Monday, 20 February 2012

Pilmaiquen by Alfonso Maggiolo Peirano
It all depends on how you look at the shit.  When you return to places you did not want to return to, aversion can blind you.  Ask any Buddhist.  It's why you've been a festering angerpot and your friend, whose health issues are way more chronic than yours, rolls with everything that comes along, rolls with the pain, bears up under it.  Laughs at it.

Aversion can blind you to the kindling that is lies all over the ground in this space - in any of these sorts of spaces.  Each space that you don't want to be, every hell, contains its own fertile fuel to propel you forward out of there.

Thing is, you can't see it unless you sit down and rest.  Then your eyeline is low enough and suddenly you see it everywhere.  Detritus you left behind last time you were here.  Sloppy mishandlings, childish developments that created big monsters the first times you were here.  Ruts worn into the road from the countless times you have come back here and stamped your feet and bemoaned that you were going backwards again.  The ruts have countless pieces of kindling stamped into them, stamped into the magical, dry earth.  They are surprisingly easy to dig out with your fingers if you are willing to get on your knees and dig.

If you are smart enough to look at it in this way, with your head turned upside down and twisted 7 degrees to the right, you can see that everything belongs here, and everything is usable.  If you are not too proud to go backwards, it can all fuel you forwards.

It's just the way you look at it.

Death Fetish


Thursday, 16 February 2012

I'm going to go out on a little bit of a limb, here.  It may be a little too soon.  It may be in bad taste.  (And it is in direct contradiction - but possibly some weird flipside of the same coin - to what Clem Bastow was lamenting in The Age  on Tuesday) but I find it really creepy that Whitney Houston's albums have made a return to the US Billboard charts.

Of course, it goes without saying (but I guess I will in case my point is easy to miss) that it's very sad that Whitney Houston died so young.

But I would really like to know how many people who bought her albums this week, wouldn't have really cared to listen to any of them last week?  I'd be willing to bet that it's a reasonable amount of people.

What has changed about people's perceptions of her that make them want to rush out/online and start listening now?  True, there is an almost-romance about someone passing over to the other side, the mystery of where they have gone (if anywhere).  A full stop has appeared where their life just was.

The shock of celebrity deaths are a container for us to pour our own grief into about our own pending deaths, and those of every single person we know, don't know, love or hate.

So while that's all understandable, it's still damn creepy.  Someone has been put on a pedestal who, when people thought of her a week ago, probably would have had meaner thoughts than they have now that she's dead (like the way people now feel about Michael Jackson.  He was whacko before, but now his life is over he's more sad than whacko, more misunderstood genius than potential-paedophile (or whatever it was you thought about Michael Jackson).  How many of the people who are now re-acquainting themselves with her music thought last week that Whitney was a bit of a has-been, or a bit of a sad old thing who'd lost her way a little in drugs?

The superstitiously-minded of us aver that the things people thought about her last week they shouldn't be thinking of this week.  It is bad form to speak ill of the dead and all.

Which is nice.  But it's also sentimentalism and fetishising death, fetishising something that is coming for us all.

And while celebrity deaths are one of those distancing containers for us to pour some of our grief into, putting everyone on a pedestal who has died is distancing the colour and shape, the dark and the light of their lives.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could instead rose-colour our views of everybody while they're still alive?  When it counts?  Maybe there's something helping in keeping before us the notion that everyone we come in contact with will one day be dead.  There are some who may call that morbid.

But maybe it's just reality.

The Tyranny and the Romance of Distance


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

I am  returning to undergraduate studies this year.  Very much looking forward to completing the Bachelor of Arts I began way w....a....y back when the top ARIA chart song for the year was one by Ricky Martin and John Howard was Prime Minister.

I am majoring in Professional Writing with a minor in Literary Studies.  Now, I'm considering whether to add Anthropology to the mix.  It's a big decision because if I do it, I would like to major in it, which means it would take up eight subjects of the remaining 11 I have to do.  That's a lot of the one thing, right?

But Anthropology.  I mean, geez, as if this isn't something I've spent hours and hours and hours pondering anyway:

In this unit, students will learn the key concepts and approaches in medical anthropology through both the study of non-western medical knowledge systems as well as the study of western medicine, or biomedicine, as a distinctive cultural system. Through detailed case studies of different medical phenomena and how humans act in relation to these phenomena, students will examine health and healing from a cross-cultural perspective. Fundamental concepts such as the division between mind and body, the idea of disease pathology, plural medical systems and culture-bound syndromes will be examined. Special emphasis is given to studying developing or third world contexts where disparities in wealth and resources impact upon health.

