Do you ever get the feeling that you are part of a bigger picture that is very difficult to glimpse? In our everyday lives we get caught up in the ‘small stuff’. I think being in a physical body dictates that we have to notice the small things, like cleaning our teeth, organising our clothes, ensuring we eat, sleep and exercise. All of these physical needs take up a lot of time and when you throw the Protestant work ethic and the spirit of capitalism into the mix, there isn’t a lot of time left to ‘ponder’ the big questions.

As a child I always remember looking up at the night sky marvelling at the multitude of stars and the enormity of space. It ‘boggled’ my mind to think that I was such a small Being in comparison. Then when I looked at the earth and the multitude of ants, bees, butterflies and other insects, I couldn’t help but wonder at the busyness of life under my feet. It just seemed that to be on earth meant that you have to be busy, to not waste any time and just get about your busyness. Yet staring into space always gave me room to breathe and to remember stillness.

They say that childhood traits predict adult behaviour and my curiosity with stillness and busyness still preoccupies me. I work in an industry that supports Australian Indigenous Peoples’ recognition as Being the Traditional Owners of their land and waters. The mechanisms of the Native Title space I work in are governed by the Federal Court in a world of busyness. Yet the the people whom we represent often say that us ‘white fellas’ are ‘womba’, crazy, that we’ve got all of our priorities back to front. The Anangu People who are the traditional owners of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park call tourists ‘minga’ which means ants, because the lines of visitors that used to climb Uluru look like lines of ants.

The main difference that I’ve noticed between Indigenous People and non-Indigenous people is the concept of time. The Aboriginal concept of time differs from the Judeo-Christian perception of time in that Aboriginal people do not perceive time as an exclusively ‘linear’ category (i.e. past-present-future) and often place events in a ‘circular’ pattern of time according to which an individual is in the centre of ‘time-circles’ and events are placed in time according to their relative importance for the individual and his or her respective community (i.e. the more important events are perceived as being ‘closer in time’). [1]

This egocentric idea of time, reminds me of my early childhood experiences of star gazing and earth gazing where I was centered somewhere in the middle, with life moving in centric circles around me. Placing oneself and one’s life in a time frame that is circular rather than linear means that everything that has been or will be is not separate.

The Anungu People locate both creation ancestors and their inter-generational history within the continuity of Tjukurpa time. The Tjukurpa is not relegated to a past ‘Dreamtime’, but rather is an active continuous time. This sense of nonlinear time challenges the western conceptual framework that divides time into prehistory, history, present and future. [2]

This is what I would call ‘understanding the big picture’ and what it means is that we remember that the ancestors are not in the past but are present – in us – that the creation story is not separate but present – in us – that the future is not separate – but present – in us. When the first ‘white fellas’ came to this ancient land they tried to encapsulate this concept by calling it ‘The Dreaming’ but it not the realm of an imagined past time inhabited by mythical beings, it is an active continuous creative force that exists across all time and space.

If there is one thing that I am extremely grateful for in relation to the global Coronavirus pandemic it is that it has given me time to stop, breathe, look up and remember my place in ‘the Big Picture’.