The More Beautiful World ...

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Thursday, 28 March 2013

... our heart knows is possible.

Just "at the edge of your courage, but not past it."

I love sculpture

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Monday, 25 March 2013

Lou Lou by Joanna Rhodes

Joiz Looize, but I do love me some sculpture.

I love how it is a perfect bringing together for me of heart and mind.  Of someone else's heart and mind, that I get to see out in 3D.

I often have a list of Things To Do When I Have More Energy and lately is no exception.  Included in those are the most important:

  • play in sculpture land (whatever that may mean.  This land is vast and I have only entered its clayroom)
  • clean the bathroom
  • walk
  • have more sex
Bell by Michael Sibel, is "a visual representation of the
lyrical arrangement of music and sound."

I went last week to the Montalto Vineyard & Olive Grove in Red Hill South, which is about an hour's drive from the centre of Melbourne.  In rolling hills of grapevines and olives, interspersed with veggie gardens, fruit and nut orchards (as if that wasn't fertile enough) are a group of sculptures.  Dotted here and there, round corners, in the middle of open fields.  Shame I was feeling horrid at the time, but the memory and the photos make up for it now.

I also wrote about Montalto's 2013 Sculpture Prize and the allure of sculpture on Weekend Notes.  You can see some more photos of sculptures there as well.

Abstractor by Jessie Cacchillo and Craig Waddell, who say this about it:  "For many Australians the 'bush' is actually the man-made landscape of a farm, not the harsh landscape of Uluru.  Discarded machinery in a field can emote as vivid  a personal response as the sighting of Spinifex in a desert.

In Abstractor, the surface of the tractor mimics the look of thick layers of paint which accumulates on an artist's floor as a by-product of the painting process.

Visually, this studio accretion often creates a landscape in its own right.  By covering the abandoned vehicle in what appears to be discarded paint, the combination of the two 'waste materials' creates another transformation.

Under a mass of organic melting colour, the familiar tractor becomes strange, allowing the viewer to 'see it' afresh."

Bryozoa I, II and III by Brigit Heller.  Man-made and natural ...
fragile-looking pieces fashioned from rusted steel wire.

Questions, Dey Be Good

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Sunday, 24 March 2013

What seems to happen in the evolution of pretty much anything is that at the start, it's something small.  So small that lots of people don't even notice it.  Maybe nobody notices it.  Maybe except for one person, who happens to notice this new thing nobody else has ever noticed before because they've spent many hours poking around in that particular spot with a stick, because they can smell something that's there that they can't see yet.  And then one day this everyday person DOES see this new thing.  They come upon it through their own inquiry.  And it's something new, and true, and real.  And it's always been there, but then in another way it didn't exist before this time when suddenly nobody could see it, and now suddenly someone can.  

And so that bit of true the person discovers, it shines.  And then other people start recognising it too.  Somewhere deep in themselves, the beautiful real vibrates to the beautiful real.

I think maybe something like that happened around Jesus (if he existed).  His insights (or at least those ascribed to him) were profound (but not limited to him.  He even said that himself, after all.  We are all gods).

And then what happens in response to an instance of truth-spilling is that the powers that be, that have existed like parasites for at least as long as our grandparents-to-the-power-of-10 were alive, come along and try to snuff it out.  It scares them because they believe that they already have the truth.  And generally, those at the top of the pyramid don't want other people to cotton onto anything that might level the playing field out a bit.  Human nature.  Not necessarily the way the system has to play it out, though.

And so fast forward a few thousand years and in the place of some carpenter with profundity you've got rich old dudes with questionable morality whose institution sits upon a vast, vast fortune that has entrenched itself in place of that carpenter guy.

It's always the way.  And between the start and the finish of that situation, everyday people are first empowered, but then silenced.  Questioning is powerful, and so you must enforce the silence of the people by instilling fear.  Tell them they're not as powerful as they really are.  Question their motives.  Tell them they're evil, or they're going to hell, or nobody will like them.  Tell them that what they see is simply not possible because of prior evidence that you have amassed.  Because everyday people asking questions change things.  It has always been the way. 