That's Medical Anthropology.  Or this, Australian Anthropology:

This unit explores key areas of recent anthropological literature in order to provide insights into several significant dimensions of Australian social life, drawing on examples from Indigenous and non-Indigenous contexts, as well as their interaction. With an explicitly cross-cultural focus, students utilise what they learn about other cultures in order to achieve a deeper, more reflexive comprehension of their experience within Australian society. Topics explored are: family and kinship; race, ethnicity and violence; cosmology and the rituals and meanings that attach to birth and death. A methodological theme runs throughout the unit, including some short team-based field exercises that enable students to gain an understanding of how anthropological research is conducted.
I mean, I think it's a pretty good tip that if you have spent countless time pondering things without anyone forcing you to, so that you bubble over when you read the course outline, it's probably a safe bet to give it a go.

So the first 101 course is on the cards for Susie.  The only thing is, these subjects are offered in Geelong.  I live in Belgrave, which is two hours' drive away.  Which means either studying off-campus, or driving, or catching public transport.  My heart sank when I first realised this.  I like studying off-campus, but an entire major?  Eight subjects off-campus?  Hmmm.

The on-campus option didn't seem palatable, nor even doable, when I first thought about it.  However, the longer I have thought about it, the more rose-coloured the thought has become .  As I sat out on the grass this morning with the grass ever so slightly damp underbum and underbarefoot I thought, "What better study space than a two-hour each way train trip away television and internet distractions?  A space where I could reindulge in my delight for writing train travel stories and observing the peeps?"

Ahh.  The online journey planner has taken my rose-coloured glasses and ground them into the ground by informing me that it would take me three and a half hours just to get there.  One way.  Oh, dammit and dammit.

I hate you, logistics!  Time to take it back to the drawing board :)

The Way I See It ...


Monday, 13 February 2012

Fallen completely, utterly and irrevocably in love with Slinkachu's street art

"I believe in everything until it's disproved.
So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons.
It all exists, even if it's in your mind.
Who's to say that dreams and nightmares aren't as real as the here and now?"
~ John Lennon

Song in the Year of Catastrophe


Tuesday, 7 February 2012

by Wendell Berry

I began to be followed by a voice saying:
"It can't last. It can't last.
Harden yourself. Harden yourself.
Be ready. Be ready."

"Go look under the leaves,"
it said, "for what is living there
is dead in your tongue."
And it said, "Put your hands
into the earth. Live close
to the ground. Learn the darkness.
Gather round you all
the things that you love, name
their names, prepare
to lose them, It will be
as if all you know were turned
around within your body."

And I went and put my hands 
into the ground, and they took root
and grew into a season's harvest.
I looked behind the veil
of the leaves, and heard voices
that I knew had been dead
in my tongue years before my birth.
I learned the dark.

And still the voice stayed with me. 
Waking in the early mornings,
I could hear it, like a bird
bemused among the leaves,
a mockingbird idly singing
in the autumn of catastrophe:
"Be ready. Be ready.
Harden yourself. Harden yourself."

And I heard the sound 
of a great engine pounding
in the air, and a voice asking:
"Change or slavery?
Hardship or slavery?"
and the voices answering:
"Slavery! Slavery!"
And I was afraid, loving 
what I know would be lost.

Then the voice following me said:
"you have not yet come close enough.
Come nearer the ground. Learn
from the woodcock in the woods
whose feathering is a ritual
of the fallen leaves,
and from the nesting quail
whose speckling makes her hard to see
in the long grass.
Study the coat of the mole.
For the farmer shall wear
the greenery and the furrows
of his fields, and bear
the long standing of the woods."

And I asked: "you mean a death, then?"
"yes," the voice said. "Die
into what the earth requires of you."
Then let go all holds, and sank
like a hopeless swimmer into the earth,
and at last came fully into the ease
and the joy of that place,
all my lost ones returning.

Watercolour on card by Alfonso Maggiolo Peirano, under a creative commons licence .

Poem first seen and sucked into my pores at The Beauty We Love