July 8 2016
To my daughters (and their friends)
I’ve been thinking and watching and observing my daughters and their friends. Most of all, however, I have been remembering my life in my mid-twenties. For me, and for my 60 years and over friends, this remembering ‘back to when I was your age’ is one of the very few joys of being our age. We were born into what became a golden age for those between school and ultimate career; between being our parent’s children and becoming our own selves; between being free-wheeling individuals and the strictures of work, marriage, family and mortgage. Work can be huge fun and character building by virtue of challenge and engagement; children are wonderful; marriages may last and the mortgage will be paid. But the work may be just that – work. Children change as they go through stages which never come with a big heading ‘Don’t worry Mum and Dad – this is just a stage and I’ll be back soon’. Marriages are now tipped not to last and, if the wrong real estate choices are made, the mortgage might be more than the house is worth. So please grab life and your freedoms while you can.
I will forever apologise to my daughters for misleading them that ‘university is fun’, ‘university will be the best days of your life’. Well it was in my day. Now, it is just a place to attend lectures and tutes or go to the library before getting away as soon as you can to a part-time job that pays for your social life. We got our social life for nothing – at Uni. Yes a degree is good and, way back then, our degrees insured we got a job but that is no longer a given with so many graduates trying to find spaces in overcrowded professions. The other thing about our days at university is that that was where we extended our friendship network from our school days into a network that stretched across cities, the country and overseas. Where I met Julia, Ian, Rob, Steve, Peter, Geoffrey, Jane, Jenny, John, Barbie… the list goes on and with it the networks each of these friends brought with them until you found that you knew someone wherever you went in Queensland and possibly across much of Australia. There was none of the social homogeneity in this mix that there seems to be today.
We all had several regular ‘dates’ amongst the larger social network and would be seen at balls (there were many back then), City and Picnic Races, cocktail party fundraisers but few of us formed long-term or committed relationships. Contraception was out and about but it wasn’t the norm so these boyfriend/girlfriend pairings didn’t have to come with the commitment of sexual intimacy that is now current. There were break-ups and tears but none of the anguish and pain that comes with dissolving young partnerships that are three or more years old before the age of 25.
And then there is the often touted ‘career path’. I am sure Leunig has the answer in his wonderful, episodic cartoon ‘Getting There’ (look it up). In this we never know where or what ‘There’ is other than a distant glow over the horizon. By all means grab opportunities as they will change the direction of your path but never pretend you know where that will lead. Understand, however, that many career paths will restrict who and what you are. We have left the Age of The Individual and are now in the Age of Consensus. Consensus robs everyone of personality and individuality. These two very human characteristics are anathematic to the ‘Consensus Castes’ because they represent anarchy. Consensus requires the uniformity required for serious population management at a bureaucratic level that you will be unable to escape because, with 7 billion+ humans to manage we/you, will all have to be lined up into our categories.
So my message is go and enjoy who you are now. Make sure that, before you say ‘I do’, you haven’t something at the back of your mind saying ‘But I haven’t done …’ Travel to where it is interesting (Islam is shutting the doors in so many places so go while you can); date someone new (if only to prove you have already found your partner); don’t do drugs; don’t insult your largest organ (your skin) with foreign dyes; don’t celebrate cellulite as it is a sign of sloth, low self-control and poor health; remember that you are an omnivore and appreciate how that broad diet has made you the most adaptable and resourceful animal on our planet; look after your friendships and explore for more and keep them all tight.
So dance with someone new, holiday somewhere else, make your career or job work for you, change your hairstyle and please grab life and your current freedoms while you can.
July 20 2016
A couple of weeks ago I felt compelled to write something that may have meaning to you as you find your way through friendships, work, partners, family and just life. Since then I have been wondering what spurred this urge to put pen to paper and also, why I had decided to stand back to consider this letter before sending it to you. To me it represents both warning and advice. You make of it what you will.
