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.