This silencing happens in every institution in which we allow it.  Fundamentalism is not simply the province of religion.  It is rife in the areas where it is hardest for us to see it happening.  Like in the realm of science, for instance.

I don't know a whole lot about Rupert Sheldrake apart from what I have seen in this clip.  He has been working in the scientific field for many years.  I don't even know if his hypotheses about the 10 dogmas of science are necessarily correct.  After all, despite evidence to the contrary, there are still plenty of open-minded scientists around.  But whether the establishment is as open-minded as its components is perhaps another story.

And anyway, it's always good to question what we think we know.  It's a fruitful space.  And a humbling one, too.

What I do know is that discussion should always remain open, and that the things that are unknown to us are too often framed as evil or as pseudo-science by those who get to wear the pointy hats at the pointy end of whatever field they happen to be in.  People should not be labelled as mavericks because they are evaluating, inspecting, analysing - to wit, being scientific to the best of their current ability - areas which have not in one way or the other been proven to be false.  And their questioning should certainly not be allowed to be silenced by gatekeepers.

After all, the earth was once flat, women and gays were once second-class citizens, slaves were once simply a necessary by-product of existence, and indigenous people were heathens whose land was there for the taking.

Like the narrative in the Old Testament, where God is complaining about her people wanting a king, we still want to be told what to do.  We want benevolent kings to tell us what to do, but there very rarely are benevolent kings, at least in the current climate.  Humans do not seem to be able to handle the power we give them without it exploding into something disastrous.  It is us who need to keep them in check.  Just as it is religion's role for people to control themselves, not criticise others as the Dalai Lama says, it is humanity's role to learn to empower people to not need kings and priests to tell us what to do quite so hard, so often, and so unquestioningly.

It is surely time that humans stop being teenagers and start living in the middle of the now, with all of its ripe uncertainty.  There is pungent fruit there, with spill-open seeds inside.

Mack the Freak

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Sunday, 17 March 2013

He yearns for a move to the compartment next door,
(though there's talk the spoonies are a cult
he is attracted to their softness, their curves).

He yearns to move away from the steak knives
with their wooden-handled arrogance
and their sharp serrations.

Away from the regular knives who
laugh at his wussy handle pattern and his
dull, flat edge that's only good for spreading butter.

What Other People Think of Me ...


Monday, 11 March 2013

... is none of my business.

Rinse and repeat.

And then repeat it and repeat it and repeat it like a mantra.  What other people think of me is none of my business.

I often feel pulled one way and then the other by people's desires for me and opinions of me.  The desire to please, to be the sort of person who is liked and accepted, is strong.  There are parts of me which I wish to express but then I worry that people will not like me if I do.

But then, in that instance, what other people think of me is none of my business. Being true to myself is.

Sometimes I worry that the way people see me is in conflict with how they would see me if only I had the courage to truly be myself ~ and that's coming from the kind of person who is quite often truly myself.  I have been told by more than one person that I am brave in my sharing of myself.  And so I realise that though I feel so terrified to express myself, maybe other people are even more terrified to express themselves, and suddenly I think that maybe I am actually more myself than lots of other people are.  Which amazes me, really.  Because it doesn't feel like it, and it scares me.  I have a strange and scary ongoing feeling that something bad will happen if I am myself.  It is one of my many terrors, and is a delusion that persists.  It has wings.  Or balls.  (Although, as someone said, "Why do people say, 'grow some balls'?  Balls are weak and sensitive.  If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina.  Those things can take a pounding."  But I digress ...)

If you have a strong inner life, there is always a disconnect dealing with other people because you know that you are never going to be able to truly share that rich and vibrant space with them.  They will never see the whole of you.  And because of that, we don't really ever know how we come across to other people, and some of that richness inside may not get expressed well or at all, and so then we can be surprised by others' reactions to us.  We just never really truly know how other people see us.  And we all want to be seen for who we are and accepted for who we are.

