Seeing the “more” in life
I have recently been up to the Mowanjum Aboriginal community just outside of Derby, as part of my role with the Boab network, to reconnect with the people and help Gail, the teacher of the kindy, with the final couple of weeks of school. It was so good to meet again both the kids and many of the adults that I have grown to love, although it was pretty hot! It was my 6th or 7th visit, I have lost count, and every time I come I feel both privileged to be able to share and talk with many of the people who live there, but also horrified by the lack of resources and the issues that need to be overcome.
Through sharing with the elders and with other members of the Boab network, I have come to know some of the history of the three groups that make up the Mowanjum community, the Worrorra, the Wunambul and the Ngarinyin people, and their stories of constantly being moved further and further away from their ancient lands. Moving that has been painful, that has led to broken hearts and people and many social problems.
Yet through it all, one thing remains, their strong belief in the Wandjina, the creator of life, of the land and sea, a spirit that resides in all people and all animals, that protects and strengthens and provides the framework around which the people live. These 3 groups, for all their differences, find comfort within this spirit, which surrounds and guides them, and is the essence for them of everything that exists. By drawing the Wandjinas they keep this spirit alive amongst their people, reminding them of where they come from and who they belong to and how they should live. While I feel I have only touched the surface of understanding this ancient spirituality it is strong and vibrant within their culture. Peace comes to them when they feel connected to both the land and to the Wandjina.
We too are from an ancient culture, and our links to what we call God, or the creative spirit goes back to the beginning of the world, when the universe was formed. We too see God in all things, from the stars and planets to plants and animals, and us. We too see God and it gives us comfort and strength. We too see God and are reminded of where we have come from and who we belong to and how we should live. When times are hard and sorrow and brokenness descends, it is the God of the universe, the spirit of life found within all of creation that gives the spark of life. When we love and share it is the God of the universe that is speaking through us to the world.
Somehow I think that this spirit of life is universal, regardless of what we call it. It can be seen and felt and heard, even in the darkest of moments, by all people, if we open our eyes and ears and hearts.
As Janet Oobagooma, an elder from Mowanjum, has said, “the spirit is there, we have the Spirit from God, as the white people see it, and in the aboriginal way we see the Wandjina is a God, but they are the same, they are not different.”
So often I am surrounded by those with whom only science is the answer, yet I want to say there is more, so much more, even as I am a scientist. And yes, this more is universal.
Attached is a link to a beautiful song by Sleeping at Last, called Sight. It speaks to me about this often forgotten truth, that God is everywhere, including in all of us. “Black or white, were all vivid colours, after a while it all runs together”. And sometimes others will see more clearly than ourselves, have wisdom that can teach us more about life than we know. I feel that about the women and men I have meet in Mowanjum over the past few years. This is for them.