I now know that my main reason for the following letter was because life as we know it is changing. Life has followed a regular pattern for generations: birth, childhood, youth and all its adventures (travel, friends, jobs), then marriage, children… through to old age and death. Now it is all different. It will be changed for possibly 200 hundred years maybe more. Maybe even six hundred years which is about the time span of The Inquisition in its various incarnations (look it up). This is because of the rise of militant Islam. No one can fight someone fanatically willing to die, taking as many people as possible with her or him in doing so, all because of a belief system. Beliefs belie belief. They are irrational and belong to a world that doesn’t understand all the truths we humans have gradually earned from our thousands of years of explorations into life in its many forms and into the many sciences that rule the forces that surround us. Knowledge is anathematic to ‘belief’ as it doesn’t seek friends or reasons or give excuses. It just explains. For those needing a higher ‘friend’ to confide in, or a reason for it all, or excuses for ourselves – for them we have created religions. The most virile of which is now Islam. Islam operates in cells and these cells are everywhere. There are many commentators who claim that, by its nature, Islam can’t be moderate. Christianity is now very docile and benign – a long way from the centuries of torturing and murdering that were The Inquisition. Let’s hope that radical Islamists come to their senses sooner than it took The Inquisition to be closed down. Now, because at any moment in time any one of us can be a target, I want you both to fully engage with life and get the most out of it while you can.
Along with these thoughts was my recalling one of the best books that I have ever read. ‘The Swerve’ won the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for non-fiction and it is a wonderfully heavy read. The author, Stephen Greenblatt, follows the path of influence created by an ancient poem written by Lucretius that was found, fragmented, in the ruins at Herculaneum. The end of this discovered poem’s path was the Renaissance. What this 2000 year old poem espoused was that to be human wasn’t to endure but to enjoy. It was titled ‘In the Nature of Things’ and was an ode to life in all its infinity, from its smallest parts or ‘atoms’ that were forever colliding, forming, connecting and then colliding again making infinite and ordinary the pieces of the universe, us included. Not bad for 2000 years ago when there was no such thing as a microscope let alone a hadron collider. But this philosophy challenged concepts such as human duty, sacrifice and obligation to reach the beyond Earth heaven so promised in religions. This humanist mindset promoted making the most of life; what you see, what you do, how well you do it, what you enjoy and what you have – because this is the all of it. For Lucretius, and Epicurus before him, the Jack Nicholson/Helen Hunt film title As Good as it Gets about sums it up.
There is no way all the ridiculous Political Correctness now destroying classic Australian irreverence will wish away what is happening in Islam. Without a change coming from the top of Islam there can’t be change. The trouble is that it is a cell/caliphate based organization with no global leader.
23 July 2016
Addendum after reading Michael Jensen’s article
Beyond these ruminations remains my constant amazement that our world is so held in thrall by three Middle Eastern monotheistic religions that all boast a hugely vengeful, retributive and nasty larger-than-life ‘mono’ CEO style personality that is believed to issue punishments and rewards according to an amazingly conflicting set of rules. These religions come from countries that have struggled, at landscape level, for survival for thousands of years – hence the fracturing into numerically smaller, more easily sustainable, tribal groups that typify these regions. Hence, the incredible plurality of tribally-based religious sects stretching from North Africa to the Middle East to the Indian Subcontinent. They are designed to appeal to the proletariat/the poor/the sick; those without hope, needing hope for which they trade critical and questioning thinking and self-determination. Religion, in whatever form, insults human intelligence while it feeds on human fears. No Michael Jensen, you are wrong, it is quite easy to grow up without religion or any need or reference to it in any of the various forms of ‘reverence’ that you quoted. It is easy to grow up constantly curious and sceptical about everything and everyone. Not going to Sunday school or the local madrasa helps of course. Without these early mind shapers you just have to think for yourself and then you too would be as amazed as I am that people still, actually, Believe in the unbelievable. And are willing to kill and die for this.
Eric Bogle has a song There Must Be a Reason for It All. No there doesn’t. But if we keep thinking and seeking we will continue to find the explanations without having to give up on our one excellence, intelligence, and invent beliefs.