But still, despite that true and lovely desire, what other people think of me is none of my business.

It is so easy to feel invisible in this world.  And the online space can make that feel even stronger.  When people stop reading my blog (which has happened a whole stack over the past few years), I wonder why.  I start wondering if I should change the content, make myself shinier.  When people don't hit "like" enough on my Facebook page, or at all, I can feel rejected.  Some days I feel lonely on Facebook because the people who give me the most encouragement are people I have never met, across the other side of the world, while the people I know in real life are saying nothing at all.  I feel redundant and alienated and like maybe some  of those people that I know in real life don't really see me at all.  I feel like the best way I express myself is in writing.  And I feel like maybe some of those people that I have known for years, who know me as Sue the transcriber or whatever, might think that I have a few tickets on myself, calling myself a writer.

Luckily, what other people think of me is none of my business.

Or in a face-to-face conversation someone might make a joke of something that is important to me that I'm never spoken about before so that then I don't feel like I want to ever to say anything about that particular subject for fear of being rejected.  Because I'm so fucking totally oversensitive.  Sometimes this pyroluric freak will take to her bed because rejection feels like its running down her leg and out through the floor from something someone did or didn't say (often on Facebook), and it's a rejection that ultimately has no basis in reality.  It is hard to accept that these delusional sorts of feelings that are so strong are not real out there in the world but are more indications of what is going on in my body.  At those times it is a solace to remember that what other people think of me is none of my business ... and that quite possibly what I think they are thinking about me is nothing even close to the truth.

I have been having a bit of success recently in a small way when it comes to writing.  In the last six months I have had an essay published for the first time for payment.  Last week, I had another essay published in the inaugural autumn issue of The Tincture Journal.  On one particular day a fortnight ago I had three different email conversations with three different editors.  One of those was saying that they would like to see a piece of mine that I had suggested.  Another was to say that they loved my original piece of writing and would publish it on their website.  Another filled my heart the most, because it was from The Griffith Review, which I love, and though it was a rejection letter it was the most encouraging one, telling me that my essay passed through the first round with flying colours, despite the fact that it was over their usual reading limit (over 4000 words), and that it was only because of issues of space that they had to unfortunately reject it.

Writing is a strange pursuit.  When I first write something, though I am ultimately hoping for other people to read it, I have to write it as if I'm only writing it forever for myself, or I won't be able to write a word.  It's as if I have to go inside, close the door, walk down the hallway right to the back of the house, climb the stairs, go down the laundry chute into the wine cellar where there is a hidden, winding staircase that nobody knows about up to a level where there is a flying fox that flies above the clothesline below to the the hidden room that is only accessible by said flying fox, being situated at the top of a 17 foot pole.  And it's here that I write.  Writing is a solitary activity that is about as personal as swimming around in your own guts, and then when you come back out of that space and return all the way up to your everyday house with a piece of writing to share, then, though you want pepole to like what you have written, and though you are doing a very intimate thing with them by sharing it with them, even if it's the whole world you're sharing it with over the internet, you still have to remember that what other people think of you is none of your business.

Repeat:  what other people think of me is none of my business.

For some people, being themselves comes easily, but I suspect for most of us it is a difficulty.  It is the tug between the pull of the herd and the call of your own wild.  It turns out that one of the hardest things to be is yourself.  Who would have thought that?  And there are so many multiple layers to being ourselves that I suspect we can go through life with doors left unopened, that opened we would be surprised and maybe even dismayed to find contained undeveloped talents that would knock us a little sideways if we only knew that they lay hidden under a big pile of clothes from 1979 that we forgot to put back in the cupboard.  Or they lie under a whole lot of "No, no, not that.  It's not possible to do that.  It will cost too much."  And so there it lies mustering in the middle of the room under a pile of Keds and pairs of black shiny pants and shimmery boob tubes and fears until one day we forget that it's there at all when we glance in that room.  Now there's just a pile of stuff, and it becomes easier to simply close the door and walk down the hallway to a different room.

