Straddling linear and non linear time, Misak tribal leader Jerimias and his entourage was warmly welcomed by their hosts, Clan Galgael; in a present moment.
Dropping in to the City.
Having circumvented a public transport standstill in the central belt, the sun was high in the sky, the workshop leaders had eschewed the idea of taking the plenary outside, and a delegate from Galgael had diligently fetched some water from the flowing River Clyde and we began a very touching ceremony in a community centre, on the corner of Fairley Street in Govan.
The Misak people, Jerimias explained, always begin any group process with connecting with the water of the place and ‘asking permission’. ‘Water is Life’, he explained, and, to engage effectively together; the ritual we were to perform is a way to unify our minds in order for the collaborative work we were about to engage with to be successful.
He knelt before the bowl, and deftly flicked the water a few times over both shoulders, I looked on as I watched him watch it trickle through his hands and murmured a simple prayer to himself as he washed the water of the Clyde over his face. The water was then passed around the circle and participants were invited to repeat the process for themselves.
Water trickled, time stood still, time-moved; time left the building for a stroll around Govan.
After this process, there was a tangible difference to the feeling in the room. We had arrived, the road dust had disappeared and we engaged in the task; in this case it was the business of exploring the Misak’s ‘Plan de Vida’ as a possible template for cultural renewal and community visioning for Galgael.
Reversing the cycle of attrition is possible!
What followed was a presentation of the experience of three layers of colonialisation that the Misak have managed to disentangle from through processes decided upon in their Plan de Vida. Jeremias spoke candidly, from oral memory, about how the colonizing forces first took their territory, then their language; then their system of education. Parallels were drawn, yet unspoken, about a similar process that took place in our own Isles; all those generations ago.
It is not the Plan de Vida that I have decided to write about here. However, you can find out more about the day here, and Plan de Vida here, and here. No, it is the importance of greeting customs and the bringing of hearts and minds together that I want to emphasise today. It is an element of connection modeling that is often overlooked, both in a wider cultural sense and in outdoor educative situations. I wanted to address both respectively.
Water is Life.
This past winter has been one of contrast in my hyper-connected world. I witnessed, from my remote island home, an incredible resistance, led by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe; protecting their sacred lands from the Dakota Access Pipeline. Indigenous media channels (such as this one) documented the historic coming together of hundreds of tribes. The protectors conduct was characterised, against many odds, by accountability, reverance for creation and prayerful assembly.
This was sharply contrasted by the conduct of the police and security forces there, coupled by the arrival of huge megatankers of fracked ethylene gas up the Firth of Forth from the USA for refinement in Grangemouth; Yes, despite Scotland moratorium on fracking, we are backing the building of infrastructure to process the spoils of the new corporate Empire. The struggle continues.
It strikes me everyday just how disconnected the world of commerce is from the reality of living in this breathing, animate, relational world. I was left asking myself: ‘How can we as a society condone this behaviour’?; My conclusions was that it is due to a profound disconnection in our neurobiology and in our western culture as a whole. One has to try hard to maintain relationship as our cultural systems are not resilient like the Misak – we are still living with the fallout of the severance of our culture; all those years ago.
Just last week, I was sent this video by Jon Young of the 8 Shields institute, which touches on the importance of greeting customs and spells out the concept of connection modelling (and it’s distinction from pedagogy) in detail. Jon’s talk follows a brief introduction by David Abram. Please watch it.
What’s significant about this video for me today is just how vital the process of greeting and unification of minds is in our work as nature connection mentors and as outdoor educators in general.
It is a hard realisation, but one that our remnants of societies, guilds and clans would do well to recognize; and that is our role as what Jon calls ‘foundation builders’. It may take us many generations to get to the party.
Outdoor Learning- for what?
We, as a society, have the connective ability, but due to the culture being severed; we no longer have the connection modelling to support it. This will take time. But we can begin in our own fields, faculties and families…
Here, at Camas Centre, we must be mindful of remembering the importance of establishing greeting customs with each other; but also designing others which are not only culturally acceptable, but are co-created with the different groups that visit us every year.
When I think reflect on the times where there has been to resistance to taking part (not that that not taking part isn’t a perfectly acceptable choice); it is possible to track that the element of acclimating fully and being of one mind as a group has not been established. It will be interesting to watch the innovative ways our new band of volunteers will employ in slowing down and connecting in our daily morning and evening reflections with the groups this year.
Keeping it sidereal…
Whilst ritually bathing with water, or fire, or other natural element might be a bit intense a leap for some; it is certain to me that a culture without systems for connection modeling is not a culture at all. What if our so called ‘modern’ worldview is simply a diseased and fragmented remnant of culture which is need of guidance and repair? As Jon says, our behaviour as a people can be viewed as is just ‘normalised and socially acceptable historic trauma’.
Despite all this i refuse to lie down and accept we are doomed, I would like to voice solidarity with other resistors of environmental destruction and say that I stand on the side of the creation.
I will therefore close with expressing thanks for all the teachers and guides from different indigenous groupings that I have come into contact with recently; both in the flesh and virtually. Whilst it would be inappropriate to appropriate your ways; it is a visceral impossibility not to be touched by the presence of connecting customs and modalities and a yearning for reinvigorating our own; thank you for helping us in the process of remembering.
Happy New Year.