Tyson Yunkaporta is an Australian Aboriginal artist, philosopher, and researcher who lectures on Indigenous Knowledge at Deakin University in Melbourne. He's also the author of Sand Talk, a book that has influenced my thinking more profoundly than any other.
Basically, Yunkaporta turns the lens of anthropology around and puts Western civilization under the microscope, showing us how insane and unsustainable the entire project is.
The usual “cross-cultural” pattern involves Western academics explaining “primitive” cultures whose land settlers have stolen, while science plunders their plant knowledge and pop culture appropriates the trinkets and baubles ripped out of the context of their deep traditions.
In Sand Talk, Yunkaporta surveys the last 10,000 years of civilization from an Indigenous perspective, and shares Indigenous thinking that, he claims and I agree, can “save the world.” Rather than focusing on the content of Aboriginal culture, he urges us to become familiar with the knowledge processes that generated that content. Because those knowledge processes are alive, and vibrant, and critically relevant to the crises that humanity faces today.
I heard about Sand Talk from frequent podcast guest Glenn Murphy, who had to tell me to read it far too many times. Once I did (technically, I listened to Yunkaporta reading the audiobook, which he does brilliantly, and which compelled me to buy the hardcover edition as soon as I was done), I reached out to the author requesting an interview with me and Glenn.
It turns out that Yunkaporta has been fascinated by the martial art that Glenn and I practice, a Russian form called Systema. (Glenn's my instructor, and host of the Systema for Life podcast.) A lot of the conversation includes the two of them yarning (or yarning-adjacent) about the similarities in their two worldviews on topics such as energy, flow, community, haptic cognition, as well as violence and its necessity, and humane approaches to harm reduction.)
In the conversation, Yunkaporta exploded several myths that I've lived by. We discussed:
- the mistaken view of the centrality of “fight-or-flight” in the human experience
- the futility of “self-improvement”
- the central mistake of Western civilization
- the roots of narcissism and why they're so hard to escape in our culture
- the myth of the selfish human, and where it comes from
- the biased data set that underlies junk anthropology about violent cavemen
- our entire culture as a “self-terminating algorithm”
- what happens when violence is made opaque and driven from the commons
- how the education system domesticates humans in order to foster obedience
- the centrality of conflict to human existence, and why it must be spread around like manure to grow new things
- the false choice of all binaries
- and much more…
Sand Talk, by Tyson Yunkaporta
A fun Systema video montage
Glenn's Systema for Life podcast
Looking for Transformational Change?
You know how when you discovered plant-based eating, you basically went, “Holy shit, how come the entire healthcare system isn't totally embracing this as one of the most powerful keys to disease prevention and reversal!”?
That's how I feel now about a psychological approach to transformational change called “Memory Reconsolidation.” Few psychologists have heard about it, and when they do hear the radical transformations it can bring about in a very short time, they're often skeptical to the point of disbelief.
But I've added Memory Reconsolidation work to my own coaching, and can attest to its amazing efficacy. So much so, that I'm devoting the next year to mastering it, studying with the best clinicians and teachers in the world, and then introducing it into health coaching through my trainings.
Right now, I want to triple my coaching practice to get more and more opportunities to do this work. And I'm lowering my fees – a lot – to make it easier for people to work with me.
If you're interested in working with me (and willing to commit to a minimum of 2 months), click the link below to open the form in a new browser tab and I'll get back to you within 3 business days.
You CAN Change Other People!
Well, that's what Peter Bregman and I claim in our provocative book of that title.
What we really mean is, you can help the people around you make behavioral changes in their own best interests. If you think you're powerless to help people change, it's because you've been going about it the wrong way.
Discover our straightforward, replicable process here: You Can Change Other People.
Audiobook: Use the Weight to Lose the Weight
Listen to Josh LaJaunie and me narrate our latest audiobook, about how to start moving when you're obese.
It's $10, and Josh and I split it evenly 🙂
This podcast is not underwritten by advertising, so I can experience complete editorial autonomy without worrying about pissing off the person paying the bills. Instead, I pay the bills, with your help. It's free for those who can't afford to pay, and supported by those who can. You can contribute to the growth and improvement of the podcast by clicking the “Support on Patreon” or “Donate” buttons on the right to help out.
The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.
It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.
You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.
Thanks to Plant Yourself podcast patrons – Kim Harrison – Lynn McLellan – Brittany Porter – Dominic Marro – Barbara Whitney – Tammy Black – Amy Good – Amanda Hatherly – Mary Jane Wheeler – Ellen Kennelly – Melissa Cobb – Rachel Behrens – Tina Scharf – Tina Ahern – Jen Vilkinofsky – David Byczek – Michele X – Elspeth Feldman – Leah Stolar – Allan Kristensen – Colleen Peck – Michele Landry – Jozina – Sara Durkacs – Kelly Cameron – Janet Selby – Claire Adams – Tom Fronczak – Jeannette Benham – Gila Lacerte – David Donohue – Blair Seibert – Doron Avizov – Gio and Carolyn Argentati – Jodi Friesner – Mischa Rosen – Michael Worobiec – AvIvA Lael – Alicia Lemus – Val Linnemann – Nick Harper – Bandana Chawla – Molly Levine – The Inscrutable Harry R – Susan Laverty the Panda Vegan – Craig Covic – Adam Scharf – Karen Bury – Heather Morgan – Nigel Davies – Marian Blum – Teresa Kopel – Julian Watkins – Brid O'Connell – Shannon Herschman – Linda Ayotte – Holm Hedegaard – Isa Tousignant – Connie Haneline – Erin Greer – Alicia Davis – Heather O'Connor – Carollynne Jensen – Sheri Orlekoski of Plant Powered for Health – Karen Smith – Scott Mirani – Karen and Joe Crabtree – Kirby Burton – Theresa Carrell – Kevin Macaulay – Elizabeth Rothschild – Ann Jesse – Sheryl Dwyer – Jenny Hazelton – Peter W Evans – Dennis Bird – Darby Kelly – Lori Fanney – Linnea Lundquist – Emily Iaconelli – Levi Wallach – Rosamonde McAtee – Dan Pokorney – Stephen Leinin – Patty DeMartino – Mike and Donna Kartz – Deanne Bishop – Bilberry Elf – Marjorie Lewis – Tricia Adams – Nancy Sheldon – Lindsey Bashore – Gunn Marit Hagen – Tracey Gulledge – Lara Hedin – Meg from Mamasezz – Stacey Stokes – Ben Savage – Michael K – David Hughes -Coni Rodgers – Claire England – Sally Robertson – Parham Ganchi – Amy Dailey – Brian Tourville – Mark Jeffrey Johnson – Josie Dempsey – Caryn Schmitt – Pamela Hayden – Emily Perryman – Allison Corbett – Richard Stone – Lauren Vaught of Edible Musings – Erin Hastey – Sean Owens – Sagar Naik – Erika Piedra – Danielle Roberts – Michael Leuchten – Sarah Johnson – Katharine Floyd – Meryl Fury – for your generous support of the podcast.
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