Published by www.newfinancialforum.nl
I’m writing from an ancient land. My office for a while is a remote dusty pan, deep within the wilds of the Kalahari. What little water that is left is drying fast. A tall and sprawling camel-thorn tree offers welcome shade against the searing sun as a flock of buffalo weaver birds flutter overhead, ever active tending their enormous communal nest and the precious chicks within. My colleagues are the wild animals around me. There are no other inhabitants here for as far as I can drive in a day in any direction, but it’s the space and solitude that are my closest and most comforting companions.
I am alone but not lonely.
At the pan, I notice the footprints of a lion. Last night he had been lying in the grass waiting for a herd of kudu to come and drink. His tracks indicate how he had stalked, waited and charged, and the chaotic signs in the sand indicate how the kudu were quicker, how they turned, jumped and fled, surviving for another day. My senses are alert and focussed. Where is the lion now I wonder, and what do I need to know about him?
Pausing, I look up again at the distant clouds ever thickening, and a changing wind tickles my cheeks, arms and legs. A sign of impending rain, the lifeblood of the desert, and a gift from the heavens that will soon transform this landscape into one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on the planet. You see, the Kalahari is never dead and even amidst the driest of times, restoration and regeneration is only some rainfall away.
My campsite is a long way from central Europe, and perhaps centuries apart in terms of culture, comfort and convenience. Let’s call this, for now, progress. For there is no sense of contemporary history here; no five-hundred year old buildings or medieval fortresses, nor are there two thousand year old foundations and walls of the Roman Empire. Out here, there is a sense of pre-history that stretches back considerably longer, all the way back to the origin of us all.
If Europe is old, then Africa is ancient. Stone tools unearthed from the desert are some 200 000 years old, and most scientists, palaeontologists and geneticists agree that it is within this secluded and desolate outback that the human animal, as we know us, emerged.
Quite literally, the motherland.
And as this sense of ancientness in the spirit of the place is palpable, perhaps it is the awareness of the present moment that is most invigorating.
For if this place formed the outer landscape of our ancestors, so did it mould our inner landscapes. And if we consider that where the human race is at present, our industrialised modern age has occurred very recently on our journey. I would suggest that over 95% of our genetic memory, of what defines us as a species, is rooted within a hunter-gatherer origin. Or, within a state of harmony with nature. This means that the tracking of animals and the attention to sounds, smells, feelings and intuitions of the environment around us was absolutely fundamental for our survival.
Modern society, although not on the track of antelope to hunt or predators to avoid, are still searching for the tracks of survival in other ways. Is there not an inner tracker in us all?
Tracking is all about paying attention, about being available to explore the processes of life. And I believe it is not possible to separate this very process, with who we are as a species. If I can explain further: if you find a lion track, the information you see is that what has been left behind (the past). But in order to find or understand the lion, you are initiating an outcome, which is something ahead (the future). So in order to understand the process, the past and the future cannot be separated.
Tracking places us in the present moment, allows us an opportunity to peek back and learn from the past, and simultaneously glance ahead and scan the future. This is the principle of it.
There is no co-incidence that the most dedicated trackers and community leaders, are those who tread lightly on the earth, passing through a sacred space with a deep sense of knowing and attention. With an ecologically inspired sense of personal leadership. According to The Oxford Dictionary, the term leadership can be somewhat simplistically defined as the state or position of being a leader.
But there is surely more to it than this.
Perhaps the very notion of tracking suggests that the first track of leadership is a step within our own selves and a meaningful encounter there. Back to this state of harmony with nature. First of recovery, then of restoration. I believe that the impact of nature in our life cannot be separated from our spirituality, and deeper awareness of the world around us. By sinking down in the stillness, we can empower ourselves by listening to our own hearts. It could then be possible that our values and priorities may change and a sense of clarity and possibility may emerge.
There is a shift from a need to be heard to a willingness to listen. The consumptive utilisation of not only the resources of our natural world, but the resources of our own self, becomes increasingly relevant. Perhaps only through this elevated awareness can we lead intuitively and innovatively.
There is a Bushman belief that suggests that when you are tracking an animal you are symbolically attaching it to a piece of string. The animal is on one end, and you are holding the other. So when the animals moves, you feel the changes in the string. The presence of another, a change in behaviour, a gust of wind or relevant birdsong are all resonated through it. The connection becomes complete.
Indigenous trackers may follow the trails of eland, rodents, predators or insects, as opposed to perhaps your more familiar ones of business trends, costs, customer demands, fitness levels, infection rates or academic progress. We are all trackers on the different tracks of life, and while the quarries may vary the principles remain the same.
The buffalo weavers stop calling and the wind picks up. The smell of rain is strong in the air. And as the clouds build in the distance, I turn my thoughts to my upcoming mid-year speaking tour to the Netherlands. I am truly privileged to have been asked to share my story of stories at some prestigious leadership development events.
Soon, a long way from the Kalahari, I will be following tracks of anticipation into the jungles of your land, treading lightly along the way, threading our worlds together.