It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.
- Upton Sinclair

President Bush and his supporters can find $700 billion to spend on a war of choice. Almost overnight, they can stump up an equivalent amount to stop Adam Smith’s invisible hand from throttling their shonky cronies in the banking sector. Such extraordinary sums, if devoted to public transport or alternative energies or scores of other socially useful outlays, would go a long way to ending America’s dependence on carbon fuels.

Yet, when it comes to climate change -- which, like, only threatens the viability of the one planet we have -- there’s no option but to let market forces do their work.

Future generations (if indeed there are any) won’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

Jeff Sparrow, editor of Overland, in

We are a vaguely happy team at Hawthorn :)

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Sunday 28 September 2008

I'm totally spent. My football team won the flag yesterday. I cannae believe it! There are more Grand Final celebrations going on today down at Glenferrie, but I am socially worn out. Need to stay home and get quiet and get recalibrated :) And so, before Discombobula returns to normal broadcasting and stops making every post about football, here is my personal take on why this flag means a lot to me :)

Back in 1996 my team was threatened with extinction when the AFL set in motion plans to try to merge it with another Melbourne-based club (called, strangely enough, Melbourne). The club administration agreed to its own potential demise, and talks began in earnest. The members would have to vote at the end of it all on whether we would merge, but possibly from the club's standpoint Hawthorn members seemed apathetic, going on low membership signup figures. Indeed, that was part of the reason why the club was $1.7 million in debt. The AFL probably would have thought we were an easy merger target. I remember the four-colour glossy brochure outlining why it was that Hawthorn could not continue on in its curent incarnation. Reading it, depending upon your susceptibility to shiny four-colour views, you could concede that indeed, it looked like the end had come.

This was a team that had been one of the most successful clubs in the history of the game. In the eighties they were unstoppable, the team everyone hated because the bastards wouldn't stop winning flags - 1983, 1986, 1988, 1989. And another one in 1991 just to top it off. But five years after that last flag, here we were with talks afoot to do away with the team, merge it into this new bastardized hybrid called the Melbourne Hawks. There were valid reasons why the club honestly didn't see any alternative - because without vision the people perish, because football had become a commodity like everything else, because the members were not signing up. Hawthorn members, the rather spoilt little breed that we are, had become complacent. You get complacent when you've had a lot of success.

In response, an ex-player, Don Scott, started up a breakaway group which became known as Operation Payback. He believed the club was entering too quickly into this undoable situation. It's true that the club was $1.7 million in debt, but Scott wanted to put it out to the members first and see what could be done. It's funny how simple faith in possibilities is so ridiculed, is so small, and yet so powerful. The media and the club both did their share of ridiculing the impossibilities of the situation. Everyone knew the reality was we had to merge, right? It was all down there on paper. It certainly felt like a David versus Goliath battle, believing against the black and white evidence. I know, 'cause I was there :) Signed up almost from day 1 to answer phones after Don Scott put the call out for the supporters of Hawthorn to do something about it and so found myself heading down to Glenferrie after work, to hang out in a tiny little room upstairs in the social club and answer phones and start feeling the snowball gaining momentum. Heady stuff.

The resulting groundswell of support was part of the reason why I will continue to support AFL football despite its professionalism and shininess. I know that at the heart of my club is a group of passionate people. I saw it, and was involved in it. All those hours spent are some of the fondest memories I have. Making coffee for Don Scott (he's scary). Making a few friends (indeed, I would later marry one of them). Answering calls from opposition supporters who didn't even like Hawthorn but wanted to donate some money to the cause because they were sick of being dictated to and told that teams would be eliminated simply because what was once a Victorian-based football league had now gone national, and it was simply untenable on paper that there could be eight Victorian teams, making up half of the competition.

Well, that was all fine and good and spreadsheet savvy. But there's nothing like a cause to get your blood pumping, and the righteous anger that the AFL would try to merge my club - my club, the club my grandfather barracked for, my mother did, and now me, the club that has arguably been the most successful club in history, made my pumped blood boil :)

By the time it came to the September meeting that would determine the fate of the club, we had raised the $1.7 million required to get us out of debt. But to keep a rational level head on the situation Ross Oakley, the head honcho of the AFL, said:

It's all very well for people on the fringes to come out and rant and rave, they will have to carry the responsibility.
Well. That September meeting at the Camberwell Civic Centre sticks in my mind as the scary way a group of people can become a mob. Yikes. That night, members howled at club stalwarts on stage. Peter Hudson, one of the club's most loved players, was howled down and as club CEO advising we merge, his face was ashen grey that night. I shall never forget it. I understand people's passion, and I felt it myself that night, but to spew vitriole at people who are following the course they think best is just not on. It made me sick.

But that's what happens when you mess with football clubs. In this strange little passionless world we live in, sport is one of the few areas where vast groups of people can come together with common cause and passion, and dress up, and paint their faces, and jump up and down, and hope, and shed tears. I saw a lot of shed tears yesterday by members who have been carrying the responsibility ever since 1996. Onfield success now sees more people jumpin on board and this year Hawthorn had somewhere around the vicinity of 40,000 members, some of who got to be part of the 100,000-strong crowd that rocked it at the MCG yesterday.

So the members voted against the merger, we went on to fight another day, I went on to insert yet another cliche in this post, and Hawthorn went on to win the 2008 flag. Going by their season form, Geelong should have won yesterday - they only dropped one game all year. Indeed, of their last 43 games they have won 41. And on the stats spreadsheet for yesterday's game, they should have won, too. They had more shots for goal, but sprayed them. Choked under the pressure. But while Geelong may have thrown their side of the game away off their own boot, there's no doubting that Hawthorn won their side. With aplomb.

Spreadsheets and prognostications are empty wineskins with no people in them. If you lived according to the spreadsheets, Hawthorn wouldn't even be here at all. If Hawthorn played according to the spreadsheets, they wouldn't have turned up at all. Hell, according to the spreadsheets, we weren't even meant to be contending for the flag until 2009.

That we will. Just with the 2008 cup in the trophy cabinet :)


Edit: Changed my mind. Can't stay home, even though I desperately need recalibration. I think writing this post has recalibrated me a bit. It shall have to do. I'm off to Glenferrie :)

The Big Dance


Friday 26 September 2008

I've been feeling anxious and nervous all week. My inner deconstructionist whispers that feeling nervous and anxious about a game which, when reduced down to it, is a bunch of guys competing against a bunch of guys to see who can kick a leather ball through the goals more than the opposition is ... well, it's just not cricket, is it?

It is just football, I agree. But my heart is not in my deconstructing this week. Analysing and casting cool critical eyes over our systems and ways of living are always sore requirements. But not today and certainly not tomorrow.

I'm far too gone with the romance of it all to be indulging in those sorts of things. Melbourne has gone Grand Final mad and my team is part of it for the first time in 17 years and I can't stop pinching myself.

A couple of kilometres down the road as I walked to work today 100,000 people were lined up for the annual Grand Final Parade. The shop I buy my lunch in had posters and balloons stuck up when I went in today. Yelled out my support for my team before ordering my lunch. Wore my scarf to work. Draped another scarf around my cubicle, stuck up a poster, in competition with my workmate Mary, who had an opposing blue and white scarf and poster of her own draped around her workstation.

