Things of Astonishment


Tuesday 14 April 2015

Sometimes, when you've been inside too many days in a row, venturing out is a walking into astonishment.  Today at Birdsland I walked past the barbecue area, over the little bridge and alongside the cow paddock.  It's always very pleasing to me to see this paddock.  It is gently but highly rounded and accompanied by a half moon hayshed, and at this time of year the grass is getting wildly green again.  The paddock is backdropped in the near distance by many trees with green hues ranging from mid green to olive.

Today, the haziness of the air showed up against the tree backdrop.  I stopped, because my watch was beeping.  It told me that from the car to the paddock I'd already gone over my allotted heart rate limit.  I've taken this limit as my marker.  It was set by some CFS researchers who found that keeping under this rate is a handy thing to do if you wish to exercise without too much payback.  That the heart rate limit is a pitifully small 105 is particularly frustrating and slightly embarrassing, but I wish to exercise in a way that has the least amount of effect tomorrow and the day after and the day after as possible.

I gazed at the paddock and as I looked, over the top of the hill came a badling of ducks.  To describe a group of ducks as a badling seems a bad thing but apparently it's a thing.  These ducks are usually found on and around the lake that begins a little further up ahead on my walk, but today as I watched they spilled over the hill, about 30 of them, pecking at stuff hidden in the grass that was gently idling in the warm April sun.  To see them pour over the hill is really not so much of a big deal, but then when you are in a certain space it feels like a thing of astonishment.

I only walked up to the big bridge and back.  I'm trying to live within limitations so I can expand those limitations, even though sometimes I feel like taking methamphetamine and going clubbing.  But today it was the bridge and back, and I focused on not feeling hard done by but instead on feeling grateful that I was out having this walk at all.

The water ran under the bridge and pulsed over the rocks on its journey.  I leant and gazed into the water and the sun ripples glittered into my eyes in a most pleasing fashion and it felt like a thing of astonishment, the way this most beautiful world that we are a part of works.

On the way back, I was almost astonished at the two people who said hello to me.   So many of the people I saw felt like me - smothered under a layer of generalised anxiety caused by a disordered world.  I could feel it.  In that space, everything is The Other, even yourself.  When I am feeling less misanthropic than I confess I was today, I would take the opportunity to originate the hello to more than the two people that I did, and from whom I received no response in return.  I wish I wasn't so sensitive, that someone not returning a hello that they might have not even heard, let's be honest, did not hurt, but I confess that it does.
That's why I liked standing and staring at the three cows that were down near the paddock fence.  Animals just are.  And seriously, those big black cows look like enormous dogs.  Everything looks bloody well astonishing.  All of this variety of life.  It's just so truly beautiful and nothing says duality like feeling like a misanthrope while at the very same time feeling at one with the world, but hey, it's a fucking mess at the crumbly end of this version of civilisation.  But now I think about it, perhaps it says nonduality more than duality.  Perhaps the negative and the positive all fit in the same boat, all together in a messy wet blob.  I don't know.  This is why I go walking, to help ease the strain of thinking so hard about all of this stuff.

Not that there's anything wrong with thinking.  I think it's quite an under-appreciated habit, to be quite honest with you.  It's just the degree to which you think.  When you can feel steam escaping out the top of your head, you know it's time to go for a walk. 
If you can.  And when you can it is a most common, everyday dinnerset, tracky dacks kind of astonishment.

I stood, my watch beeping, and stared at the cows, the gentle autumn sun fondling their backs, and a man and his four children walked towards me and they smelled fresh.  The children had animation in their eyes.  The little boy looked at me with that twisted kind of mouth that says "I refuse to smile at you even though part of my body wishes to disobey."  The man said hello.  They felt like a switched on family.  That felt very nice to me.  When the man said hello he looked in my eyes and his relaxation and positive switched onedness flew across the path and into my head.  How very astonishing.

After they walked past one of the little kids said, "Daddy, what's that ... the thing ... that thing?" and the daddy answered, "I don't know."

Back at the little bridge just before the barbecue area, the creek was holding up some fuzzy green water moss on its surface.  The moss looked like it totally belonged there, even though there are a million different combinations of moss that feasibly could be there instead.  So many options, variable, possibilities.  And there's really something a little astonishing about that.

Gratitude as Attitude, or Gratitude as Commodity

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Wednesday 1 April 2015

See, this kind of thing is why I'm glad I'm not on Facebook anymore. Kerri Sackville has just blogged about how she feels that the idea of gratitude has changed somewhat.  How with the advent of social media it's become something not so much personal and sensory and private as it's now something that you share in your status update.  Gratitude as your brand.  How practising gratitude is fine and dandy and yet it's no cure-all.  It doesn't make a jot of difference to the badness of the bad things that happen to us.

And neither should it.

