Us modern global folk love to move about from place to place and have all become very mobile: we all have mobile phones, travel hours to works each day, send our kids to the best school the other side of town, regularly visit our families the other side of the country, look for new jobs and opportunities far a field, go off on exciting overseas trips each year, even pride ourselves in being upwardly mobile. We move and want to move more and more. But where is ‘home’ or as we used to ask in India, “Where is our native place?”.
To be a native of a place or indigenous to the land or country of your birth is to be deeply at ease with that special point on this Earth. It is said that when an Australian aborigine is born in the bush the mother is careful to allow some of the birthing blood and fluid to soak into the sand and soil, so that not only the child will know it’s place of origin but equally, that that particular point on the Earth will know this new born child. A symbolic relationship with land will be formed at the very moment of birth.
Traditional indigenous tribesmen and women knew everything about their location: all the trees, all the plants, all the animals, all the rock and mountains, all the rivers, all the seasons, all the languages, all the families, all the relations and relationships, all the soils, all the medicines. In truth there was nothing they did not know about their environment, save for the occasional great and traumatic earth event, but these were rare and often told about in the old stories from the ancestors. In truth, life moved slowly and was intimately connected and interconnected.
It is reports now that globally us humans send each other 4000 crore SMS or app messages every day. So we must all be very connected. Some of us are proud to announce that we have thousands of Facebook friends. But what is the nature of these app connections and ‘friends’? Are they people who have know us and our families since childhood? Are they people who we could rely on to come to our aid in times of sickness, suffering or death? Maybe our ‘home’ now has become an @ddress or #tag, but does this give us sufficient ground for being at ease in any one place? Can my native place be in cyber space? Or are we all suffering from a modern sickness of separation and alienation from earth and place and foundation?
Tradition stability and cultural foundation have always been an important part of all successful long term societies, be that the 4000 years of the Vedic culture or the 30,000 years of continuous Aboriginal traditions and stories. The value of our forefathers and foremothers with their considerable ancestral experience, local environmental knowledge and sacred worship practices created an essential guiding influence on the ethics, survival skills, generational strength and governance of these societies. The elders knew how to survive the long term ups and owns of life; they must have, for their clans and tribes and families endured over the centuries and millennia.
It is not only ancient traditional societies that maintain a sense of place and family and tradition. It is a fact that today 85% of modern Italian live less that 25km from their place of birth. They are at ‘home’ even whilst enjoying the best of modern art, fashion and food. They do not honour movement, for they prefer to know where their vegetable are grown. For food and it’s pranic vibration is the very essence of survival. Italians know this.
As we turn our attention to the sustainability or more fundamentally, the survivability of our modern lifestyle, we begin to reflect on the things our grandmothers and grandfathers used to tell us. The example of Cuba is often quoted for their marvellous organic horticultural regeneration after the collapse of the support of the Soviet Union in 1989. They succeeded in feeding their hungry population by growing vegetables in and around their cities. Many international groups helped in this endeavour including modern permaculturalists and academic research botanists, but one of the most important elements in this growing revolution was the invitation to the forgotten and marginalised hillside peasants, the campestinos, to come down to the cities with their donkeys and traditional seeds. Their embedded ancestral farming knowledge helped feed the Cuban people in their time of crisis.
We leave our home, our tradition and our land is search of something better; something possibly more exciting and entertaining and profitable. An adventure and exploration beyond the mores and traditions of our elders. A holiday away from the drudgery of sameness and control. This is an exciting and fun filled endeavour, a least for the upwardly mobile. After some time we have our children in the new city or country, and then later they too have their children. We tell these grandchildren the old family stories of how it used to live back home in the village or on the farm. This has been the pattern of modern life in many countries over the last 2 or 3 generations, but now the so called boring folk back home are getting old and dying out. And with them the tradition of the ancients and ancestors. The culture and very fabric of societal continuity are dying with them. We find we have no where to return home. No where to take our grandchildren to play in the soil beneath the village orchard trees. We are condemned to remain on holiday in the city forever. But we all know what happens after a few days or weeks or months or years or generations of being ‘away’ … we get bored with entertainment and adventure and even success. We want to return home to foundation and stability.
If you ask a young modern Australian aborigine where he or she feels most at ease … they will instantly say “On my Land”. For when they are away in someone else’s country, they do not know how to act correctly according to the local traditions and protocols, and might run the risk of bringing shame upon their own family elders and ancestors. Hence they act cautiously and with respect when they are away. But at home … anything goes, for they are held safe amongst family and friends and within the very essence of their own special place on Earth.