Festivity. Buoys your step. You can feel it in the air. Melbourne is a football town. Everyone is talking about it. It's a Christmas Eve feeling in Melbourne town this evening. What I'm loving the most about the leadup is this sense of community. Of shared excitement. Of a connection with other people. Of the suspection that most of us are drowning in our own loneliness, dying for festival, yearning for connection. You can see it in people's eyes.

I don't have seats for tomorrow's game. My mum and I are meeting three hours before the game starts so that we can secure "front row" seats in the standing room of M2. I plan to take a book, my camera, a pen, something to write on. Comfy footwear. There is something attractive about being forced to sit around for three hours and having nothing to distract myself with unless it's a book or some paper or chattery conversation. No computers. Oh, there's my mobile and I imagine there will be flurries of nervous text messages going backwards and forwards. But you can only text so much before you tire of it. Much more exciting to watch the passing parade, knowing you are part of it, soaking in the atmosphere. Knowing that the magnitude of the occasion is going to rise me above self-consciousness. Even looking forward to standing with a group of people I don't know. These big occasions always get us over our animosity towards each other and throws us into cameraderie.

And so this week I have laid aside my deconstructionist hat and put on my poet's beanie :) Walking misty eyed into the experience. Smearing Vaseline on my lenses. Mindful that it's just a game. Mindful that I love this game. Mindful that it may just be a game but whatever the result I will shed tears tomorrow. Perhaps I should feel embarrassed about that, I'm not sure. But that's something that also belongs to my deconstructionist side and that side is packed away for Monday. Hell, I might even leave it in its box till the following Monday. 'Cause deconstructing and analysis are all very well, but singing and festival and colour and community provide the vision about what could possibly be. Even if that's starting from the position of a bunch of guys kicking a dead pigskin around.

Whatever. One more sleep. Go you Hawkers.

Upward Climb

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The best kind of upward climb:
realising with a jolt that this
journey to God becoming to you
more and more like the God you
always hoped and hoped and

hoped him/her to be ...

... is no coincidence at all.
Something to do with
foundations of the world

having it sorted
and stuff ...




Wednesday 24 September 2008

For years they typed
in one way or another
my livelihood
fingers touching
no frets, strings or keys but
F1, Control, Alt, Delete
but they itched
as if the scratches
circa 1978
(don't pick up half wild cats)
were fevered
for more than livelihood
and holding the thumb
over the bonghole

Then they smoothed
over clay
cut collages
with scissors
dipped brushes
into paint
scratched pens
onto poems
then they
stopped itching

Can't sell that remedy
in a pharmacy:
apply forever once a day
twice for withered souls

Things I Don't MIss Hearing in Church Services - Part 2


Tuesday 23 September 2008

Edit: Just for clarification, when I am dissing what I call the institutionalised church, it's not church services per se that I am dissing. There are plenty of people who attend church services who are weaned from the Mothership breast. I personally don't attend church services because they bore me to tears, but to each their own. :D And I know that the title of this post is "Things I Don't Miss Hearing in Church Services" which is probably misleading - I do tend to slip at times into the mindset that it's church services but this kind of thinking extends out into Churchianity and its books etc, it's not so much a time and place thing as it's a mentality thing. Just thought I'd clarify that :)


Thou shalt never question or doubt anything.
You don't need to. Mother Knows Best.

Been thinking about the insane, or at least very psychologically unstable, way that Churchianity refuses to acknowledge the reality of the messiness that is people moving from one way of thinking and being to another. Churchianity, that lovely dysfunctional Mother of ours, really doesn't seem to be able to admit that the process is an ongoing one. A down and dirty one. It doesn't fit into her spreadsheet. She wants you to be hale and hearty right now, because you are a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ and dammit, you gotta shine, show the world, prove yourself, prove it, prove it, prove it. Prove that this thing works. Work it, baby. Work it. Stuff your shit and work it.

The Mothership seems to find it terribly difficult to accept our tarnished parts. Unless it's in tightly controlled love sessions from 7.30-9 on a Wednesday evening when we're talking about X Problem, but make sure you've got it together by Sunday. If we take longer than is deemed appropriate to get rid of the rust - well, there is something wrong with us. The Mothership doesn't have time for different strokes for different folks. I understand why the Mother insists that people do most of their mind altering conversion stuff in the dark, because people in process ... well, they're even uglier than usual, right? And we can't have that. These people are spokespeople for the living Christ. And they dare to sometimes look even worse than those messy, disgusting, foul things outside? Anathema! Everyone knows that becoming a new creation in Christ means that you become instantly perfect. Because look at all those fine examples of perfection that have gone before us. Like ... yeah, exactly.

So the Mothership insists on us all being whitewashed cups. Funny, isn't it? And in the process, slows down the very process of perfection that she tries to control us to. Insists upon our shininess and yet stops us embracing those very ugly things that require embracing for us to someday become more shiny. So many of us, sniffing the strange wind, have been running from this paradigm, trying to find safe pockets of space to be able to be real, sensing that we need this like we have never needed anything before. Turns out that being real is way easier out in the world, away from the Mothership. And she said we would die out here!

Well, how would she know? How would she be able to dictate that to us when she married the system centuries ago and doesn't know the first thing about what goes on in the real world. About strength in powerlessness. About paradigms other than the stock standard fear/power/control one. The Mothership knows our fear and instability and how dangerous it is living in a world where we are interdependent with fearful, unstable people and systems. As an act of lovingkindness she offers us her giant breast to suckle and we atrophy our minds. She's taken the openness, the individual journeying and the "hear from God yourself" version of reality which produces breathless beauty and great freedom and reduced it down to something easily drinkable for us. To save us the hassle, you know? The mistakes on the way.

How long it takes to understand this danger. The Mothership, our protector, has taken that which would give us confidence, and heart, and courage, and unfolding, the beauty of a life lived right where we are right now because she prefers her children suckling and weak and dependent on her. She's addicted to it. And we have believed her for so long. But many Mothership kids are growing up, realising that placing all your trust eggs in another fallible human being or system is a much more dangerous insanity than relying on your own. At least you're familiar with the dynamics of your own insanity. At least you are in the position to follow the threads of your own views if you dare, to work through the threads of those views, follow them back to their source. Wherever those convolutions may take you. And at least then you have a real, live heart within which to work out of. One that beats and hurts and pains and loves but one, apparently, that God resides in. One that walks out the principles and makes it something real.

The Mothership is wearing all the right clothes and saying all the right stuff, but freakishly a lot of what comes out of her mouth is the opposite of what Life seems to be saying. Often the things we hear in our hearts are the opposite of what the Mother tells us, but of course she reminds us we are weak and suckling and dependent, and part of human nature is the strange, self-punishing desire to relinquish our own control and give it over to others. We prefer it like this. We prefer to give away our control and our safety in return for some soothing principles and a well lit path.

