Anangu Time – What The?

This week I spent time in Uluru / Ayers  Rock (Australia). I was there on behalf of World Vision supporting one of our artists, Shane Howard. It is always a healthy thing to put yourself in a foreign place on someone else’s turf. I was on the turf of Anangu people on Mutitjulu land. It was a special invitation and a moment in history where black and white stood side by side invited to share in a music concert. Shane Howard described it as a “new way” to show Australia how reconciliation can begin. It was a breath taking gesture by the Anangu people considering the pain white Australia has brought upon their soul and spirit.

The Aboriginals who have looked after this place go back more than 40,000 years. In awe I watched several sunsets light Uluru with a cloak of velvet. I did this 5 nights in a row and my place on this planet started to realign – I am very small but intimately woven in purpose. The Aboriginals have watched this for a least 14,600,000 nights and kept Anangu law and culture alive, they have always known their place. Our culture changes on a daily basis depending on the strength of a tv ad campaign. It is sobering. There is much to say about the Anangu people, their strength, culture, terrible treatment historically and the mistakes of both sides of our government…. but I wouldn’t do the topic justice in a silly blog, I would be better off allowing a legend like Shane Howard do the talking,  so stay tuned!

When I came out here my pulse was running fast with organising our World Vision team and the task we were there for. Shane is recording a documentary about his hit song ‘Solid Rock’ and its 30 year history highlighting the plight of our indigenous brothers and sisters – the song was way before its time. On the first day of filming I had brought Tim Costello (our CEO) out to be interviewed on the documentary in the morning. I had to get him on a flight in 4 hours for another speaking engagement he had that night. During the filming we had been asked to have the questions and answers approved by the Anangu people in real time, they sat under a tree and processed through a translator making the interview process with Tim difficult. It was hot and it felt as though the sun was burning holes in our skin adding to the sense of urgency to get it done.

In somewhat of a surprise, the Anangu people left just as we were ready to film. Shamefully my first reaction was ‘what the?’ Then we were politely told we were on Anangu time now not white fella’s time, we needed to be patient. It was an unwanted jolt into someones else’s priorities, I had a job to do and get our contribution to the 30 minute documentary done on time, the Anangu had a story to tell that was 40,000 years old and being 60 minutes late meant nothing – it was a stark contrast of priorities.

Panic set in because I had to get Tim on a plane and I was glued to my watch (by the way, Tim wasn’t worried). In what seemed a miracle moment, I let go. I let go of the tension simply because I had no choice but more importantly  I sensed something else much bigger than me was going on – I was being taught something. For the rest of the 5 days I barely checked my watch and everyone was late to everything…. to my surprise we still got all the work done.

For these last 5 days I have breathed in the hot dry air that circulates around Uluru and breathed out toxins created by my western paced world. The question is, “can I sustain the slow pace in my heart without it being affected by the expectations of a world that demands instant gratification through hand held devices?” I don’t know! Right now I am reluctantly sitting in an airport to leave Uluru about to enter into digital conversations instead of face to face, 30 minute meetings instead of constant community, diaries paced by minutes instead of seasons. We have a lot to learn from our indigenous custodians.

My ‘what the?’ has turned into ‘what if!’ What if I could learn to accommodate my crazy world but not allow toxic adrenalin to pump through my heart day after day. I wonder if we have placed too much value on time? I used to think honoring someone was turning up on time and not allowing myself to be late. Obsessively I’d even consider leaving my wife behind to be on time for a date night with her!

Somewhere along the way listening to someone and communing has become less important and schedule has become more important. I know that we live in a world that demands time management, but when did time become more important than an individual who has the courage in that given moment to share their soul?

The Anangu people honour law, culture and people far above time. Time isn’t the mechanism that dictates when and where you can relate to someone – respect and spiritual places facilitate relationship. I know I can’t change my world entirely but I intend on figuring it out even if it takes ‘time’. I am particularly crap at relaxing and have a lot to learn.

Maybe it is the time to put ‘time’ in its rightful place instead of first place? What do you think?


2 thoughts on “Anangu Time – What The?

  1. Oh wow I love this and it's especially poignant as we move into the sumer season of craziness… isn't it wonderful to find those moments of revelation and to sit and dwell upon them? A wonderful reminder to me today; to sit, to hear, to dream, to taste, to wonder, to see… things that disappear in the rush of life. It's all about living in a beautiful “rythym” isn't it? Thanks Jay


  2. Old proverb; “It's better to be late than dead on time”
    Great thoughts my friend. Perhaps we should look at running some retreats together next year?


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