I am not going to attempt to summarise this book for that you will have to read it yourself. But I will highlight why it has had such an impact on me and what I have taken from it moving forward.
How does a society without a written form or communication build and retain knowledge? After reading this book I believe we give lip service to the art of storytelling. “Australian aboriginal stories have only recently begun to be taken seriously for what they are: The longest continuous record of historic events and spirituality in the world.” The complexity of the stories, the relationship between the physical experience undertaken in the traditional education and the fact that no one was expected (or indeed allowed) to understand all the meanings leaves me in awe. The closest thing we have is the concept of fables where there is at least one meaning or lesson to be learnt from the story. Reflecting on this has changed the way I think about my personal story, that of my family and how I tell that to my children in the context of the world. It also spoke deeply to me about the value of storytelling in all its forms. This is an area I’d like to explore more.
Discussed at length and from multiple angles is the production of intangibles. I am not going to go into depth, as I would do the concept an injustice, except to extract this nugget to prompt you to explore this thinking: “the Australian Aborigines were not ‘underusing’ their resources (by not producing surplus)….(but rather) the economy functioned rationally to cater for a high demand for services rather than material goods”. The numbers are staggering and speak of the opportunity cost lost in the current norm where we produce and consume because we can. “50-80% (8-13 hours per day) of an Aboriginal economy may have been devoted to the production of intangibles”. For those of you wondering what an intangible might be included is information, education, diplomacy, and services such as feuds, entertainment and ceremonies for significant life events.
The depth and breadth of the examples in Treading Lightly is testament to the respect the authors have shown. It was a privilege to reflect on how I can change the way I view the world based on what has been so generously shared through this book. For anyone interested in knowledge, ceremony, law and how we can move forward from the precipice we seem to be on environmentally and socially I strongly recommend reading Treading Lightly.