We prefer it to complexity, doubt, ambiguity and ambivalence. These are evils that should be banished. Which is sad because the places we are most wounded are the places where we are most in doubt, ambiguous and ambivalent. Swinging like monkeys through trees. It's part of the messiness of the process. The Mothership tries to budge us from position A to position X without any swinging inbetween. And she tries to move us in her time span, not our own. And to change requires a good sense of timing. To to budged before I am ready to stand up and move forward an inch is a dangerous thing to do. It causes boundary violations, more suppression, more damage, more numbing to the already damaged alarm bells inside my own body telling me to stand still. I am the one who gets to choose when I move, when it comes to treading around inside my own wounds. I am the one who determines when I have learned something well enough, had it soaked into my skin, to go on and learn something else. And I am the one who determines when I need to rest in the middle.

The Mothership forces you to move before you are ready. She forces you to move forward ... into such a tight turning circle that you can't. It would be laughable if it wasn't so depressing. Funny, but as far as I am experiencing so far, Life gives such enormously wide turning circles that the problem isn't so much not having the space to turn around as having so much space that I get agarophobia. The possibilities for freedom within ourselves lived breathing the Source are endless. But the road there involves the hard work of thinking and pondering and doubting and changing our minds and sitting down in the middle of the road for a year because we're goddamned exhausted with pretending. And nobody can stop us and nobody ever should have. This is our right, as human beings, to think for ourselves and to come to our own conclusions. Anything else is abdication.

People in process. Unstable all the way. Rocking backwards and forwards. Going from one extreme to the other. Veering first this way and then that way. Seeming to contradict themselves. This is who we are, and we get to be like that. It's messy, but it's real. The Mothership, she reminds me of the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz without the bubble of insight. The Mothership thinks she is made out of heart, but really she is just made out of steel.

Bloggish Meetings

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I met Louisa for coffee on Sunday. I was a little bit nervous, as is only right when you meet a new person, especially someone who you have been chatting to online beforehand.

I felt comfortable straight away, however, and it was really cool to hang out with Louisa, her three kids (two of whose names I have forgotten already), and her dog Mocha (is it bad form to remember the dog's name but to forget two of the kids' names??) I look forward to catching up for dinner with her and her hubby and chatting about God and how luvverly he is :)

This weekend has been pretty full on, I must say. It's been all emotional and I've been living in anxiety a fair bit of the time, or else in hyperactivity - just flaky, you know, the way Blogthings said below, hehe :) I think my flakiness is due to the fact that I haven't been indulging my creativity as much in the past week or so, ever since I have had my middle ear infection. And boy, it doesn't take long until I start thinking I can't do it. I lose faith in being able to access that place where it all comes from, and start blocking myself. Sigh. Sometimes I drive myself cerrazee.

I'm actually looking forward to getting back to work tomorrow just for the balancing out. Whoever would have thunk it? Looking forward also to returning back to the balancing boat of doing what I know I need to do, and trusting that the place that I have started walking in ever so gently hasn't actually gone anywhere, this weird place where my right brain gets to play and my left brain gets to shut the hell up for five minutes :)

Sometimes I get annoyed that the lessons we learn still have to keep being re-applied. How cool if we learned them and they applied for a 75 year time period before we had to look at them again :)

Grand Final Tickets - Yea


Monday 22 September 2008

I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final. I'm going to the Grand Final.

Grand Final Tickets - Nay

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Sunday 21 September 2008

Everyone has things they are bad at. Mine is fine print processing/retention and hoop jumping. Especially in a week where I have been finding it difficult to concentrate. It's what caused me to just pick an ISP in the end because comparing different plans and looking at all those different little things just confuses and disorientates me. Confuses me and boggles me and makes my head scramble until all the words swim in front of my eyes and it doesn't make sense. I would much rather ponder the big massive things of the universe, than work out how to go about getting tickets to the Grand Final and all the 140 steps required to do so.

That is partially the reason why I have stuffed up buying two standing room Grand Final tickets. I won't go into the rather dull details, suffice to say that when Ticketmaster rang me at 4.42 this afternoon to say that they were holding them for me until 5.00, that I had my phone switched off. I never switch my phone off. If I had my phone on, the way it is all the bloody time, I would have been able to take the call and sort it out.

But really, all those little if onlys really only add up to the fact that I stuffed up. I'll add the word 'should' to 'if only' - may as well go the full hog - and say I should have sat down and put in some brain time to make sure I had it clear in my head what the procedure was. Because God only knows, they only get more convoluted and hoop jumping as time goes on, and moronic people like me who get confused at such things miss out on two Grand Final tickets because they are stupid, brain-dead, fucking doofuses.

But no, really. I'm fine about it. I'm not too bad about it now I've swallowed by tears and rang my Mum to explain what a paradox it is that her very intelligent daughter can't sometimes organise herself out of a wet fucking paper bag. And that's why she's not going to the Grand Final either. I'm not too bad now I've spent 15 minutes screaming at myself and crying in rage and irritation at what a fuck-up I can be sometimes.

Standing room tickets sounded a bit dodgy. Now I'd be happy even with stand-on-one-leg tickets.

Anyone wanna sell a slightly braindead 13-years-in-a-row Hawthorn member who's spent countless hours of volunteering time selling memberships before games and answering phones in Operation Payback telephone rooms a couple of tickets?

You Are the Innovator

You're the type of person who is always a step ahead of everyone else.

You thrive when you're experimenting with new designs, ideas, and attitudes.

You are a creative person with many talents. You have to have artistic outlets in your life.

You need to create - whether it's writing furiously or redecorating your home. If not, your life becomes chaotic.

You tire of doing the same thing every day. You change your job, friends, and personal style often.

You are at your best when you have a focus. If not, you develop a flaky artist's temperament.

What Role Do You Play?

Just saw this over at Lucy's. I'm a sucker for Blogthings' oh-so-psychological quizzes :) Still, this feels reasonably accurate except for the changing jobs and friends bit. I actually like having stability in my job, and I don't ditch friends easily at all (but occasionally do ditch acquaintances). But I do like doing different things, and I try on different ideas and attitudes like hats :) Today at the hairdresser, I came out with a side part and a partial fringe on the spur of the moment so yeah, I like change - just not too much at once or I begin to spontaneously combust around the edges.

Actually, I've taken this quiz once or twice before and I come up with a different one every time - which is probably because I'm such a moody little swine. Like this evening for instance. Had enough of people at the football. Suddenly had to get home by myself. Which is weird because my team had just won itself a berth in a Grand Final and it should have been party time, you know? Instead, shut myself up in my book on the train and would have possibly snarled at anyone who had the nerve to say anything to me (as if anyone would. I look pretty ugly when I'm snarly). My quota for putting up with other people had bubbled over, and I was indulging in the kind of thinking that David Foster Wallace was talking about a few posts down, looking at my fellow humans as though they were pieces of dog turd in the way of my shoe.

And yet then I get home tonight and calm down a bit (ie bawl my eyes out - I don't really understand why) and now I am fine, and once again, my fellow human looks like the rough as guts, ugly but beautiful, somehow containing dvinity within them underneath the faint smell of dog poo, people that I rub up against almost every day and can resist shooting.

But you know. There's always tomorrow :)



It's nice getting compliments. We all need feedback from time to time on how we are coming across to other people, don't we? You know how sometimes someone will say something thoughtful and it just makes your day? Or even if it's not so nice for you to hear - if you can accept it, that kind of feedback is priceless, because it always costs the person giving it to you - and honesty is sometimes like diamonds because people don't like to hurt each other's feelings.

