Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Why matter matters

Earlier today I was having a discussion with a friend. We were talking about the nature of friendship and he said that I seem to make solid friendships...or rather a typo' meant that what he actually said was "you have a lot of friends and seem to make solid friends"...I replied that "it's nice to think that we all work together to make ourselves more solid." This set me to thinking about the nature of existence and how we all experience the world so differently but we also have points of mutual understanding that help us make sense of the world. If you think about the way we use words to describe colours around us. We have no way of knowing if people are seeing the exact same colours as we do. We know that we share a standard eye structure and brain centre for processing the information...so we can assume that we are all seeing and interpreting the same wave lengths of light...but we also know that every person is unique and each persons interpretation will be unique also. So we agree on the basics and say that the sky is blue and the grass is green...not forgetting that colour blindness tells a different story all together. Every life, every path, every choice leads us on a deeply personal journey. A journey tailored to our ways and our circumstances. I think one of the few things that keeps us sane...that keeps us "together" is our, mutually agreed upon, shared experiences. I understand joy, heartbreak, discovery, and loss because so many before me have told of their experiences. Our collective desire to document our lives and record how we deal with it has meant that we have an enormous back catalogue of prescribed emotions that are appropriate for any given situation. Like expert Lawyers we refer to past cases and use this to help us understand how to act...and like lawyers we search for examples of legal precedence and where we find holes in the laws of life we fill them in by enacting new laws where there are none or disposing of archaic ones. In a lot of ways we are almost reacting by reflex or acting upon long standing traditions. I think we love many traditions because we like to feel connected with others around us and we like to connect with the people that came before and hope that the people yet to be will want to connect with us too. We, sometimes, turn our backs on the mystery and uncertainty of life in the hope that agreed certainties will make our shared lives more solid. Because we are all barely here (some people may have read my "Little book of Nothing"that talks about how we're more not here than we are here...I may post the text on this page one day). We need to agree that we are actually here and that this really is happening to us...because we are but the slightest shimmering particles more empty space than solid matter...our shared existence lets us cling to this barely solid world. I guess I'm saying that " I exist therefore I am" or more specifically "we exist therefore we are" Perhaps that's why we feel the need to be acknowledged by others or we feel the drive to acknowledge others around us. You may think I'm crazy sharing my thoughts like this. A stream of consciousness... of half formed ideas mixing with half baked theories...but like you I'm just trying to make sense of this place...Our shared experiences help me understand and make me feel compelled to share too. I hope by sharing we can take tiny steps toward some sort of understanding. Well I'm glad we are sharing our lives in some manner or other. It means that all this matter matters in some way and that makes us appreciate the things that matter most to us.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Melancholics Anonymous

Melancholy is a strange beast. It's a feeling I can usually enjoy like a richly brewed beer, a many layered savoury stew or a finely crafted wine. "All things in moderation" so the saying goes... And although melancholy can be the neighbour of depression their contact is usually limited to a polite hello in the morning...That is if they are are talking terms at all. For people held prisoner by un fortunate circumstance or clinical depression... Melancholy must seem like a blissful state to be in, by comparison. Perhaps it is an emotion that can only be enjoyed by the happy and comfortable. Sort of a recreational drug to take the edge off the day. I have always enjoyed the subtle tones of melancholic music. I enjoy being lost in the tender sadness that surrounds you when a chord or lyric can transport you to the edge of tears and let you drift softly, like a feather, back to the common ground of day to day happiness and well being. I am a happy enough person for the majority of the time. This is why I can enjoy the salty sweetness of a melancholic tear... Why I can listen to Leonard Cohen or Nick Cave without fear of being pulled into a melancholic maelstrom. I enjoy the bitter taste of sadness that makes my general happiness seem ever more the sweeter by comparison. I am well aware that I am only ever confronted with "First World problems". Problems that seem trivial when they are weighed against the plight of others. I am thankful that my problems are proportionately smaller... Though I am certain that the First World citizen is confronted with pain and loss every bit as real as any other human, at least at sometime in their life. We all know, or will know, the searing pain of loss and the numb state of grief. We all hope not to...but we are deluding ourselves if we think we are immune to it. I see the state of voluntary melancholy as an inoculation that helps build up the immune system response. A state of mind we need to rehearse... Like the way we practice being nomadic when we go camping... Just in case this civilization lark goes pear shaped. I know it's only a temporary treatment. I know the human condition is, eventually, terminal. In the mean time... eat your vegetables, drink lots of water, keep your strength up. Watch a sad movie occasionally. Listen to a sad song. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. It's all we can ever do really.

