2003 John Leary
RACISM PERSISTS WHERE members of a different race from one’s own are not seen as persons who have mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and a personal life filled with joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams. Because they are of a different race, for the racist, they are sub-humans.
Racism has influenced the treatment of Aboriginal people through our nation’s history down to our own day. It has deeply affected—and still affects—attitudes to newcomers to our shores from other nations.
Nothing could be more contrary to the Christian gospel than racism. It constitutes one of the gravest offences against God and neighbour.
Racial prejudices wither with exposure to the light of day. They fall apart when persons of different races genuinely connect as human beings, when they get to know each other a little better. Listening to the voice of a person and to what that person has to say is a good way to get to know him or her.
In this issue of Compass we are invited to listen to the Aboriginal voice in the contribution of Pastor Rosendale, and as mediated through John Leary’s memories, reflections and conclusions from fifty years of living with and working among traditional Aboriginal people.
But first let us listen to another Aboriginal voice that long-time readers of Compass have heard once before. One of the most sought-after references of all time to an article previously published in Compass is to ‘Dadirri’, the transcript of a talk given by artist and teacher Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Bauman and published in vol. 22, Autumn/Winter 1988, pp. 9-11.Her description of the Aboriginal soul gives us much to admire and wonder at.
I leave the rest of this space to the voice of Miriam-Rose, reprinting sections from her article.
- Barry Brundell MSC, Editor
Miriam-Rose talked about dadirri as a special quality of her people:
I believe it is the most important. It is our most unique gift. It is perhaps the greatest gift we can give to our fellow Australians. In our language this quality is called dadirri. It is inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness.
Dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us. We call on it and it calls to us. This is the gift that Australia is thirsting for. It is something like what you call ‘contemplation’.
When I experience dadirri, I am made whole again. I can sit on the river bank or walk through the trees; even if someone close to me has passed away, I can find my peace in this silent awareness. There is no need of words. A big part of dadirri is listening. Through the years, we have listened to our stories. They are told and sung, over and over, as the seasons go by. Today we still gather around the campfires and together we hear the sacred stories.
As we grow older, we ourselves become the storytellers. We pass on to the young ones all they must know. The stories and songs sink quietly into our minds and we hold them deep inside. In the ceremonies we celebrate the awareness of our lives as sacred.
The contemplative way of dadirri spreads over our whole life. It renews us and brings us peace. It makes us feel whole again. One of our ceremonies that brings about this wholeness is the Smoking Ceremony.
I take part in the ceremonies. I love to see the painted bodies and to watch the dancers. I like the sound of the didgeridoo and the clapsticks. I never feel alone in the ceremonies. Sometimes, at a corroboree, before the dancing has started, we sit and listen as the song-men or song-women begin the story. Everyone is relaxed. We feel secure and happy. We are all together and it is good. […]
In our Aboriginal way, we learn to listen from our earliest days. We could not live good and uselful lives unless we listened. This was the normal way for us to learn—not by asking questions. We learnt by watching and listening, waiting and then acting. Our people have passed on this way of listening for over 40,000 years. […]
Quiet listening and stillness—dadirri—renews us and makes us whole. There is no need to reflect too much and to do a lot of thinking. It is just being aware.
My people are not threatened by silence. They are completely at home in it. They have lived for thousands of years with Nature’s quietness. My people today recognise and experience in this quietness the great Life-Giving Spirit, the Father of us all. It is easy for me to experience God’s presence. When I am out hunting, when I am in the bush, among the trees, on a hill or by a billabong: these are the times when I can simply be in God’s presence. My people have been so aware of Nature. It is natural that we will feel close to the Creator. […]
In recent times we have come to listen to a most sacred word that comes to us from God, our Father. This new Word is Jesus. I have said how dadirri, which is the deep listening and quiet stillness, can make us whole and revive us. This is a special quality in our lives. It is born in our culture. The Word of God finds a home here. Jesus enriches and renews our culture.
He gently stirs our inner stillness, but he does not take away our peace. We like to hear words of peace, like Jesus spoke. We want to listen and to pass on words that are true and good—like the words that have come to us through our culture and traditions; and like the words that come to us in the Gospel of Jesus.
This is what I long for: that with these words to guide us, everyone will come to listen to the Sound of God. We all have to try to listen—to the God within us—to our own country—and to one another.
And now I would like to talk about the other part of dadirri which is the quiet stillness and waiting.
Our Aboriginal culture has taught us to be still and to wait. We do not try to hurry things up. We let them follow their natural course—like the seasons. We watch the moon in each of its phases. We wait for the rain to fill our rivers and water the thirsty earth […]
We watch the bush foods and wait for them to ripen before we gather them. We wait for our young people as they grow, stage by stage, through their initiation ceremonies. When a relation dies, we wait a long time with the sorrow. We own our grief and allow it to heal slowly.
We wait for the right time for our ceremonies and our meetings. The right people must be present. Everything must be done in the proper way. Careful preparations must be made. We don’t mind waiting, because we want things to be done with care. Sometimes many hours will be spent on painting the body before an important ceremony.
We don’t like to hurry. There is nothing more important than what we are attending to. There is nothing more urgent that we must hurry away for.
We wait on God, too. His time is the right time. We wait for him to make his Word clear to us. We don’t worry. We know that in time and in the spirit of dadirri (that deep listening and quiet stillness) his way will be clear.
We are River people. We cannot hurry the river. We have to move with its current and understand its ways. […]
I would like to conclude my talk by saying again that there are deep springs within each of us. Within this deep spring, which is the very Spirit of God, is a sound. The sound of Deep calling to Deep. The sound is the Word of God—Jesus.
Today I am beginning to hear the Gospel at the very level of my identity. I am beginning to feel the great need we have of Jesus—to protect and strengthen our identity; and to make us whole and new again.
— Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Bauman