How Stories Matter

Turack was sitting on a bale near the loading bay of the shearing shed eating some home-made rice concoction from a plastic tub and staring out into the cool morning air.

‘How long have you been shearing’ I said.

‘About ten years’

‘So what’s the secret to it?’ I asked.

He smiled and looked out into the paddock for a second. Then pointed his plastic fork like a teachers chalk at where the exact thought he’d arrived at was.

‘The sheep’ he said. ‘Can tell when you are angry’.

‘Really’ I said

‘Yep. So if I’m right there with them; and my mind’s not on my toothache or whatever, then they relax more, I relax and the day goes easy.

That concluded the lesson in mindfulness and Turack went back to his smoko.

A couple of people said, after they saw the first set of pictures, that I hadn’t captured the strain and effort of shearing. No sweat flying, neck muscles bulging, biceps straining etc. But after a day in the shed that’s not what I saw. There was smoothness of movement, economy of effort and gentle aikido to the way each sheep was handled. I’m pretty sure that if there was too much effort and strain then you wouldn’t last the day, let alone front up for the one after that.

It’s something that you might not expect to see on farms. The compassion in the way the livestock are handled. That’s not the stereotype. That’s not the single story you tend to hear from the city about the way farming is carried out. It’s topical right now in the bush, that stereotype.

The further we push a group, or community, to the edge of our minds, the more one-dimensional they seem. It’s why I love this brilliant TED talk by Chimamanda Adichie about the danger of a single story.

I may have lost sight of my purpose recently. It’s easy to do. But just as I sat down at the keyboard, feeling a bit lost today, that talk popped up on my news feed and reminded me of what I’m here to do (thanks Rob). One of the best ways to spread fear, mistrust and hate is to keep telling a single story, over and over again, until enough people believe it. I’ll be telling as many different stories as I can; and messing with that agenda, until the day I die.

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