How to get from A to B

How to get from A to B
I have never been the bravest of bike riders. I'm not one for fancy tricks or off road challenges. When I was a small boy I used to ride around "the block" and occasionally to the next block...though this involved crossing a "busy" road so I only did it if I absolutely had too. Toward the end of my Primary School years I had become a little more adventurous...don't get me wrong...I may have been a bit of a wimp on my bike but at the same time I used to climb mountains with my Dad and brothers, leap of bridges into muddy rivers, fling myself into said same rivers by ropes hung from river gum trees, and hurl down steep hills in home made billy carts. The sort of everyday adventures that would make a modern OH&S committee fall down a set of stairs. I know it sounds like a cliché to the jaded youth of today but we really did roam free across our small country town. Our Mothers didn't mind where you went or what you got up to as long as you were home for tea (dinner) or at least not long after sunset...Of course there would be the days when time got away on you and you realized that no matter how fast you ran or pedaled you would not get home in time. This was generally OK but it was considered polite to ring from your friends house or a pay-phone to tell your Mum that you were on your way (yes... there really was a time before mobile phones). One afternoon, toward the end of Fifth Class (year 5), I found myself at Sean Riley's house with another friend Bruce Phillips. It was a long ride from my home to Sean's and it involved crossing View Street to get there and back...so to this timid cyclist it was quite an adventure. We had talked too much and for too long and I found that it was getting dark. Bruce and I had said our goodbyes to Sean and were heading off home. I thought that I should probably ring Mum and tell her I was on my way. I saw the pay-phone on the corner and told Bruce that I wanted to call. I realized that I didn't have any money but Bruce assured me that he knew a secret method for getting free calls from pay-phones. Back in my day...the pay-phones had an A button and a B button. You picked up the handset dialed your number pressed A then put you money in. If the call didn't go through or no one answered you pressed the B button and your coins were refunded. Bruce said there was a method where if you dialed the number...shoved an Icy Pole stick in the slot...then pressed A you would get a free call. Well I had no money but Icy Pole sticks were a dime a dozen...they littered the ground everywhere. I decided to give it a go...I followed his instructions and dialled 4261385...shoved in the stick, pressed A then waited for my Mum to answer. All old pay-phones had this annoying habit of letting you hear the other person on the end of the line but if you hadn't paid then they couldn't hear you. I heard Mum answer and started to explain that I would be late...then I heard Mum saying "hello...Hello?" and I could tell it hadn't worked. I thought that I should just forget about it and ride home but Bruce insisted that the method should work and I had just done it in the wrong order. " Put the stick in first, pick up the handset, dial the number, wait for your Mum to answer then press A" he said. I followed his instructions and again I could hear my Mum saying " Hello?...Hello?" No matter how much I yelled into the phone she couldn't hear me...then she started to say " who is this? Why are you ringing up and not talking? You're sick. You're a disgusting pervert and I'm going to call the Police!" and with that she slammed the phone down. I was horrified that I'd upset my Mum so much and mortified that she thought I was some sort of pervert. I left the phone hanging and hopped on my bike..yelling " it doesn't work...it doesn't work!" to Bruce as a pedaled like mad to get home. I bawled my eyes out all the way. All the time saying "I'm sorry Mum. I'm not a pervert...I'm not" between sobs and snot. By the time I had gotten home I knew that I could never tell Mum it was me on the other end of the phone. I never tried the A B Icy Pole method again...but I did ride across View Street and all the blocks home without once giving them a second thought...I like to think that that was the day I became a Man.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sterilized! During my early school years, from Kindergarten to about year 5, I was in the unenviable position of having no friends. I have always been a generally happy sort of fellow and although I have been prone to day dream and see the world from a slightly skewed angle. I never really understood why nobody liked me...at least in those early years. I knew the superficial reason of course. I w as cursed ( I now say blessed because I have now learned to love it) with a cowlick. A cowlick is the name given to a hair growth pattern where a section of the hair on your head grows in the opposite direction to the prevailing direction of your hair. Anyone with this condition knows that it makes the hair stick up or out in a wild manner...for the scholars amongst us