal people in Australia do not have nations or tribes, instead they see each others as one people with different skin tones – 36 to be precise. They used to have over 270 languages, but the genocide wrought upon them by British colonialists has reduced their languages to below 75.
Aborigines sing the “song lines” of the Dream Time”. The Song is given to each boy in his language. He is sent into the desert at “manhood” – around 13 years of age – a terrifying journey for each boy. In the desert the boy finds his courage. he relates to the signs of the land in the way of someone who understands that he and the land are not two different things, but extensions of each other. He works with what he has been taught, while need and necessity add to his knowledge and understanding of survival.
The desert speaks to you if you are willing to listen.
During the first night I was at Uluru I was on our balcony in the only hotel in the desert, a resort agreed upon by the aboriginal people who were given back the sacred land of Uluru many years ago. I had an experience which I can explain as nothing else but mystical.
They have a story that says that beings of the star constellation Pleiades live under the mountain, and that the “heart” center of the earth will (and has just) shift and the beings will emerge as a celestial choir to teach us about who we are.
This story is told repeatedly within the caves, illustrated on the walls in amazing and obvious detail. Within the mountain itself, each cave has a different purpose. There is a birthing cave for when women have babies, a teaching cave for grandmothers to bring young girls who have started their menses. There is even a playground cave where the younger three and four year old children gather to swim in sparse gathered ran water, a safer bet than the predator infested watering holes in the desert.
The stories of the mountain are also associated to the signs and lines on the mountain itself. Uluru is unique in that is is made like a bunch of pancakes stacked sideways. Geologists have even discovered that one side of the mountain is nearly 5 million years older than the other, like the land over time just squished itself together.
The lines have formed remarkable illustrations for the legends the aborigines tell.
Like the time the man had hunted for three days to catch an emu for his community – aboriginal people never claim things for themselves – everything is shared. He walked through the hot desert finally found his catch and was so exhausted went to a cave in the mountain to rest before returning home to share his catch with his community.
But while he slept, the Goanna lizard, massive and nasty and too lazy to catch his own emu, saw the man’s catch and greedily snuck off with it in the night.
When the man awoke to find his emu meat gone he jumped up with a start and began searching for his missing food. The food he was to bring back to his community – nothing in the Aboriginal culture belongs to one person individually.
First he saw feathers and followed the trail.
As Leroy told me this story he pointed out the places which were carved by time in the crevices of the mountain that illustrated the ancient story.
Along one side a long ridge an indentation, where the giant Goanna lizard dragged the emu into a cave and began to eat it. In his voraciousness, a drum stick fell off the lizard and plummeted to the ground, where the man was alerted and clearly saw the Goanna eating his food.
He approached the Goanna and said
“Did you steal my meat?
The Goanna said lying “Oh no no sir I would never do such a thing”.
But the man could see the Goanna lizards lips were greasy with eating and he was hiding something behind his massive hulking tale.
“so what’s behind your tale?”,
In his evasion, the lizard reached around the hide his stolen food and slipped falling from the bring of the cave, plummeting down the jagged rocky slope to his death at the base of the mountain.
Leroy gleefully showed us the place where moss has grown on the side of Uluru – saying this is where the lizard’s skin shredded off while he “carrot grated” himself to the ground.
What a great story.
Leroy pointed to a pile of stones and a smaller one to the side and said
“And that one is his head”, he said with a wicked grin.
The story teaches about karma, about stealing and honesty. It teaches about hard work and perseverance, and it teaches about the things in the desert which can harm you.
So I have to ask myself – How are we teaching our children? How were we taught? Are we taking the time to tell our stories?
Our kids are lost.
We plug them into television sets and computers handing them IPhones and tablets at five years old to distract them so we can go on with our “important” lives, consuming, earning, buying, impressing, achieving, taking, grabbing, owning.
It’s as though we are teaching them to avoid the reality of living itself.
The desert was full of lessons, but the most important one – for this moment – is the understanding that we are fully connected tot his place called earth we live in – and if we are to continue here the way we understand the world must fundamentally change. This begins with how we teach our children.
What is your story? What can it teach about?