Once you know how hard it is to be yourself and you feel it, then it sometimes becomes easier to at least begin the process of either discovering who you are and what you want (there are always surprises) or else in the even harder work of coaxing and cajoling those parts of you that hide, wanting to be seen, terrified of being seen.  Those parts need the most gentle looking after, and if being kind to yourself feels like a weakness then they have probably found a ledge in your soul that they have climbed up on, away from your searchlight gaze.  Those undeveloped parts of you need rose-coloured light to shine on them.  They already feel a little dead, so if you walk in on them and shine your torch of scrutiny on them, the one that contains energy-saving cold white light, they will stay hidden away on their ledges.  They are already in the morgue.  Candlelight and rose-coloured light.  They're the sorts of light that they like best.

They will also run from comparison.  They are just themselves, and when you compare them to other people's shiny bits that have been Photoshopped for public consumption, they will run away from that.  This interaction is just between you and them.  Because what other people think of you is none of your business.

When I say that mantra to myself, what it does is it provides a space for me to climb out of the raging ocean of paranoia and insecurity when I'm worried I have stepped on someone's toes, hurt their feelings, said something they may not like and therefore may reject me and not like me as much.  On and on it goes, that raging ocean.  And those words when I say them ~ what other people think of me is none of my business ~ work for me.  They send shoots of gold through the water that point out the ledge on the edge of the cliff that I can climb onto, above those waves, and see them for what they are.

And then I feel the bigger me, mySelf, and those fears subdue, and then the space and the hope flood in.  Like the tide.  As they always do.

Meditation by Tonyelieh

Empty Containers to Put Things In ...


Sunday, 10 March 2013

Des epices by Laura0509
Once upon a time since 1999, my brain got punched in its guts.  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is a tiresome and boring name, reflecting what happens to your life when it strikes.  But I much prefer its other name, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.  It sounds much more mysterious, and now that I have committed it to long-term memory since it first befriended me those years ago, I can roll it like ribbon out of my head, enjoying the texture of the name as it unfurls.  I say it in my head as it rolls out of my brain - myalgic encephalomyelitis.

I also like it because its description honours the battering my poor brain received via the inflammation that I'm sure is the cause of my brain being simply so much more rottenly-behaving than it used to be :)

But then there is age.  There is that, too.

My brain might feel like it's rotting pure off its stem sometimes, but I still feel like it's got a bit of flexibility to it.  I like to sit and think and give my brain exercises specially designed for it.

Pic by Catface3 (noncommercial CC)
I love brain containers.  I like to inspect the mental containers that I put things in.  Sometimes, if I take something out of one container and put it in another, amazing sparks shoot out and new synapses form and I see something I didn't quite see before.

I hope to never, ever stop seeing new things.  

Sometimes, when I redefine the container I have put something in, I paint the outside of the box a different colour.  Or I put the box in a different spot, and notice in the new light a hole in the bottom of the box.  Sometimes I slot a divider into the box and put something else in I've never thought of putting in before.  And then suddenly, the contents of that container spring to life, and I see the contents so totally differently.

Who has time to work when you could sit and stare out the window all day, repackaging your containers?  I mean, sheesh, when is somebody going to pay me to do this?  :)

I love containers.  I especially love cultural containers.  We don't have a lot of them in the West so we starve, but I think that is going to change.

Pic by Thrift Store Addict (CC, non-commercial)
One day I would like to make real-life containers for other people to put themselves in, containers that are dark and womblike where people enter in and are transported to a different space.  A space to experience ritual.  Play for grownups.

The world is alive.  And the sinusitis that has plagued me for a couple of weeks has apparently returned my face back to me.  When you make space for something, and you don't even know what it is, when you put the lid on it and leave it to ferment in the dark, the contents spill in magically, into your dreams, into your noticing.  A space for you to fill. 

