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 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 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 a number 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 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 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 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 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