I've had a few nice compliments recently. Nice things my dear cousin said to me, my ex-husband. My friend Michaela told me via email that she admires the way my brains works, which was kinda nice, you know? Sometimes I like to pretend to myself that I don't need anyone else's validation. Sometimes I think I am more of an island than I really am, crusty old dame that I am becoming :) The thing is, I can see the downside of being validated by other people. It can become an addiction, requiring constant affirmation by other people to make yourself feel worthwhile. And I'm not interested in playing that game. Indeed, tonight I came to the startling conclusion, whilst getting off the train to go to the footy, that another layer of caring about what other people think of me has been stripped away. I can't say how much of a freedom that is. I don't know how it happened. I never, ever really thought I would ever get free of it. But it is happening, ever so slowly. I think it is the desire of Love for that to happen for us. For us to be able to be ourselves even if that is something that is too big or too small or too whatever for other people. I simply don't care anymore if I don't slot into other people's paradigms or ideas of what I should be for them. Paradoxically, I feel more accommodating than I ever have before. I feel like I can put certain things of myself aside if it makes other people uncomfortable. It's just that it's on my terms when I do it, and it's not to gain anything from them. I don't need your validation anymore, peoples. It's a beautiful thang. I like getting it, but it's not gonna change my perceptions about myself.

Which is really good, you know, 'cause here is Tyler's take about me:

Five years ago, my only friends who were tatooed, pierced and were "naughty little potty mouths" were unsaved, and that was comfortable for me, taught me the "proper" line between "them and us."

My friend Sue changed that, and it was uncomfortable for me. But I needed Sue or I was never going to accept Kim.

Which is just about the most backhanded compliment I have received for a while :) But hey, at least I'm not Kim, right? :D

And I'm not tattooed or pierced. That's skanky people like Erin ;)

Only jokin', Tyler darling :) (and Erin :) I couldn't resist having a lend of you. This cracked me up when I read it. You know I loves ya :) I think it's really awesome how such disparate people can click, you know? Chatting with you and Kim is really an edifying thing for me because you're right - we are so different. And yet I feel the oneness when I talk with you guys. Gives me a kingdom taste. Makes me smile :) It's awesome :)

Pic: Most likely copyrighted all over the place by

Pic: Darrin Braybrook, Herald Sun

Fiscalish Dilemmas


Saturday 20 September 2008

I covet your opinions about bill splitting, dear bloggers.

The deal is this: I live in a little two bedroom place which is on the same property as the main house. My landlord used to live in that house, and when it was just him there and just me here, we would just split the bills down the middle. Easy. Even when his girlfriend moved in, we still just split them by thirds, and it didn't worry me too much.

However, he has now moved out and has tenants in the house. The bills have been transferred to my name, and we've just received a few so I need to go and talk to them and work out how we are going to split them. Problem is, I can't work out what is fair. They are all so utterly polite that I am worried tat they won't really tell me what they think is fair or unfair.

Do you think it's fair if we split them all amongst ourselves? That means that I get to have all the the lights to myself, whereas they share their lighting amongst each other. So therefore is it fair that I only pay for one fifth of the lighting when in some ways you could say that I am using half of it? But then again, on the other hand, there is more than one person there, so they would be using more lighting.

But then when it comes to the gas, the heating, it feels easier to just split it down the middle because there is one heater there and one heater here. Easy. Same with the water. Split right down the middle.

It's just the electricity that I'm not so sure about how to split it. I need to go and talk to them about it but they are so incredibly polite, being Indian, that I am not sure that they will tell me what they really think about it all. What do you guys think?

There are officially two of them in there but I actually think there are three of them living there. That is one reason why I am procrastinating about talking to them about the bills. If we split them between us, then I will have to find out from them how many of them are living there.
Seen over at Abbey of the Arts, I join in this meme with a southern hemispherean twist. Reading Christine's list almost made me yearn for Autumn except for the fact that Winter follows Autumn and I've just ridden that ride and don't wanna ride no moh. I am so sick of having to wear clothing to bed.

So here are my Five Favourite Things About Spring:

A fragrance
The breeze coming in through open doors and windows. Granted, at my house it is not so delicious a breeze as the ones further away from the city. I live in an area that has a few factories round about, and sometimes the wind brings with it unpleasantries that require the closing of doors and windows. But I look forward with pleasure to warmer weather, to driving with my car windows all the way down as I wind my way up to the top of Mount Dandenong this coming Monday. One day, maybe, hopefully, possibly, I would like to experience the Dandenong Ranges breezes on a more permanent basis.

A colour
Oh, where do I start? I guess one of them would be the startling bright yellowness of the wattle that is in bloom along the edges of the Maribyrnong. But I can't stop at one, so here are a few more. The blue of the beach, of course, of water and sky, which I shall venture out to again with Lester now the weather is warming. His vocation concerns the beach and a tennis ball. The subtle hues of native flowering shrubs and bushes. My silver sandals, cheaply made and destined to only last this extra season before they disintegrate.

An item of clothing
Actually, an item of clothing removed - shoes. I love going barefoot. Nothing speaks freedom to me so much as the touch of the soles of my feet on the earth.

An activity

Walking my dog in the evenings after coming home from work. I don't get home till 6.30 and it's been dark for months and months. With every passing day, the light is shining a few minutes longer. In two weeks' time daylight savings will begin and suddenly, boom, I get to return to the routine I love of ending the working day with a stroll with Puppily Duppily sniffing stuff. I love the rhythm, the soothing regularity. I watched Tim Rogers, lead singer for You Am I talking this week about how he is a walker, that he walks to keep the anxiety at bay and fuel the creativity at the same time, a win/win situation where all his song lyrics come to him. I love the things that occur to me as I walk. I love the perspective that comes.

A special day
It's called Grand Final Day and it's next Saturday afternoon, the last game of the year to determine who wins the Aussie Rules flag. It's always special. There's always tons of barbecues and stuff going on which I decline to attend a lot of the time because this is serious, dammit! Attend Grand Final barbecues and you get blow-ins who only watch one game a year and who persist in talking shit all the way through the game :) I prefer to maintain control and watch it at home.

Although this year, I prefer infinitely to actually be at the game itself because presumably, after tonight, my team will be playing in its first Grand Final for 17 years. And I will very quickly throw aside all of my dearly held principles for the opportunity to see it with my own eyes :) Heh :)

Creative thinking


Friday 19 September 2008

Below is a speech given by author David Foster Wallace to graduating liberal arts students at Kenyon College in the US in 2005. Inspiring stuff about the value of changing your default factory settings :)

Have read barely anything at all by David Foster Wallace except for his article about crayfish so I don't claim to know much about him, but he did have a bit of a cult following for his work and his brilliant mind. In the sad way of things I only came across this speech below because of his death last week. It all got too much for him and he hanged himself in his garage. It's always sad to see brilliant minds exiting early but obviously his battle with depression just got too much :(

This speech was transcribed by Go Ahead Sue Me. I'm glad they did:

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says "Morning, boys. How's the water?" And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes "What the hell is water?"

This is a standard requirement of US commencement speeches, the deployment of didactic little parable-ish stories. The story ["thing"] turns out to be one of the better, less bullshitty conventions of the genre, but if you're worried that I plan to present myself here as the wise, older fish explaining what water is to you younger fish, please don't be. I am not the wise old fish.