I understand the frustration about commodification.  Hell, I feel like we've been commodified to within an inch of our genitals, and so why wouldn't even sharing things that are beautiful start to feel rather forced, strained, constrained into boxes and memes, to be packed up, shared, as an alternative to community?  Gratitude as social cachet.  Gratitude as a way of me putting a unit of blip out there in order to gain from you a unit of blip in return.  Everything turned into a bit of exchange.

You know, I think exchange is a great thing.  It's just that in this current paradigm we live in, everything gets flattened down into the same size, for the spreadsheet.  It's not meant to be like that.

Oh, I don't know.  All of this - the ridiculous extent to which we live online, the commodification of everything, the refusal of so many to buck the system but instead to ride that status quo as hard as possible to the very end, frustrates the hell out of me.  Because while it's frustrating, I understand that of course people are going to ride it for as long as it's there.  They're after all legitimately scared of losing what they have, and the mortgage has to be paid and the kids schooled.

But that's just survival.  It's not flourishing.

If I had to propel myself into the future and think about the one thing that I'm going to be most grateful for when we have (hopefully) come to a better place of doing things differently, it will be when we have finally and truly understood how completely infiltrated we are by the machinations of this global economic system.  I mean, I hate money, really.  I find it boring and constraining.  It flies through my fingers like water, most likely because I don't have enough of it to meet my needs but also I like to think that I do that because I now understand that that is how money is meant to be.  It's mean to be living, moving, a greasing of our parts so they move better together.  Not something that people hoard.

The only thing I hate more than money is the system that has grown up around it.  We are ruled truly by it.  I don't even think a whole lot of us even realise the extent of it.  Maybe we're starting to.  But the GFC was seven years ago, and perhaps we're happy to settle back into complacency again, even while we notice that things are terribly wrong.

Last night I watched George Megalagenis's rather good two-parter on the ABC, called Making Australia Great.  It talked a lot with politicians past about different facets of Australia and our history, covering such topics as Melbourne's glory years as the richest city in the world in the late 1800s, through to how we handled the global financial crisis in 2008.

The elephant remaining in the discussion room though was the same one that is in all mainstream media rooms when we discuss the future and how we're going to get there.  It is that we cannot go on as we are, that the changes required to move forward will be far bigger than we can imagine ... but perhaps far easier once we gather our loins to make the changes.  To do so will entail facing down the biggest powerbrokers in the world.   That's all.

The room elephant is that a global debt-based monetary system is not only not going to be able to continue, but that the longer it does the more it is going to kill the earth you are living on and it's going to kill you too.  A debt-based system means that it is a mug's game before the horse is even out of the box.  For the system to keep upright, it has to keep growing, and growing, and growing.  The same way cancer does.  Which translates out into you being required to be a consumer.  Keep consuming, keep buying stuff.  Keep doing it, or we'll go under.

Consumption in itself isn't bad.  It is when it is attached to a finite world of resources, where more and more humans are living, and more and more want the lifestyle you and I happen to be living right now.  It's not sustainable.  It's not possible.  Not without change.

The Catholics have got a whole lot of things wrong with their particular system, but I'll say this about them - they cried out about interest from the rooftops for a long time.  They called it usury, and they weren't the only ones to warn what could happen if such a concept was introduced.  Well, it was, centuries before you were born.  It infects your life in a way that you possibly cannot even begin to imagine.  But it does.  Look into it.  Go delving into surely what is one of the most tedious and eye-glazing of subjects, economics.  I can't bear to go too far into it because not only does it make my brain switch off, but it's not possible because it's too complex for any of us to really have our heads around.  Looking into it, I have the sour taste of disgust in seeing how the complexity that surrounds our current global financial system has come about partly because the mugs, the workers who have been had from the start, who have jobs within this current economic system, are trying desperately to make ways and roads through something that is corrupt at its very heart.  In order for them to do so, they must become corrupt themselves.  And in the process they have destroyed the lives of people who were never going to be able to get their heads around the whole mass of worms to start off with.

And so when I think about gratitude (remember how I started this rave talking about gratitude?  How did I get from there to here?)  But when I think about gratitude, I can't think about a higher pinnacle that I would ever be able to stand upon than that of looking back over decades and seeing a gradual, growing golden onrush of people who understand that the way we do stuff now has its own built-in algorithm.  That algorithm means that so much of what you do that is innocent is done at the expense of others.   An understanding of that will switch us onto the idea that it actually doesn't need to be like this.

It doesn't need to be like this.

It doesn't need to be like this.

It doesn't.

That would really be the heights of gratitude for me, if that's how history panned out looking back in 40 years' time.  It would mean that the kind of forward-thinking positivity required would have stemmed from a growing up, a refusal to hide from what scares us in a fluffy New Age insistence on everything being hunky dorey.  It would mean that the people would have insisted on a rewrite of a badly decomposed story.

And that would mean that the real determinant that makes a country and a people great would have been achieved ~ that the people knew that they were worthy of being far more than consumers and mugs.  That's empowerment.  That's vision.  That's flourishing.