Does our World Need More ‘Lore’ and Less ‘Law’?
I was at a function recently where the customary ‘Welcome to Country’ (see a link HERE if you are not familiar with this custom) was conducted by a local and charismatic Aboriginal Elder ‘Uncle’ Bill Smith. This ‘Welcome’ was being conducted at a function to mark World Suicide Prevention Day.
Most similar ceremonies that I have experienced are relatively short and usually involve the Elder simply welcoming the participants, to a meeting or conference for example, to their ‘Country’. Aboriginal people are considered (by most) people in Australia as the traditional custodians of our Country and this custom acknowledges this.
The approach taken by Uncle* Bill was a little different. I learnt a lot from his short time talking with us that morning. In his ‘Welcome’, he spoke about our local area; its history and importantly its story. He also shared some insights into Aboriginal well-being and culture. His key point to us was, that if our focus is on the prevention of suicide, we ought to concentrate on fostering greater community and togetherness, and on also sharing our stories with each other. He pointed out that there is real healing (and preventative) power that can come from participating in community and storytelling. It was a poignant and relevant introduction to the day.
In making this point, Uncle Bill highlighted to us the importance in Aboriginal culture, of stories shared and passed down through generations by Elders. He referred to this as “walking, sharing and learning together” and said “our stories are how we learn and how we support each other”.
This at the heart of what I would like to share in this piece today.
As I reflect on our society today and in particular in how we go about work, it seems to me that we often discount the power and importance of sharing stories. In fact, I would argue stronger than this, and suggest that in our work, the sharing of stories is often frowned upon and too easily terminated, rather than embraced.
For example, have you ever been in conversation with someone at work (sharing a story) and felt guilty. You know, those conversations that end with; “well we had better get back to work”. It seems like building relationships and sharing stories is sometimes not considered work. Why is that?
Perhaps this is what happens when you understand people for their utility rather than their creativity, their uniqueness and their reason for being? Don’t we need more stories? And, do we understand what stories really are?
Some people may also argue that we already have connection and connectedness in our modern world. These same people may sight social media as their example. But do we? Are the articles, posts and opinion pieces (just like this one!) that we read and share on social media, done in the spirit that Uncle Bill was referring to?
Perhaps there is a lot that we can learn by reflecting on Uncle Bill’s idea of sharing stories, particularly at work, and certainly in risk and safety.
After I heard Uncle Bill talk, I was reminded of a book that De got a while ago from another local (to me) Aboriginal Elder, (Uncle) Paul Callaghan. Paul’s book is called Iridescence and it provides some great insights and further learning that was prompted by Uncle Bill’s talk.
Paul starts his book with his “6 L’s Model” in which he describes as:
“The 6 Ls is a model that demonstrates the relevance of the wisdom on the Old People in our modern World. The model provides you with a different way of thinking about who you are, where you fit in and your obligations in life” (p.15)
The six “Ls” are; Lore, Love, Look, Listen, Learn and Lead.
It is the first of the six ‘Ls’, the L of ‘Lore” that I will focus on in this piece. As Paul notes:
“And the first L we call Lore. L-O-R-E law comes from a word called folklore” (p.16)
‘LORE’ in Paul’s world is about stories, and as he notes; “In the Aboriginal world everything, every different species, type of rock, animal, reptile and person has a story” (p.17). He further notes:
“Story was critical in traditional Aboriginal people’s lives and provided the platform to ensure connectedness between the individual and their surroundings. From the day you were born, you were taught the importance of your surroundings and to connect with and respect those surroundings. Aboriginal people often call their surroundings ‘their place’ or ‘their country’” (p.16)
Paul also suggests that:
“A story has flow and connection. For many of us we don’t live a story. We don’t flow and connect. We choose to love a chaotic, unconnected scattering of sentences. No wonder we feel unfulfilled.” (p.27)
It seems to me that this tradition and history within Aboriginal culture could teach us all a thing or two if only we reflected more on the lives and ways of the original inhabitants of our land. The idea of sharing stories is about love and being with each other, rather than the content and technique of a conversation. As Paul notes:
“Aboriginal L-O-R-E is an experience of unity and connectedness underpinned by love. Non-Aboriginal L-A-W is an experience of compliance, control and authority underpinned by fear of potential punishment” (p.16)
Why do we seem to have lost our ability to ‘walk, share and learn’ together? Why is it that our connection in today’s world is through ‘likes’ and ‘shares’? What happened to conversation? Why do we often feel guilty when we are sharing stories, ideas and building relationships? Have we become so focused on efficiency and utility that we have lost our way in how we ‘connect and share’? Do we appreciate our ‘elders’ in the way that our Aboriginal brothers and sisters do?
I don’t think there would be many in our world today who would argue that L-A-W is not important and of course it is necessary in supporting living in community. Certainly the opposite in a ‘laissez faire’ approach would mean chaos and way too much ambiguity for most people to deal with.
However, I do wonder; does our world need more ‘Lore’ and Less ‘Law’?
What are your thoughts on this idea?
* The term ‘Uncle’ is often used in Aboriginal communities when referring to their Elders.
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