Robert Wolff by Robert Wolff
A co*k's crow introduces the interview my wife and I had the honor of doing with Robert Wolff on our May 8, 2013 episode of ENVISION THIS. Mother Nature speaks even before the bars of Beethoven's Ode to Joy with which we ordinarily introduce our broadcast. Robert was clearly ensconced in nature, physically as well as philosophically and spiritually for this interview. He believes we all must return to honoring the laws and Wisdom of Nature, adapting to whatever She sends our way wherever we are if we are to survive and evolve as a species.
Robert is the author of Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing, an inspiring account of the wisdom and guidance he gained while living amongst the Sng'oi, a tribe of First People in Malasia. He is also a blogger, as well as a contributor to OpEd online magazine. Robert, now 91, was raised by Dutch parents among the indigenous peoples of Indonesia. He is a psychologist and educator who has lived in Suriname (South America) and in Southeast Asia. He has also taught at the University of Hawaii and currently lives on the Big Island.
Our interview with Robert made me realize why I REALLY love interviewing people on ENVISION THIS! Rather than being a canned interview of women looking like Barbie dolls with hair stiffer than boards and legs stiffly crossed, or men looking like Kens with greased up hair and suits without wrinkles, while sounding like any Joe, Johnny or Jane in standardized television-land, we have phones ringing and roosters crowing. This made for a scene that speaks to the Real that our guest for the evening so richly embodies.
Thank God! No perfect standardized Haircuttery Ken style haircut for Robert! There were very few places during the interview, even with some of the technical issues, in which I didn't have a natural smile on my face because of the aliveness inherent in the interview. No canned smile for me, my wife, nor Robert! We could identify with the "smile that wraps all the way around your head" that he quotes another writer as describing in the presence of First People.
This is exactly what Robert is about! Aliveness. His is not a dead, scripted world. His is a real living world. That world is spontaneous and fun. His essence is exactly what he preaches: living with Nature on Her terms.
Robert was raised in Somata in Indonesia. This resulted in his talking and thinking in different ways from most of us. He was early on embedded and beloved in the ways and language of a tribe of First People as well as the Western culture and language of his parents.
He received a job in Malasia, where he met people who were Aborigines, the Sng'oi he writes about in his book . These people were hunter-gatherers, and they ate what they foraged, mindful to leave enough to sustain the species for future propagation and growth. They furthermore used what was around them for shelter. These people were nomads. Robert states their lifestyle of moving around was sustainable. In traveling from place to place, they took what they needed and did not have the concept of owning anything. Thus they felt part of Nature and not apart from it as we do when we speak of "resources".
According to Robert, all things are related in indigenous cultures. In Nature all are one. Plants and trees are cousins. Animals are our brothers and sisters. The Earth thus is known as our Mother, the Sun our Father, and Space, our Grandmother.
However, as we in the "dominant" culture became sedentary and fostered the agricultural way of life, we became more and more alienated from our brothers, sisters, cousins and parents. Agriculture led to the concept of owning the land we sat upon. This changed our whole being, who we thought we were. It led to a sense of alienation while also fostering our going to war to protect the land we "owned" and capture more land to cultivate. This led to the development of land boundaries and, ultimately, to empire.
Robert believes we need to wake up from our dream of empire, which we are increasingly recognizing as more of a nightmare than a dream.
What have we lost in this movement? Could it be that our alienation from Nature is our alienation from our truest selves as a sons and daughters of Mother Earth? In relation to how we're using the term alienation here, Wilkipedia reflects upon the term thus:
The New Testament mentions the term apallotrioomai in Greek - 'being alienated from'. Ideas of estrangement from a Golden Age, or due to a Fall of Man, or approximate equivalents in differing cultures or religions, have also been described as concepts of alienation. A double positive and negative sense of alienation is broadly shown in the spiritual beliefs referred to as Gnosticism.
The Fall of Man is an interesting take on our alienation. In line with Robert's notion of our problems stemming from the time of agricultural development, the story of the fall of Adam and Eve originated around that same time. If you also think about our shame regarding nudity, it is well known that many of our aboriginal cultures were not shy about going about the jungles and wilds nude. Shame of the body came about when we moved from that type of lifestyle and into the more modern day which is marked by agriculture and industry.
What is shame of the body if not a rejection of who we are in our Nature? Thus we live a lie in our daily approach to life. We are aliens unto ourselves as well as the world.
In one of the Hindu Upanishads, the teenage boy Nachiketa inquires of Yama, God of Death, whether it is possible to survive death of the body. Yama reluctantly imparts the age old wisdom of immortality to the boy who will not settle for less than that even though the God tempts him with all the riches and pleasures of the world. Yama then preaches about the unified Nature of the Self. This poetry also reflects the European Hermetic Principle of "As Above, So Below" as well as reflecting Robert Wolff's teachings:
Those who see all creatures in themselves