http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cowlick In my case my cowlick makes the hair in the front of my head stick right up in the air...anyone that knows me will have noticed this. I have always thought it was an extremely petty and superficial reason to dislike someone. The other children used to run up to me with their index fingers held upward and parallel...like a number 11...in front of their faces. They would shout out "sterilized!" to me then run away. I assume that they thought that my hideous a debilitating condition was somehow contagious...oh the folly of youth. I understand now that every group needs a minority to pick on and in this case I was that minority. I come from a small country town in north western New South Wales. It is called Gunnedah. I grew up there in the 60's 70's and early 80's. In the 1970's Gunnedah had very little to offer in the way of ethnic or racial minorities. There were some Greek families that ran the local Cafes and Milk Bars. There was a smattering of post war immigrants from various European nations...but a distinct lack of Asian or Aboriginal people...though our family was friends with a great local Aboriginal family the Natties...however, at Gunnedah South Primary School nearly everyone was as white as white can be. So it fell upon me with my cowlick to be the minority. The one that others taunted. The one that others wanted to distance themselves from. It taught me, at a very early age, that singling someone out because they were different was illogical, unethical, and ultimately cruel. Thankfully it seemed to be just a phase and by the time I had entered the final year of Primary School I had managed to build friendships with quite a few people. When I went to High School it seemed that my days of cowlick segregation were over and I had many friends. Perhaps it was because my hair had grown to a shaggy late 1970's length or that we were all so pimply and self conscious that my hair was the least of anyone's worries. Whatever the reason I am thankful that I was at last allowed to come in from the wilderness. I still feel acutely aware of segregation, discrimination and ostracization. I cant stand to see people being singled out and marginalized for being different. I know it's a real part of the world and it often plays a part in the filtering systems of education and employment...but It is especially hurtful when I see it happening to children. I try my best every day to make sure that I don't let my own prejudices take over. I'm not a super hero or a social vigilante. I just try to help where I can and guide people's energies in another direction..."Sterilized" has always sounded far to close to a war cry of the "Final Solution"..too close to "Exterminate" which of course explains why I love Doctor Who and want him to beat the DALEKS every-time.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Stop acting like a girl! Sometime during my first year of High School we went on a school camp...I say " sometime" as I honestly can't remember exactly when...though it must have been summer time as it was quite warm and there were Christmas Beetles. Christmas Beetles are a name given to a variety of beetles that appear around Australia in the warmer months...and in Australia the warmer months me an the onset of Christmas. We were on a camp at Keepit Dam or Lake Keepit if you wanted to make it sound fancy. Keepit Dam is a large man made dam about halfway between Tamworth and my home town Gunnedah. At full capacity it can hold 425,000 megalitres. That's almost as much as Sydney Harbour...though Keepit has rarely if ever been full...but enough facts and figures. On the last night of the school camp we were all asked to clean ourselves up and gather in the camp hall for an end of camp disco/dance. A lot of people were excited about this and were already scrubbed, clean and ready to go. Lots of gangly youths with crumpled ill fitting clothes...their hair still wet and dripping from the shower. Before everyone had arrived I wandered into the hall and was presented with an amazing site. The floor was covered with thousands of Christmas Beetles. Christmas Beetles are a sort of caramel colour with a subtle iridescent finish. I was enthralled by their beauty and their abundance. I remember being amazed and then slightly alarmed when I realized that they were on the dance floor. I started to collect them up so as to take them outside to safety. Unfortunately as soon as I did so this drew attention the the fact that the floor was covered in beetles. All the other boys around me...and quite a few of the girls... began to stomp on top of every beetle they could see. The beetles made a horrible crunching noise and a slightly acidic like giant splat. I was devastated that the other kids were doing this. I called out for them to stop...I was ignored of course. Then I saw one of the teachers near the door. I ran over and asked him to tell the students to stop. He just stared at me with a withering look and said " stop being a girl!" It was one of the times when you realize that Adults aren't all they're cracked up to be. I left the hall unable to watch the carnage any longer. Stop being a girl...I've never understood this saying. Girls are great...girls grow into women...women are fantastic...why has this come to be used as an insult? It's like saying to someone " Stop being beautiful, strong, enchanting, and amazing!" I guess it's the only sort of comeback a mindless beetle killer has when faced with someone that dares to show compassion or empathy. You don't see Christmas Beetles in quite those numbers anymore, or praying mantises, or small native birds...at least not since they started cotton farming in the region. The pesticides have done an even more devastating job than a hall full of school kids with blood lust in there eyes...but I guess I'm just being a girl again.