Thursday, 15 March 2018 16:26

People of the Earth

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Indigenous Body Painting

Have you heard of the Bundian way? It’s an ancient walking track linking continental Australia’s highest point with the east coast. It is considered be the world’s oldest walking track, predating by centuries the fabled spice route of the east.

At a gathering two or three years ago I listened to the Aboriginal elder, Uncle Ossie Cruse, recount the rediscovery of the track and its significance for his people. I was struck once again by the instinctive connection to the land that the Aboriginal people possess. So deep does the connection go, that when it is broken they become a people adrift…unsure of themselves…lost.

As I listened to Uncle Ossie I was struck by the thought that the way he speaks about his people’s connection to the Earth finds an echo in the words of Pope Francis. It is almost as if the Pope and Uncle Ossie sat down together to talk about these things:

“Men and women have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by the things themselves. It was a matter of receiving what nature itself allowed, as if from its own hand. Now, by contrast…the relationship has become confrontational…” [Laudato Si no. 106]

I must admit that I don’t hold much hope that Pope Francis’s words will change the trajectory that we are on. I suspect that our collective sense of entitlement has become so much a part of who we are, that we cannot really imagine another way of relating to the Earth of which we are a part. As droughts, heat waves, receding glaciers, tsunamis, cyclones, bleached reefs, destroyed landscapes and species extinction increasingly impact, we might one day remember that many times we were offered a simple choice: become once again people of the Earth, walking the paths of wisdom laid out for us by our more environmentally attuned ancestors, or continue to exploit this wonderful gift we have been given to the devastation of all. Perhaps it will only be as we experience what it means to be a people adrift…unsure of ourselves…lost, that we will find the pathway back.

 


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This article is part of Faith Journey, a newsletter from the National Centre for Evangelisation.

Shane Dwyer

Shane Dwyer is Director of the National Centre for Evangelisation, of which the Catholic Enquiry Centre is a part. He is a Catholic educator with experience in theological course provision, resource development, spiritual direction, faith and spirituality formation and ministry support.