The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about. Stated as an English sentence, of course, this is just a banal platitude, but the fact is that in the day to day trenches of adult existence, banal platitudes can have a life or death importance, or so I wish to suggest to you on this dry and lovely morning. Of course the main requirement of speeches like this is that I'm supposed to talk about your liberal arts education's meaning, to try to explain why the degree you are about to receive has actual human value instead of just a material payoff.

So let's talk about the single most pervasive cliché in the commencement speech genre, which is that a liberal arts education is not so much about filling you up with knowledge as it is about quote teaching you how to think. If you're like me as a student, you've never liked hearing this, and you tend to feel a bit insulted by the claim that you needed anybody to teach you how to think, since the fact that you even got admitted to a college this good seems like proof that you already know how to think.

But I'm going to posit to you that the liberal arts cliché turns out not to be insulting at all, because the really significant education in thinking that we're supposed to get in a place like this isn't really about the capacity to think, but rather about the choice of what to think about. If your total freedom of choice regarding what to think about seems too obvious to waste time discussing, I'd ask you to think about fish and water, and to bracket for just a few minutes your skepticism about the value of the totally obvious.

Here's another didactic little story. There are these two guys sitting together in a bar in the remote Alaskan wilderness. One of the guys is religious, the other is an atheist, and the two are arguing about the existence of God with that special intensity that comes after about the fourth beer. And the atheist says: "Look, it's not like I don't have actual reasons for not believing in God. It's not like I haven't ever experimented with the whole God and prayer thing. Just last month I got caught away from the camp in that terrible blizzard, and I was totally lost and I couldn't see a thing, and it was fifty below, and so I tried it: I fell to my knees in the snow and cried out 'Oh, God, if there is a God, I'm lost in this blizzard, and I'm gonna die if you don't help me.'" And now, in the bar, the religious guy looks at the atheist all puzzled.
"Well then you must believe now," he says, "After all, here you are, alive."
The atheist just rolls his eyes. "No, man, all that was was a couple Eskimos happened to come wandering by and showed me the way back to camp."

It's easy to run this story through kind of a standard liberal arts analysis: the exact same experience can mean two totally different things to two different people, given those people's two different belief templates and two different ways of constructing meaning from experience. Because we prize tolerance and diversity of belief, nowhere in our liberal arts analysis do we want to claim that one guy's interpretation is true and the other guy's is false or bad. Which is fine, except we also never end up talking about just where these individual templates and beliefs come from. Meaning, where they come from INSIDE the two guys. As if a person's most basic orientation toward the world, and the meaning of his experience were somehow just hard-wired, like height or shoe-size; or automatically absorbed from the culture, like language. As if how we construct meaning were not actually a matter of personal, intentional choice. Plus, there's the whole matter of arrogance. The nonreligious guy is so totally certain in his dismissal of the possibility that the passing Eskimos had anything to do with his prayer for help. True, there are plenty of religious people who seem arrogant and certain of their own interpretations, too. They're probably even more repulsive than atheists, at least to most of us. But religious dogmatists' problem is exactly the same as the story's unbeliever: blind certainty, a close-mindedness that amounts to an imprisonment so total that the prisoner doesn't even know he's locked up.

The point here is that I think this is one part of what teaching me how to think is really supposed to mean. To be just a little less arrogant. To have just a little critical awareness about myself and my certainties. Because a huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.

Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realist, most vivid and important person in existence.

We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.

Please don't worry that I'm getting ready to lecture you about compassion or other-directedness or all the so-called virtues. This is not a matter of virtue. It's a matter of my choosing to do the work of somehow altering or getting free of my natural, hard-wired default setting which is to be deeply and literally self-centered and to see and interpret everything through this lens of self. People who can adjust their natural default setting this way are often described as being "well-adjusted", which I suggest to you is not an accidental term.

Given the triumphant academic setting here, an obvious question is how much of this work of adjusting our default setting involves actual knowledge or intellect. This question gets very tricky. Probably the most dangerous thing about an academic education – at least in my own case – is that it enables my tendency to over-intellectualize stuff, to get lost in abstract argument inside my head, instead of simply paying attention to what is going on right in front of me, paying attention to what is going on inside me.

As I'm sure you guys know by now, it is extremely difficult to stay alert and attentive, instead of getting hypnotized by the constant monologue inside your own head (may be happening right now). Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.

Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the leas bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in: the head. They shoot the terrible master.

And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger.

And I submit that this is what the real, no bullshit value of your liberal arts education is supposed to be about: how to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone day in and day out. That may sound like hyperbole, or abstract nonsense. Let's get concrete. The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what "day in day out" really means. There happen to be whole, large arts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration. The parents and older folks here will know all too well what I'm talking about.

By way of example, let's say it's an average adult day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging, white-collar, college-graduate job, and you work hard for eight or ten hours, and at the end of the day you're tired and somewhat stressed and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for an hour, and then hit the sack early because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there's no food at home. You haven't had time to shop this week because of your challenging job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It's the end of the work day and the traffic is apt to be: very bad. So getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there, the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it's the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping. And the store is hideously lit and infused with soul-killing muzak or corporate pop and it's pretty much the last place you want to be but you can't just get in and quickly out; you have to wander all over the huge, over-lit store's confusing aisles to find the stuff you want and you have to maneuver your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts (et cetera, et cetera, cutting stuff out because this is a long ceremony) and eventually you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren't enough check-out lanes open even though it's the end-of-the-day rush. So the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating. But you
can't take your frustration out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at a job whose daily tedium and meaninglessness surpasses the imagination of any of us here at a prestigious college.

But anyway, you finally get to the checkout line's front, and you pay for your food, and you get told to "Have a nice day" in a voice that is the absolute voice of death. Then you have to take your creepy, flimsy, plastic bags of groceries in your cart with the one crazy wheel that pulls maddeningly to the left, all the way out through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive, rush-hour traffic, et cetera et cetera.

Everyone here has done this, of course. But it hasn't yet been part of you graduates' actual life routine, day after week after month after year.

But it will be.

And many more dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines besides. But that is not the point. The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don't make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I'm gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop. Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it's going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way. And who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are, and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line. And look at how deeply and personally unfair this is.

Or, of course, if I'm in a more socially conscious liberal arts form of my default setting, I can spend time in the end-of-the-day traffic being disgusted about all the huge, stupid, lane-blocking SUV's and Hummers and V-12 pickup trucks, burning their wasteful, selfish, forty-gallon tanks of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper-stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest [responding here to loud applause] (this is an example of how NOT to think, though) most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers. And I can think about how our children's children will despise us for wasting all the future's fuel, and probably screwing up the climate, and how spoiled and stupid and selfish and disgusting we all are, and how modern consumer society just sucks, and so forth and so on.

You get the idea.

If I choose to think this way in a store and on the freeway, fine. Lots of us do. Except thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic that it doesn't have to be a choice. It is my natural default setting. It's the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I'm operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world, and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the
world's priorities.

The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stopped and idling in my way, it's not impossible that some of these people in SUV's have been in horrible auto accidents in the past, and now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive. Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he's trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he's in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way.

Or I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket's checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have harder, more tedious and painful lives than I do.

