I guess i’d better define my terms and honour the inspirations behind this blog site, before i go much further.
‘White Fella’ is a a term used for ‘new Australians’ by Black Fellas, which is what many Australian Aboriginal people proudly call themselves. You’ll note there’s no gender distinction; it’s a bit like the old fashioned term ‘man’ as used for all humanity. As a matter of fact, great and influential Australian anthropologist WEH Stanner’s collection of essays was titled White Man Got no Dreaming, which was a wry comment on the comparative poverty of our connection to the land (or ‘country,’ which has a very definite connotation of a place filled with living resonance and relationships amongst kin, both human and more than human). The idea that we have no Dreaming applies in some way to all modern people who are removed from that kind of kinship identification with the earth that sustains them – and sadly this means even those living right where their ancient forebears lived, if they have lost that connection.
Therefore white fella doesn’t necessarily connote Caucasians, or those of British descent, or western Europeans on the continent or displaced … it just means those who are not living (or who are now beginning to live) in deep connection to the land upon which they live. But for me, as a white fella, it can also mean that, because we live in a westernized world, a Hindu or Chinese wearing jeans and t-shirt, any shopper anywhere out for a dose of retail therapy, all those speaking and reading English and using this kind of technology – the kind I’m composing on and we are using to communicate with – we are all implicated in white fella ways.
The train – it seems such a symbol of western technology, following inflexible straight lines mechanically to the next trading post.
It could have been different, but the combustible steam engine was invented in England, where there also happened to be a steady supply of local coal and a competitive market … and bingo. Now us ‘new worlders’ are a long way from our ancestral lands and we have a lot to learn. But how many modern people anywhere today are really in touch with the traditions that link them to the sacred, to earth wisdom, to celestial intelligence? How many Europeans still living in the same ‘hood where their ancestors lived, breathed and worshipped still ceremonially link themselves to their indigenous soul, follow rites to embody an animistic conception of the sacred, regularly get in touch with the pulse of the land and rivers and seas and trees and birds and animals around them, as well as to the stars above? In my PhD i traced this loss to the rise of large scale settlement civilisations – basically, the same story being told by many ecocritics, that the agricultural revolution changed our relationship to ‘resources’ such that soil and fresh water were now thought of as the basis for farming, trees became known for timber, the discovery of metals leading to open cut mines and so on. While we need to re-know ourselves as nature, we also need to redefine what we are prepared to accept as culture; and enjoying mutually sustaining relationships with the land and its other creatures is part of the redefinition project that i like. White fella dreaming draws from ancient traditions, but in a way that is true to self. A black fella once said to me, you’ve got to get your own dreaming back. This is my report, my thanks, my path back to the earth and the stars.
A billabong amongst the Henty Dunes, Tasmania
‘Dreaming’ is a term to help cover all these possibilities. Thinking up new ways, having vision and making that real, creating, or divining, or perceiving other worlds, whether asleep or awake; experiencing otherwise hidden realms behind or within this one/these dimensions, bringing forth and holding true what we find sacred anywhere (in the mind, heart, body or world), getting in touch with the creative force of the universe and staying there (thanks to Joseph Campbell on that one), finding responsive ways to mediate conflict or to evolve towards a higher synthesis of complexity beyond seeming oppositions … recognizing the underworld journey we all take beneath the veneer of this ‘ordinary’ reality every day; becoming something fresh and new, emerging transformed from the night, waking up to new realities where utopian potential hasn’t been erased or edited yet, where cyber codes rain down from the stars, where breath rises up through us from deep within the earth and from the rivers and the salt water and the sand dunes, where we give thanks to the trees and welcome kinship with the other creatures and live more free of unworthy concerns.
White Fella Dreaming is a lot like all the ancient stories from everywhere but in new forms. Respect for the ancestors (that story coming soon), experience of the immediate sensory aspect of timelessness, embodiment of the unlimited spark, grounding of all that is and was and ever will be in self-aware primate bodies … breathe it in and let go into the Dreaming. All the time.