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Some thoughts on homesickness Homesickness is waking in the night and realizing your alone...turning to the space where your wife would be and seeing a wall. Homesickness is missing the spooning of your bodies. The comfort in the knowledge that you are loved and embraced. Homesickness is missing the smell of your wife's hair...the sound of your children laughing...the banging of the front door. Homesickness is the feeling of an elastic band that joins you to the ones you love...an elastic stretched so tight around the globe...that every movement makes you aware of it's fragility...every second you listen out for a snap. Homesickness is the sound of native birds...and in my case (being from Australia) the smell of Eucalyptus. Homesickness is cooking for one instead of five. The smells from the kitchen. The afternoon cup of tea...a pot at the ready waiting for Jane to come home from work. The evening light. The children home from school...the asking of the standard question "how was your day?" and the standard answer "good". Homesickness is missing the grave of your dog...even though when you were there your could hardly bear to even go in the backyard let alone to look directly at it...a feeling that you have somehow betrayed her by leaving her grave in another country. Homesickness is a feeling of being weak at the knees...of being stooped of shoulder...of being only partially present where ever you go. Homesickness is a feeling of incompleteness...a yearning for the mundane...a crazy nostalgia for the day to day grind that you had so yearned to escape from. Homesickness is real...though it's all in my head...I don't know where else my reality resides...Though not just the head. Homesickness is in the bones, your stomach, the heart, your liver, the kidneys. You would trade any organ to take away the dull ache. Homesickness is the certainty that you are not alone...but alone in that thought nonetheless. Homesickness travels faster than light across time and space. It catches at your clothes as you walk through the woods. It looks at you from the eyes of a child. It is a dog tied up outside a shop...waiting patiently for it's owner...a bicycle leaning against a wall...a tiny bird in a tree going about it's business. But most of all Homesickness is a call to go out and enjoy the new place that you find yourself in. To embrace change and honour the ones you've left behind by enjoying the moment and living in the now. Homesickness comes in waves...it has an ebb and a flow...the trick is to know when the tide is out and you can scamper across the rocks to a previously undiscovered rock pool and take the time to marvel at the sea anemones...and head safely back to sure before the tide turns.
When I was a boy... Back when I was about 8 or 9 years old. I became aware of the idea of mortality... The mortality of others and in particular my own mortality. I was always a deep thinking, compassionate and emotional fellow. At that age I was allowed to go to the "twino's" house ( twin friends that lived around the corner), the corner store and generally "around the block". It was on one of these day dreamy walks around the block that I remember finding a dead bird on the footpath. I looked long and hard at the shell of what was once a living thing. I picked it up and held it in my hands ( I'm a boy remember). It was then that I had the notion that I would ask God to help me bring the poor creature back to life. I promised God that if he helped me do this then I would never tell anyone else about it. It would just be a secret between Himself/Herself and I. A way to cement our relationship and bolster my faith. I closed my eyes and directed as much good (God) energy into my hands... Using all the joy and innocence that a young boy can muster. I opened my eyes and, I have to say, I was bitterly disappointed that the bird was still dead. I placed it off the path and dug a small hole and buried the wee beastie. I realized then that God was not an interventionist... if he was even there at all. I wondered if anyone would ever hold me in their hands and say the same prayer. I know now that that prayer is said at least a million times a day...all to no avail. Sometimes friendships, relationships, people and places are little like that bird. No amount of hope or prayer can resurrect them. Though I still wait for miracles.