Again, please don't think that I'm giving you moral advice, or that I'm saying you are supposed to think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it. Because it's hard. It takes will and effort, and if you are like me, some days you won't be able to do it, or you just flat out won't want to.

But most days, if you're aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she's not usually like this. Maybe she's been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness.

Of course, none of this is likely, but it's also not impossible. It just depends what you what to consider. If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won't consider possibilities that aren't annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.

Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're gonna try to see it.

This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. You get to decide what to worship.

Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship –- be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles -- is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.

Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are
default settings.

They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing.

And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the center of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving and [unintelligible – sounds like "displayal"].

The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.

I know that this stuff probably doesn't sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away.

You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish.

But please don't just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr. Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:

"This is water."

"This is water."

It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out. Which means yet another grand cliché turns out to be true: your education really IS the job of a lifetime.

And it commences: now.

I wish you way more than luck.

Before Now


Thursday 18 September 2008

Okay, Jon, this movie is messing with my head :) The comments on YouTube are just as interesting sometimes as the portions of Waking Life movie chunk they're talking about.

I can understand why some people think that at some times this ventures into psychobabble. I can understand how some people would think all of it is psychobabble, but all that means is that the ride is not for them, as far as I am concerned. Luckily there's more than one ride at the fair. I guess it's just how much you want to think and ponder stuff. It can all get too much, definitely. I think and ponder stuff so much that this is not too much for me. Except for those days when I'm so sick of thinking that all our surmisings seem like self-absorbed psychobabble wank - as pointless as dancing to architecture (thank you Brian Mannix for that thought, thrown up like a dead fish from the 1980s).

I did a few Philosophy subjects at uni when I first began this degree way back in the Paleolithic era in 1998. Blew my mind. Got me excited. To sit in a room with a group of people throwing this stuff backwards and forwards - was like swimming in an ocean of 75% dark chocolate. I have toyed with the idea the last few years of going to a Socratic dinner, but that time isn't rght for me yet. Maybe some time in the future. I don't quite trust my mind to stay on track enough to indulge in philosophising in shared company for several hours without muddling or getting performance anxiety, but we shall see :)

Been thinking about the lines between things. About how the best kind of philosophy can lead into psychobabble. About how the best kind of art can lead to pretentious bullshit. Seems to be the process of things, this shelf life of certain expressions. Maybe it's a good thing. Maybe the new wineskins just need to keep coming.

Anyway, I loved this part too of this movie. Because Before Sunrise is one of my favourite movies ever. And I didn't realise until before that Richard Linklater is involved with both, but the internet makes five minute experts of us all, doesn't it :)

I have had far too little sleep. Got myself all excited about thoughts and concepts and reality and time at midnight. Kept me awake and up like caffeine and viagra :)

Why does one eternal soul have to be an "ego thing"? :)

Waking Life


Thanks to Jon at Something Else, I have been watching part of another movie this evening. In 2008 movie-watching mode - that's on YouTube, in chunks. Hell, I'm not even watching it in consecutive order. But I'm kinda getting the gist of it anyway.

Anyone else remember this movie? Slipped right by me when it came out in 2001, but I was in CFS land and my whole life was slipping right through my hands back then. Those days turned out nothing like I had planned.

Anyway, this is kinda interesting. Who needs drugs when you have philosophy, huh? (I'm also thinking of how close genius and insanity are, and it's been something I've been thinking about all week, and I must say this is pretty trippy - and I don't know how much sense it actually makes - but gee, I love fascinating concepts :) I don't need them to be real necessarily, I just need them to be possible in all possible worlds. That's enough to float my boat ;) But having said that, this is something akin to the way I look at it all :)

Thin Places


Wednesday 17 September 2008

I sat down this evening and watched myself a movie. Was feeling a bit kinda flat, you know? This middle ear infection has passed, but it's left me feeling a bit run down, a bit flat, even a bit fragile. It is a curious thing to me how often I can get about living my little life without really realising how I am feeling. There is a lot of layers and permission to go through to discover how we are feeling. This is a grace and a covering, but it is also a distraction. But a distraction that is in our own time and way to uncover. I feel I am getting to another level of knowing myself. There is no fear in it anymore.

The fragile feelings are no big deal. Just a general fragility that comes from feeling unwell. A gentle fragility so that I could easily overlook it, but which has come out in my urge to curl up on the couch, to treat myself to a movie, to not go to my writer's group this evening. It's come out in the drawing I did last night of a curled up figure under a pile of trees and came out on my thoughts as I realised the truth in the middle of speaking it to myself. I am feeling fragile. And so yesterday and today, I go easy on myself. This is the gentle way, instead of the self-hating ways I treated myself for so long in so many very small, not even discernible ways - not even overt self-hatred but simply the kind that we all indulge in - the refusal to allow myself to do the things I really want to do, the fun things, the creative things, the non-punishing things, a refusal to eat healthy food. Those little things I have indulged for so long and shall continue to keep indulging I'm sure in certain ways is why every piece of clay I mould and every time I dip a paintbrush something heals, blossoms and grows and it feels bloody exquisite.

These days I am aware of the scenic route. But most of all these days, I see no reason to withhold myself from it. I keep forgetting regularly and find myself on the potholed abbatoir/oil smelter route, but it's starting to get easier to realise that something is missing. The smell of trees, of ocean. Somehow and somewhere, through all this kiln firing of the past few years, suddenly I find it easier to turn a right and head back to the scenery. I don't need to drive by the abbatoir route because I am loved. It's as simple as that.

I don't think I needed to be taught self-restriction and self-punishment and self-loathing. I think it is a byproduct of living in a world where fear, anxiety and self- and other-hatred prevail. Choosing death. I see it in the eyes of every single person I know. Some strange version of self-punishment that squashes down so many things that we really want to do but don't allow ourselves. Or at least, that is how it has been in my own life.

My cousin emailed me on Monday. She'd been off the radar for several days, with one of those evil chest infections that are doing the rounds in Melbourne at the moment. Monday was the first day out of her sickness prison and there she sat, in a pocket of peace, drinking tea and reading a book about faeries, telling me about the fever that had a nice creative side effect of throwing up for her a main character that was dancing through her head, complete with illustrations. It made me laugh to read her email. It gave me the same feeling that I got tonight watching this movie (Sideways, highly recommended). A reminder of how much space there is. Sometimes I don't even need to be in the pockets of peace and space for it to open up to me. Sometimes I just need to remind myself of them and that's enough for me suddenly to be there, Toto.

Gee, there's a few cheesy Mariah Carey lyrics in this post, aren't there. Hmm. :)

Oh for a life where those pockets are everywhere! But I guess that's the rub. It's not that those pockets aren't everywhere. It's entering into them that is the difficulty, isn't it? It's not that there are no books about faeries to be read, and it's not even that we don't look with longing at those books sitting on the coffee table. It's not even that we don't have pockets of free time, unhindered, when we walk past those books sitting at the table. It goes more fundamental than that. I mean, reading a book about faeries is so ... childish, isn't it? And impractical. Especially when the dishes are to be done. And sometimes I think it goes even deeper than that. It goes right down to the level that L'oreal steals when they encourage you to buy their product because you're worth it. Because we kind of don't think we're worth it, a lot of the time, to do things like that, to sit down with a faerie book, to watch a movie, to draw, to paint, to pick up a guitar, to do the time-consuming what-the-hell-for things that we are screaming to do. The things that are for other people to do, but not for us. Bullshit.

