Dingo Love: towards multi-species peace

On reading Deborah Bird Rose’s latest post, Dingo Nation, I discovered a man by the name of John Cooper. In an ABC Open story on Cooper, Debrah Novak writes:

This is a story about a man’s love and passion for his Australian Dingos. He and his pack live in the the upper reaches of the Clarence River country in Northern NSW. With him I had the privilege of watching and recording a very special moment for this story: dingo pups being born in their lair. It is just one special moment in a story about a farmer who has come up with an unusual way of keeping wild dogs under control on his property.

The truth that rings clear for me, in both Rose’s post and the video on Cooper, is the opportunity to expand our (human) deep listening and compassion to more-than-human animals and other entities. Rose refers to research by Arian Wallach which highlights the capacity for dingoes to exist in…

complex family structure (known as a pack), collaborative care of the young, cooperative hunting, territorial defense, limits on family size and structure, individual personalities, and other features that indicate highly social animals with strong loyalties and a deep sense of duties and responsibilities.

To exist within, and maintain closely-knit kinship structures is surely evidence of a highly evolved and intelligent community of beings. To know what we belong to, and our role within kinship structures, gives us a place to dwell within.

This is obviously a huge questions, but, what is it that we as humans need to resolve, to be at peace amongst ourselves and other species? Is it a Deep Ecology/Transpersonal Ecology approach to life which shepherds all life forms (I would claim all entities) into a realm of identification, where we perceive ourselves connected infinitely through multiple networks of relationships?  To have a heightened sense of compassion and expand our concern with more-than-human life surely requires the realisation that we depend upon the well-being of living networks for our own physical, psychological and spiritual well-being.

The thing I love most about John Cooper’s approach to life is his openness and surrender to embracing the life that surrounds him – oh the love!

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Nothing in-between?

In amongst all of my mussings over interstices and what dwells in-between the strands of the web I came across a statement by Latour (1996) about how actor-networks deny the existence of the inside/outside duality:

A network is all boundary without inside and outside. The only question one may ask is whether or not a connection is established between two elements… Literally, a network has no outside… The great economy of thinking allowed by the notion of network is that we are no longer obliged to fill in the space in between the connections… A network is a positive notion which does not need negativity to be understood. It has no shadow (p. 6).

Oh dear… I’m not sure that I totally agree with Latour on this one, unless the ether was conceptualised as being part of the network, i.e. that we drag what appears to be nothing and give it form in the web/network.

Thoughts anyone?!?

 

Reference:

Latour, Bruno. “On Actor-Network Theory. A Few Clarifications Plus More Than a Few Complications.” Soziale Welt 47 (1996): 369-81. Print.

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Thin places

I was listening to ABC Radio National’s Encounter program today and right at the end of the episode Selling God’s House, Bishop Ian Palmer made this statement about thin places:   

The Celtic church used to talk about thin places and it would have geographical places that it would consider as ‘thin’ where heaven and earth seemed to meet. But also they would cultivate them as well. And through prayer they would create a thin place. Often when they were thinking about putting a monastery in a place, they would go to a bend in a river and they’d camp out there for weeks, often for forty days and they would just pray there, before they even decided to build.

The idea of people camping by a bend in the river, taking the time to sense the spirit of the place (genius loci) or praying to create a ‘thin place’ reminded me of a story shared with me by Yuin Elder Uncle Max Dulumunmun Harrison. In a conversation about songlines/songcycles, Uncle Max said that rivers form many of the songlines that travel through country. It is in the bends of the rivers, he said, where much of the energy pools, that is why these are good places to go fishing.