Something out of nothing.

Make space.

Drink Smoke Pass Out by Judith Lucy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If self-deprecation wasn't Judith Lucy's stock in trade, I'd understand her employing it for this book.  After all, she is talking about things which require ironical quotes around them - things like "soul," "energy," "consciousness."  Things that can make you feel like a right dickhead talking about them, especially (and still) in Australia.

Apart from pretty stuff we might post on Facebook, it's not like we have very easily recognised cultural containers for easy discussion about the spiritual aspect to life.  Like so many things it has been commodified, flattened out to be just one more ... thing.  One more choice for a flaky selection of the community.

Still, I love to try to talk about it.  But my blog provides ample posts as evidence for the difficulty of pulling it off without sounding like a bit of a nong.  And so I really understand Judith Lucy's desire to write around this area and the angst it must have caused her in doing so.  Every time I go back and read anything I've written that tries to name a spiritual experience, I cringe.  I feel pulled in two directions because I identify again with what I've tried to describe about that beautiful and mysterious space, while at the same time part of me is desperate to hit the delete key so nobody else reads this totally sappy drivel.  There is never a writing space that you can feel as vulnerable with as this - or as easily misunderstood.

Spirituality is a little like being in love.  When you're in it, you're swimming in it and it's the world.  And those people who are looking in on your pool thinking you're deluded - well, they're just jealous because their skin's dry, right?  And yet when you're out of that space and in a more mundane one - an hour later while you're cooking dinner or sitting in traffic - it's quite easy to believe that that space is really just a dumb and wanky mirage.

Which is why I so enjoyed Judith's book and the way she pokes fun at spirituality and at herself.  There's something about her self-deprecation that makes the book even more lovely.

I'm very grateful to my mind.  It's helped me put on pants and write the odd joke, but it can also be a bit like Mickey Rourke's face - an inexplicable, disturbing mess.

It's Judith's crazy monkey-mind, the death of her parents and the refusal of career, relationships, the bottle and the bong to provide fulfilling answers that set her to wondering about some of those bigger questions.

As part of Judith Lucy's Spiritual Journey she went on a Buddhist meditation retreat.  The schedule makes you gulp - 10 hours of meditation for 10 days, no talking, reading, writing, yoga or music.

Day four was a nightmare.  It was like all my negative thoughts got together and had a huge party.  I knew I had some self-loathing issues, but this was like watching my mental dialogue under a microscope, while stoned on some hydroponic grass. It was so relentless that I remember thinking it was futile to even imagine I could change my life.  Why not just go back to wiping myself out, if this was the alternative?  It was just my usual string of personal abuse (you're stupid, you're ugly and - one of my father's favourite lines - why can't you be more like Tina Arena?), but I had nothing to distract me from these thoughts and it made me feel completely helpless.  If my negative mind and I had been engaged in some sort of battle, it had definitely won.  I really couldn't see how things would ever improve, and yet the next day was completely different.  The thoughts were still there but they didn't bother me anymore.  I could sit back and watch them come and go and not get involved, and I actually started to experience tiny breaks in the relentless flow.

The title of this book is a parody of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, a book that graces my bookshelves, and some of which I loved, some of which was awfully tedious and not a little pretentious, the author having my own same tendency to sometimes take herself just a little bit too seriously.  But what I got from Eat, Pray, Love is ultimately what I got from Drink, Smoke, Pass Out, and with a hell of a lot more fun, only a little less sugary sweet, with a shitload more swear words and references to dicks and brutal, blatant honesty, all in Judith's particularly endearing and irreverent style.  This book is fun.