Children, if they could understand adulthood, the long desert drearinesses, would be astonished to know that the veils and thin places and rabbit holes are so close to us. This is surely the astonishment. It's the thing I can't seem to get used to in this life - how close real life is, as close for all of us to reach out and touch. In my more mysical moments I would say that this knowledge swims through the blood of the entire human race, because Someone came to give it more abundantly. It's not confined to a particular group of people, although some claim to be able to give it a Name. It is a reality that seems available to everybody. It's just that there is an awful lot of casting off before the veils and thin places and rabbit holes become so apparent to us that we realise, with delight, that they are everywhere.

But this takes a lifetime, and more than one age, and it's for everyone.

But that's another story.

The undignified exit of Cornelia Rau


Monday 15 September 2008

Back in 2005, it was discovered that Cornelia Rau, a permanent resident of Australia, was unlawfully interred in the Baxter detention centre. Her story was splashed all over the papers at the time. It is a rather long story of how she came to be unlawfully detained at Baxter - you can read about it here - and not one that can be blamed on the system.

What can be blamed on the system is the way that she was treated upon her release. When it was discovered that Rau was at Baxter unlawfully, the story made big media news. She was transferred at night to a hospital in Port Augusta for committal under the Mental Health Act. Tonight I saw footage of her transferral. Footage of the one female and four male guards who entered her room while she was having a shower. The female guard opened the bathroom door and informed her that she was required to leave. Rau wanted to know why, but she wasn't told. Not then, and not when she was basically dragged out of the bathroom to a waiting gurney outside her room wearing just a pair of underpants. From there she was strapped down almost naked, covered by a blanket, and taken out of Baxter. The entire time nobody gave her an answer as to what was going on with her.

Baxter and Woomera detention centres were both privately run detention centres where inmates conducted the largest riot ever seen in Australia's detention facility history. They sewed their lips together in protest, went on hunger strikes, tried to hang themselves. Poorly trained and inappropriately selected guards entered into a hellish environment where the groupspeak held that detainees were to be referred to as unlawful non citizens. An environment where the batons guards used were referred to as 'black Panadol', references made to to 'gas and bash' approaches of dealing with people who were often already traumatised before they reached these shores and fell into piles of governmental red tape that took years to processing their claims. In the meantime, they were treated like prisoners. And the guards themselves were traumatised. Some guards tried to take their own lives afterwards. Many remain deeply scarred.

One guard was employed when she was a 20 year old woman with three children who had just come out of a violent relationship and had mental health issues of her own. She had a bowl of hot curry thrown into her face by an unlawful non-citizen. She required an operation to insert plastic tubes into her eyes to function as tear ducts, as the ones that came with her eyes were now ruined.

described the results of the Australian government's decision to privatise its detention centre facilities to a for profit company:
There in lies the great beauty of the for profit organization. Divorced from ethical relationship to people, it mutates into a free wheeling force of violence that only serves one god. And in the service of that impersonal god, ordinary people, the beloved of God, are ripped to shreds and left as trembling shadows in its wake.
God help all of those people. God help all of us when rationalising, sequestering, and refusing to take responisibility is an integral part of the system we live in. No one is to blame anymore it seems.

(However, Rau was later paid compensation by the government to the tune of $2.6 million. Which is more than the unlawful non citizens will ever see. And which is no justice at all. But I don't think the system speaks in language of justice, just the monetary language of compensation.

Greater vision yields the following, however:

I think authentic God experience gives you another place to stand, another identity, and the courage to stand outside of the world.

Authentic God experience liberates you from the domination system, liberates you from needing everything to be perfect or right, and liberates you to be who you really are—naked and poor.

And until you can stand in what Jesus called the kingdom of God, a different kingdom, you will almost always be completely subservient to the world.

Richard Rohr

Test your colour iq


Saturday 13 September 2008

Doing this is strangely comforting and relaxing to me :) Am I weird? I don't know anyone who gets off on colour the way I do.

Test Your Color IQ

Discombobula turns 1 today. It's gone very fast and been very fun. Thanks for coming along for the ride :)

Friday Night Nausea


I've been feeling strange ever since I caught the train home. Dizzy. These little bouts of nausea come on me every now again, make me wonder if perhaps I have a propensity like my Mum towards a bit of vertigo. Jollyness. Or maybe I'm just fighting something off, one of the flu bugs that are going around, like the one that has laid my dad low for the past few days and given him a blessed legitimate excuse to feel weak and talk about it (sickness has some positive elements to it, for sure). But whatever the reason, I came home and felt uninspired and lethargic, unable to concentrate, cloggy headedly dizzy.

Like the guy I saw on the train on the way home. Who leant over into the aisle and vomited. Leant back in his seat after he hurled three or four times all over the ground. Didn't lift up his face, whether because he was too wasted or too ashamed I'm not sure. Probably because he knew what he would see when he did.

And my heart went out to everyone. Because you're pretty stuffed up if you're off your face and it's just gone 7pm and you're heaving on the train. Because his shame lies right there in the aisle, in the water and the half digested food. Because no one went to help him but we all chose to make ourselves feel superior in comparison to him. Because I had no water on me to take to him and even if I did I didn't think I could traverse the vomit without adding to it and then it would turn into some kind of crazy Monty Python movie (or was it The Simpsons?) with everyone throwing up, and I was already feeling dizzy as it was. Because all the people around were grossed out and switched carriages (through the door connecting the carriages so they didn't have to venture through puke zone). Except for the one older woman sitting diagonally opposite him whose eyebrows were raised right up near her hairline but who seemed bemused rather than frightened or turned off. Because they're all ashamed too but they just have better ways of hiding it, or they've been through that deal already in earlier years, or they managed to miss it completely. Because some of them think that because they go home and watch television every night and nothing else that they are somehow more superior than the boy who vomits in early evening public. Because I once threw up under a coffee table when I was at a nightclub and just kept on drinking. Because once years ago I hung around on a couch with some guy I hardly knew in a darkened nightclub allowing him to do things you shouldn't do in public until we got caught by the club's security person and asked to desist. And I didn't even like him that much. Because the guy who rolled his eyes standing opposite me in the train carriage maybe thought that he somehow missed out on the shame stick but forgets he's ashamed that he can't get off unless it's to porn. Or maybe he's ashamed because he doesn't care about anyone else but himself and he doesn't know how to change it. Or maybe he thinks he's hiding it under Armani and Prada and a nice pair of expensive sunglasses.

Because we all got our little bits of shame and patheticness. Some of us just know how to hide it better than others. Or if we're lucky, some of us got some sort of healing for some of it. And my heart went out to everyone because God's heart goes out to everyone. But surely a little bit extra for that boy.

My dizziness has passed somewhat now, just some residual bits hanging around the edges. Hopefully I will wake up tomorrow and feel good. I hope the boy will too.

A bad dose of the clap


Thursday 11 September 2008

I went and saw Helen Garner this evening, who is an Australian author and a bit of a hero of mine, have an intimate chat about her new book The Spare Room. It was held through the Professional Writing and Editing group via the TAFE that runs out of my university.

