In his book Sand Talk, Tyson Yunkaporta traces a linked series of images and yarns, forming a cosmology of stories, practices and understandings that have sustained the lives of Australia’s original peoples for something like sixty thousand years. Their focus is on relationships — between men and women, within family and kinship linking, with ancestors, and with all living and non-living creatures and phenomena including the earth, the rocks, the weather, the microbes and the stars.
The history of this enquiry has been to discover what it is to be a human person in a world of other human persons (and non-humans as well). What are the possibilities that arise between us all, and how can we seize and make the most of these possibilities for everyday thriving and wellbeing? …
The ground has shifted. The world looks and feels quite different than it did only six months ago. In this moment of great confusion, something new and momentous is arriving.
The voices of the old mainstream are still yearning for a return to ‘normal’. A political party leaflet that arrived in my letterbox a week ago says “we must save jobs and get the economy growing again.” But a new mainstream is forming — one that knows that many jobs won’t be saved, and that economic growth is less important than survival and wellbeing. …
Reading the articles in “Taiwan Insight” emphasises the orientation that we have in New Zealand — that of a modest-sized island nation looking to steer an independent course between global superpowers with whose trajectories we are unavoidably entangled. There are common themes around democratic participation and economic development based on distinctive comparative advantage. The connections don’t end there…it seems that Taiwan’s indigenous peoples may have formed part of the great chain of Pacific migrants that led to New Zealand’s pre-colonial settlement. …
A video introduction
It’s time to wake up to our humanity — since now we’re recognising that we’re not separated beings, but part of an interconnecting whole.
By rediscovering and intensifying our relational abilities, we can reform ourselves as purposeful enterprises of interlocking differences. And do what has to be done by combining all of our talents together.
This is the learning that we can share with our children.
The message of all the foregoing is that the of learning and adaptation required for people to ‘get in tune’ with one another — sufficient to address the maelstrom of planetary challenges that we face — are extensive and systemic. They range across all of the aspects of our being, and involve the transformation of all scales of human relationship from the smallest to the largest. We can’t collaborate effectively without relational skills; we can’t develop relational skills without orienting ourselves in relation to one another; and we can’t orient towards others without knowing our own capacities. Yet we come…
Part 5 of this essay addresses one of the most neglected and forgotten arts of the modern world: the work of convening and conducting purposeful gatherings of large numbers of people. Indeed modernity has depended on destroying ‘indigenous’ forms of assembly, creating a society of the masses and institutions that address humans as individuals, not as citizens with shared civic participation and accountability, but as separated ‘consumers’ who choose from marketised alternatives often sponsored by a corporatised state.
In 1943, at a time of European existential dread, Jean-Paul Sartre ended his play Huis Clos with the famous line, “Hell is other people”. His exploration of phenomenological Otherness proposes shame as the original feeling brought on by the realisation of the existence of others — I am just the physical manifestation of my body in their sight, and my only defence against the tyranny of another’s gaze is to transform them in turn into an object for my own consciousness. …
What are the dyads — the significant relationships with another person, forming the smallest possible human group — that we form during our lives? Tracking through the life course, they include our relationships
¶ with each parent
¶ with each sibling
¶ with close childhood friends
¶ with particular extended family members
¶ with school and university friends
¶ with adult friends
¶ with particular workplace associates
¶ with particular members of sports or other teams
¶ with mentors
¶ with fellow adventurers
¶ with particular neighbours or fellow inhabitants
¶ with life partners
¶ with own children
Our heritage of instrumental individualism means that our professional activities and the education systems that produce them are mostly oriented toward the mastery and performance of facts, concepts, processes and tasks — and scarcely at all towards relationships. As atomised individuals, what matters is personal achievement. Skilful self-presentation — in an interview, in a meeting, in writing, in a cv, or on Facebook — is a dominating goal. How we act towards one another in our everyday encounters is considered to be much less important. …
Waking up to our humanity