Lessons learnt from my Mother When I was a young boy my Uncle Keith died of a heart attack. Nothing unusual about that... Many people die this way every day. In this case my Uncle died whilst having an argument with two other of my Uncles. They were arguing over whether they should sell the farm that they jointly owned. As a boy I was sad to hear the news and I could see the effect it had on my family and my Father in particular. As the weeks went by and each person learnt to deal with their grief... I noticed a disturbing development. My late Uncle's children...my cousins... My friends... For I saw them as friends first... Began to ignore me and my family in the street. They would look the other way and even cross the road so as to visibly distance themselves from us. We all found this very confusing and upsetting. I asked my Mother why this was happening. She told me that my Auntie Beryl blamed my Father and his brothers for Uncle Keith's death. She saw the argument over the sale of the farm as the catalyst that killed my Uncle. As children my brothers and I couldn't understand why this meant we should be singled out. We found it very hurtful and upsetting that not only had we lost an Uncle but it seemed we had lost our cousins and our friends too. They still don't talk to us to this day. The lesson my mother taught us at the time was how important it was not to ignore people... No matter what the reason. She made us promise that we would never ignore people in the same way. I try to live by this principle. My Mother also told us to never burn books. " the Nazis burned books" she would say...but that's a story for another day.
Some thoughts about Trust On several occasions I have heard people exclaim that they "...don't trust anyone" and recently a friend said to me that they "...only trust people they know." I think we trust each other far more than we realize. I walk down the street. I trust that most people I walk past will not attack me. There are exceptions of course but they are exactly that...exceptions. I hop in a car. I trust that the people who made it put it together in the correct manner. I trust it will get me from A to B. I drive through a green light. I trust that the other drivers are stopped at the red. I park the car. I trust it will be there when I get back. I walk into a shop. I trust the building will not fall down around me. I buy a product. I trust it will work. I eat from the take away. I trust the food won't kill me...well at least in the short term. I go through the day meeting new people and trusting them immediately... I go past hundreds of people. I may never meet them... But I trust them. I live in a small city. The whole place is built on trust. Civilization is a network of agreed, expected and implied trust. If you truly trusted no one then you would not be able to interact with anyone... To eat anything, to use any machine, or to travel anywhere. Of course the trust I have for my friends and family has a strength built from experience and love. Is my trust blind? I hope not. Do I feel I have to doubt it each day? Not usually. Are strangers as trust worthy as friends? More often than not. Should I go through life naively trusting everyone? Of course not. There are people out there who may betray my trust in them. There are people who can make me mistrustful. Should I condemn all people because of a few? Should I turn my back on people or friends that have made mistakes? Should I never trust them again? I don't think so. Of course there are some people that can never, or at least hardly ever, be trusted... Or people that have betrayed our trust so badly that it is hard to see a solution. Some problems are very complex. Some crimes...almost unforgivable. Is every breach of trust a crime?... Is it a sin? " he who is without sin cast the first stone".... He who is without trust may as well be stone. I trust I haven't bored you. I meant no harm. I try to be good every day. I think you can trust me. I hope you can trust me. I trust you'll forgive me. re-blogged from facebook

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

and this is the other side.
This is the front view.
This is the piece I did for the European Stone Festival at Trondheim 2012. It is Odin with his his two ravens Huggin and Munnin.
These are two stencilled decks I produced for the Decked Out exhibition at The Roost.
Heres some examples of paste ups that I did f
or Paste Modernism on Cockatoo Island Sydney