After hearing Palmer speak about thin places I did some hunting about came across Corrine Cunningham’s thesis ‘Remembered Earth: Mythopoetics from the American Southwest of the Spirit of Place and the Re-Enchantment of Humanity.’ In her writing about genius loci, Cunningham (2007) beautifully weaves together threads such as thin places, enchantment and the liminal to elucidate the feelings that are so often indescribable about our engagement with sacred places:

Places associated with enchantment are part of the ancient belief that within this earth, there are sites where the veil between the inner and the outer worlds is permeable, and where an individual experiences what the Japanese poet Basho (1644-94) describes as “a glimpse of the under-glimmer” (qtd. in Cousineau: xix). The Irish call these landscapes “thin places”—as in Roadside Well in Leix, home to the spirits of the land. Anthropologist Victor Turner describes these places as “liminal” ” [ . . . ] a threshold, a place and moment, in and out of time” (Dramas, Fields and Metaphors 197). The liminal landscape of the American Southwest was often the subject for photographer Ansel Adams, who described artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s desert home “Ghost Ranch” in New Mexico as “isolated in a glowing world [.. . ] where everything is sidewise under you, and over you, and the clocks stopped long ago” (qtd. in E. Turner: 19). (p. 5)

In particular, Cunningham’s statement, that ‘… the veil between the inner and the outer worlds is permeable’ in these ‘thin places’ reminds me of a metaphor used by Mathews (2007) that is akin to the veil:

… if one somehow managed to slip under the psychic skin of the world, and “enter” its subjectivity, would one experience the “outside” as “inside”? If one stepped inside the world, in this sense, might the trees and grass and rivers no longer appear as external to oneself? Might they – along with oneself – now be experienced as internal to the psyche of the world? (p. 4)

Rather than lean towards the references of heaven and earth, my own reading of ‘thin places’ is one of places in which I feel a sense of resonance, a being with, outside of temporal constraints. These ‘thin places’ beckon me to allow them in. A pause, a deep breath and a lifting of the veil to see through feeling, that which is waiting to be acknowledged.

 

References:

Cunningham, Corrine Lara. “Remembered Earth: Mythopoetics from the American Southwest of the Spirit of Place and the Re-Enchantment of Humanity.” Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2007. Print.

Mathews, Freya. “The World Hidden within the World: A Conversation on Ontopoetics.” The Trumpeter 1 (2007). Print.

 

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Nature benefits obvious yes, no?

Originally posted on 50 DAYS:

“Here is this vast, savage, howling mother of ours,

Nature, lying all around, with such savage beauty, and such affection for her children, as the leopard;

and yet we are so early weaned from her breast to society, to that culture which is exclusively

an interaction of man on man.”

- Henry David Thoreau

Since setting up our facebook page and blog I’ve come across many posts about the benefits of nature for health such as shinrin-yoku, outdoor play for children, the list goes on.

I feel excited about this as it means people are taking their health and surrounding environment seriously, leading to more engagement in the outdoors and validating the important role it plays in our lives. Yet,I am also left feeling frustrated because I believe the benefits of nature are obvious and what I consider to be the depth or core benefit is tricky to uncover in the mainstream. Maybe what I’m about to share…

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Facing oneness

In Deborah Bird Rose’s most recent post, So Many Faces, on her website Life at the Edge of Extinction, Rose writes about the run-away levels of species loss due to land clearing practices that are still prevalent today. The hook that really drew me into Rose’s writing was her reference to Levinas’ idea that the ‘face’ awakens within us an ethical responsibility:

The great continental philosopher Emmanuel Levinas wrote of the ‘face’ as that which interrupts my self-absorption and calls me into ethical responsibility. There has been a lot of discussion in recent years as to whether the face means ‘a human face’. What about other animals? What about trees? What about understory? The definition of face that I find most inspiring treats it as a form of action. Here face is something one does rather than something one has:  ‘facing is being confronted with, turned toward, facing up to, being judged and being called’.

The living world is filled with facings – to be alive is to live among faces, many of which are noisy and interruptive. This is good. This is life in the mode of ethics. At this time, this is also tough. There are so many facings, and often one feels so helpless.