The piece of this book that I loved the most was at the end, and I hesitate to include it here because it was so lovely coming upon it myself.  Judith hesitated to include it because she didn't want you to think she was a crackpot or tripping on acid, but it sums up what I loved most about this book - the fact that we are all mental in rather more than one way, struggling to hold our shit together, making it up as we go along.  The culture in which we are forced to live cast us in the harshest light one to another.  We are pitted like enemies against each other and against ourselves but still, despite all of that, there is this space that we all experience at times, when we are totally here, and maybe even feel like we're bumping up against something else, a space which I think cultures previous to ours and closer to the ground knew more intimately than we:

"... it probably lasted about two hours.  I was completely there.  It felt like my senses were all on overdrive - I could feel every little breeze, hear every tiny noise and I was simply drunk on what my eyes were seeing.  Every plant or flower, every ray of light that bounced off a surface was just amazing.  I felt like I was moving in slow motion.  At one point, I passed through a street market and felt completely connected to every person there.  Some classical music was playing and it felt like everyone was engaged in some giant choreographed number, where we were all doing exactly what we were meant to be doing.  That feeling continued when I saw people walking in the park and when I picked up a ball to hand it back to a father who was playing with his little girl.  Everything felt exactly right.  We were all part of something much larger, and it was perfect.  I've never felt such a feeling of wellbeing.  I've never felt such pure happiness.  It did feel like a drug, and towards the end of it, I panicked ...  It was so different from anything that I'd felt before and I think I worried that if it didn't end, I would somehow not get back to my old life.  It's nuts, but it was like I thought I'd be locked in the Narnia wardrobe forever.  I haven't experienced anything like it since and I still can't really explain it.  Okay, now someone can call an ambulance."

What I love about this book is she is so real.  There's no ethereal sitting up in the skies having your shit together.  As Judith says herself:

I'm not living in a cave in the Himalayas, I'm single and I still drink (sometimes I still drink a lot).  But I am less fucked up, and I thought, why not share a story that's sort of about spirituality, but doesn't take itself too seriously, and has no eating, less praying and loving, and a lot more drinking, smoking and passing out, because if my tale didn't have those elements, it would just be a pamphlet.

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Past the Shallows - Favel Parrett

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Monday, 4 March 2013

The term "Wintonesque" was woven more than once through the reviews at the front of this first published novel by Aussie female writer Favel Parrett.  It's not just the parallels in writing style and content - the surf, the beautiful, redemptive surf - but it's also in the narrator's eye.  There's a kindly benevolence in both writers, a certain compassion.

There's a childlikeness about compassion.  But in an age of stiff egos and parasitic capitalism anything childlike can easily be mistaken for weakness and taken advantage of.  But compassion is like the sway in the bridge - its weakness is its strength.

Contrast that with the small turning circle that is the emotional life of the boys' father.  He is one of those people who is there even when he's not, permeating the air with the threat of the violence that's borne out of desperation, betrayal and lack of vision.  Joe, the oldest son, is almost gone from this isolated part of southern Tasmania, in the boat it's taken him years to build.  Joe is going before he gets stuck here forever.

Miles, the middle son, is only 13 but he can feel himself getting stuck here already.  Being forced to go out on the boat to keep an eye out while his Dad fishes for illegal abalone, Miles is alternately solidifying into the earth like concrete, and drowning in the sea.  Except for when he's surfing.  That's the only time he feels free.

He sat back behind the break, looked back towards the beach.  Joe was only just coming down the track, but he was strong.  He paddled quick and he'd be out in no time.  Miles turned his head to the horizon and grinned.  A good-sized line, maybe a four-footer, hit the reef and began to peel.  Sometimes you didn't have to move an inch.  The shoulder of the wave lifted his board;  he looked down the clean face and took the drop.  Miles felt his bones.  He carved along the wave nice and loose, flicked up with sharp cutbacks every so often to bring him back up onto the shoulder.  He heard Joe hooting from the beach and he knew he was charging.

The sea flows right through this book - its dangers and its depths, about those who are sucked under and who suck others under in turn, and about the beauty you feel when you know how to ride the waves, .

The heart of this story though is Harry.  Seven year old Harry.  But you'll find that out for yourself.

Amazon link.