Problem with going to see things held by groups of people that have formed themselves into committees is that everyone has to be thanked. Even the young guy who did the mikes. And then after Helen talked we had to clap some more for the young students who sang, and then clap every single bloody time one of the poetry group got up to read their poem, clap after every poem, and then clap when they sat down.

And you can call me a grumpy old bitch if you want, but having to clap every goddamn person under the sun kind of detracts from what we're there for. The people who organised it worked very hard, I'm sure. But so do plenty of other people who don't get clapped for doing their bloody job. The MC may as well have asked us to clap his dentist and his mother. He also managed to point out the strings being pulled behind the scenes, and every other bloody thing that me as a patron goer shouldn't have to give a shit about so that the enchantment of listening to Helen talk about death (yep :) doesn't get washed away by a wave of polite middle class self-conscious convention.

People will know that they are appreciated without us clapping them every three minutes. And if they don't then that's their own goddamn problem.

I'm glad I don't go to many things that involve incessant clapping. I'm not very good at it :)

Needle in a Haystack


Wednesday 10 September 2008

I am submitting a short story I wrote last year for my writers' group anthology. It has to be something I wrote last year, because I haven't written any fiction this year. My fiction mojo has gone travelling through Uzbekistan until further notice. But hey, that's okay. Since she's been gone, I've made some new friends with clay and paint. And of course there is always my dear Discombobula. And a few poems that vomit themselves out here and there. So I'm not going to pressure fiction mojo and nag her to come back (I can't anyway, she didn't take a phone, duh) .

I found the original version of this story I want to submit a few weeks ago. Came across it by random chance while I was searching through a pile of papers for something else. Picked it up, read it, and realised anew that often the first draft of something I write has the best ending, and then I go in and tinker with it and make it worse. So those two pages I put down. Which is the problem. Because putting down two handwritten pages that I wish to find again is no mean feat in this place. So tonight, I searched. I searched the pile of stuff in the loungeroom. Searched the other pile in the kitchen. The pile on the coffee table. The several different piles in the playroom. Started sweating. Went through my two folders of three-pages-a-day-every-day morning pages to see if it got stuck in there. Even went through the cupboard where I put all the paper and cardboard to be recycled, in case I'd accidentally put it there. Thought with dismay of the pile of papers I have already discarded into the recycle bin and which are now sitting in a large community pile at wherever it is the truck took them.

It's times like this I promise myself that I am going to organise my filing system more, and put away the stuff that hasn't made it there yet. But filing scares me. Categorising things does my head in. I always feel like I am forgetting major filing categories or that the ones I have created are really dumb. Oh, if I was rich I would pay someone to come over and file my stuff. I really would. Filing discombobulates my head.

So I didn't find those two pages. I did, however, find the last page of the original original draft. Which was of course in the filing cabinet. Not filed away, though. Just in the filing cabinet in the giant pile that's made it into the confines of the cabinet but not made it into a folder. Which is more than I can say for the 4 million other piles lying around this bloody house. Sigh.

(The good thing is that I only came out with one extra thing to read from this search. Usually when I go looking for something, I get sidetracked and come across other things I want to read that I've forgotten I've put away to be filed. Or I start reading one of the 300 short stories that have been begun and discarded. And so I put the things I want to reread into a new pile of "Things to Read Now." Which sometimes ends up getting mixed up with the "Bills to Pay" stuff. Or the "Things I Was Going to Read Last Week But Now It's Next Month 'Cause This Pile Got Covered Over With a Book". Oh, it's organised chaos, it really is. I haven't been to jail for unpaid fines yet, and I don't seem to forget anything dire. So all is not lost.

So tonight I only added one thing to the "Things To Read Now" pile. Tonight's read is called "Art, Faith and the Stewardship of Culture" from the 1999 issue of Image: A Journal of the Arts and Religion. I'd kinda forgotten about that magazine actually. Even though it's been filed in my "Writing: Markets" folder, which is in the filing cabinet. But this mag sounds like a pretty good researchable market for me to aim to maybe write something for someday. In 2019. When the info I've printed about it resurfaces from under a pile that contains an unpaid gas bill from 2016 and the original draft of my short story.

God, send me a bookkeeper. Right now.



more animals

I was telling my friends the other night how sad I feel when I look at the little folded and sewn pouch where Lester's boybags should be. They both just laughed at me. I guess they're used to me. But I am sad for him! What a horribly unpleasant thing, a folded flap. A monument to efficiency and modern living. Or an anti-monument, when you think about it.

Okay, so I'm weird. Whatever.

An Act of Surrender


Mike from The Mercy Blog is pondering lyrical as always, this time about silence. Who knew it could contain the whole universe? I love what he has to say, so I reproduce it in its entirety here (the actual post is here):

Maggie Ross has just posted number IV in her Ethics Issuing from Silence series. She begins:
When silence is the wellspring, day-to-day living evolves toward simplicity and unobtrusiveness. To inhabit silence naturally leads to embracing silence in the exterior as well as interior worlds. Changes to the way you live may take place subtly and gradually, almost without your realizing it.
and ends:
In short, there is good news and bad news. The "bad" news is that you will never again feel at home in the culture around you. The good news is that you now lead a life whose riches were once unimaginable. There is no language to describe it. Far from being a selfish exercise, a life lived from the wellspring of silence influences other lives - but without our being aware of this fact. Silence itself has resonances, but the way you have come to be in the world quietly opens the possibility of transfiguration to everyone around you.
I would urge you to click over and read the whole post. But I mention it here not just as a recommendation - heartfelt though that is - but because I am so convinced that this life of prayer comes to permeate all that we are, and that accepting that God has called us in this way is to accept the most profound rearrangement of all we have come to accept as "normal life".

Richard Rohr writes:
The most simple and spiritual discipline is some degree of solitude and silence. But it's also the hardest, because none of us want to be with someone we don't love.

We won't have the courage to go into that terrifying place of the soul without a great love, without the light and love of the Lord. Such silence is the most spacious and empowering technique in the world, yet it's not a technique at all. It's precisely the refusal of all technique...

We must learn to trust God. Developing that trust is worth some particular attention, worth making time to stop and pray, and be quiet in God.

That may be impractical, but the way of faith is not the way of efficiency. God has not called us to an efficient way of life. We are called to a way of faith. Much is a matter of listening and waiting.

This act of surrender, this taking of our hands off the controls of our life, is anything but a trivial thing. It is perhaps the most radical act, short of dying, that we're likely to find ourselves involved in. As Rohr suggests, it requires courage - but not the raw, exhilarating courage that comes in some emergency, and permits acts of bravery we'd never consider if we had time to think. It's a long-term kind of courage, much more like the courage that keeps a mother at the bedside of her sick child through the cold hours before dawn. But this courage is ultimately a decision for joy, paradoxically enough. The love of God is the most joyful thing there is, and all we stand to lose are the things that stand between that love and our own heart.
For silence is not God, nor speaking; fasting is not God, nor eating; solitude is not God, nor company; nor any other pair of opposites. He is hidden between them, and cannot be found by anything your soul does, but only by the love of your heart. He cannot be known by reason, he cannot be thought, caught, or sought by understanding. But he can be loved and chosen by the true, loving will of your heart.