Respect through service

Yesterday I wrote a little bit about how cooking can transform relationships, based on our experience at the Indigenous Hospitality House. One thing I didn’t mention in that post is the idea that when we are cooking for someone, we are offering them respect by saying that they are worthy of our service. Also, by serving everyone the same meal whether they are Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or Colonist, we are demonstrating equal respect for everyone. This can be significant for guests who aren’t accustomed to being respected by Colonists.

Transformation through cooking

image

Tomorrow I’m running a short workshop at the Kathleen Syme Library in Carlton, as part of the September TAG Day. (TAG stands for ‘teach anything good’.) In my workshop we’ll be looking at how cooking can transform not just our food, but also our relationships. We will do some actual cooking, but the focus will be more on the way we think about what we’re doing when we cook. If you think about it, cooking for someone is quite and intimate activity. We’re working with materials, often using our hands, that will enter into a person’s body and become part of them. That’s a very close relationship – especially considering that many people who are employed to cook do not even meet the people they are cooking for. I think this relationship is important where I live at the Indigenous Hospitality House because we as Colonist people are often cooking for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander guests. We are two groups of people who have been in conflict, but the cooking brings us into close relationship. (Don’t get me wrong, often it is still awkward!) It’s also been particularly significant for us as Colonists when our guests have offered to cook for us, and nourish us.

Noise for focus

The last couple of weeks I have been working on an essay, which I have just submitted. However, I had a few days where I found it really difficult to write anything. I often find it fairly hard to concentrate on writing. When we have got guests staying at the house there is often a bit of background noise if I am trying to work at home, but even at times like the present where we don’t have any guests I find my own thoughts a distraction. One of the things I have found helpful in blocking out distractions – whether auditory or completely within my mind – is playing soundscapes like the one I have posted above. I started off listening to these soundscapes when I had trouble getting to sleep because my mind wouldn’t stop. I found that the constant sound of heavy rain or thunderstorms filled my mind and allowed me to quieten my own self-talk so that I could gradually fall asleep. I’ve found it can have the same effect when I really need to focus on getting some work done. The constant and steady sound envelops me, blocking out the noise of what is going on around me, but also blocking out the internal noise of my own self-talk, and allowing me to focus on the task at hand.

At the Indigenous Hospitality House we’ve often found that sharing a pot of tea makes our guests feel welcome.
Tea seems to have an important place in many of the different cultures that make up our multicultural society.
How does tea make you feel?

Tonight (September 10) we’ll be having a workshop on the significance of making tea at the Indigenous Hospitality House, and how it helps us to make space for guests.
You can join us for dinner at 7:00pm. The workshop will go from 7:30pm until 9:00pm.
RSVP: house@ihh.org.au / (03) 9687 7557

Job and the chaos monsters

Those who’ve known me long would know that I have spent a lot of time reading the book of Job, part of the Hebrew Scripture or Old Testament. I’ve found it has helped me to deal with my experience of depression and, more recently, arthritis. At the moment I am in a class where we have been looking at how we teach the Hebrew Scripture, and as part of it I have been reading Ellen Davis’ Getting Involved with God: Rediscovering the Old Testament. In her treatment of the book of Job, Davis says that Job’s suffering is put into perspective when God says that he delights in the chaos monsters, the Behemoth and Leviathan. In the mythology of the Ancient Near East these chaos monsters were normally portrayed as enemies of the gods, creatures that needed to be eliminated to make way for divine order. But in Job they are portrayed as God’s creatures. (I would say that Job’s resilience makes him a wild, untameable creature too.)

Conflict or Synthesis?

At the Indigenous Hospitality House last night we were looking at a Boon Wurrung story about Bunjil, the Kulin creator spirit, and talking about the idea of the Christian God as creator spirit. I was thinking about my experience growing up of knowing a whole lot of different creation stories, but not really having a lot of problems with that. I had a big children’s Bible with the stories of creation from Genesis. I was really into dinosaurs, so I had a lot of books about dinosaurs, some of which had the story of evolution. I also had picture books with Aboriginal creation stories in them. And I had a book of African folktales, in which the Creator was portrayed as the face of an African man appearing in stormy clouds.

In year 11 or 12 we had to read Frank McCourt’s childhood memoir Angela’s Ashes. In the book he talks about asking an adult about whether the Biblical was true or whether the theory of evolution was true. The adult responded saying that it was possible for both of them to be true. McCourt came to the conclusion that this answer was ridiculous.

When I was a child, in Sunday school, I can remember doing a lesson on creation. The teacher told us all to draw the things that God created on each of the seven days of creation. Instead of following the account in Genesis I depicted the different stages of evolution as I understood it. The teach said I was doing it wrong, but I didn’t have any problems with putting these two stories together.