I have written before about ‘seeing’ through feeling (liyan) and the process through which I have come to sense a communicable engagement with more-than-human entities. As well as a call to action (facing), the idea that the ‘face’ awakens a recognition with us humans that we have a responsibility to ‘others’ eludes to something very powerful; ‘face’ becomes a metaphor for deep recognition. But recognition of what? Ourselves? Oneness?

Rose introduces the most recent literary work of Australian science writer Tim Low, Where Songs Began: Australia’s Birds and How they Changed the World:

… DNA evidence is now showing beyond any doubt that Australia was the original home of songbirds. In Tim’s words, birdsong brought ‘a new dawn for planetary acoustics’.

This quote stirred within me remembrance of a conversation I had had with an Indigenous elder about lyrebirds. When I ask Uncle Max about the significance of these lyrical birds, his very first and most punctuated word was ONENESS. Through my dialogue with Uncle Max an understanding is unfolding about my attraction to lyrebirds and the role that they play in the perpetual process of co-creation. I have not yet had the opportunity to read Tim Low’s book, but I wonder if the lyrebird plays a role (from his ecological/historical perspective) in the ‘singing up’ of the world and is in fact a creator, not just a mimic. Perhaps the lyrebird, through its songs (if we choose to listen), can remind us of who we are and what we are connected to.

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40 years

Forty years ago tomorrow, my mother left behind her village in Macedonia with her brother Meni and arrived in Melbourne, Australia. She has returned twice to Boshoftsi (Mavropigi – black stream) to take her mother back to the village and to bring her back to Australia. The last time she was there was in 1999. Since then, the rocky stuff that made the stream in the village black (coal) has transformed the place and the community, making it Almost no place to go back to.

The Thei open pit coal mine grows, stretching its terraces closer and closer to the village. Other villages have already gone under the shovels and dozers, creating a different sort of space in these once dwelt-in places.

Mavropigi August 2014 On the edges of the village (or is the anchor of reference now the coal pit?), fields (horafia) lie abandoned, except for those still walked by my Thio Fani who still keeps his herds of stock here. Our relatives and other village dwellers have almost all moved to the nearest big town. Their safety is no longer guaranteed, explosions from the mine rocking the earth and breaking apart its substance, the materiality that has fed existence in this land since the great forests laid down to sleep.

On the edge of an open pit coal mine

I wanted my parents to go back to the village when they were in Europe earlier this year. It is only now I can sense the heartbreak that would have ensued if they had.

My father once told me about the way in which the fields were laid out before they had been consolidated for tobacco farming. Each family had fields scattered on the outskirts of the village, each bounded by pear and walnut trees and vines. Then someone had the bright idea of redistributing the land so that everyone had big plots they could tend for cash crops, so the pear and walnut trees and vines went. The waves of industrialisation – some small and soft, others big and violent – of the land have removed people from the places with which they were connected.

When my family and I were talking about our family tree, I would ask my mother and father where so and so came from… “the village” and this person who married such and such… “the village”. In living memory, all but one of my ancestors has come from this village. I went there once, when I was nearly sixteen. I walked the voono (mountain) with my father and spoke to a relative herding goats. On top of the mountain is a tiny church and a view of the fields, village, open pit coal mines and smog from the nearby coal-fired power station. My time in the village (4 weeks) did not foster within me a sense of home or feelings of belonging. I have always felt confronted about this. Like so many other first-generation Australians, the place of my ancestry exists in the imaginary of my parents’ stories about ‘the village’. Their village is a place from 1968 (dad) and 1974 (mum), the home they left behind.

What will remain of ‘country’ and feeling in country when the fields, houses, mountain, trees and birds are all gone? In the space that used to be place, a home…

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Dark clouds and dust lanes

Web

In a web,

Dewdrops,

like jewels of insight,

allow life

and stories

to spring forth.

But,

what about the spaces

in                   between?

What is lurking

in the interstices?

 

Within the dark clouds and dust lanes

of the Milky Way,

the black space

between the glimmering stars,

Dwells a being.

Some call him Marella,

 

There is always something

in those spaces

in          between.

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