Blog 7: The Conflict Between Outer and Inner World

The soul of a wistful Irishman imprisoned in the avatar of a straight-laced trooper whose duty it is to enforce the British laws regardless of sentiment. A diligent and rigidly disciplined exterior would be imperative armour for the protection of such an empathic and humane inner world. The dichotomy in Michael Adair’s psyche must have been torture! The fact that he spent the night respectfully conversing with the man he would eventually have to kill is testament to a benevolence and courage I doubt I would be able to muster. I am certain I would be seated with the gruff and seemingly uncaring men around the fire, trying to distance ourselves from the humanity of Daniel Carney and the abhorrent task we must perform in the morning.

Reading this book I was continually reminded of the beginning scenes from the film “The Crying Game”. This 1992 movie became famous for a very clever plot twist, but for me it always raised so many other questions. The relationship between Fergus and Dil brings up the eternal question of what love actually is. However it was the relationship between Fergus  and Jody  in the beginning of the story that kept creeping up while I read “Conversations at Curlow Creek”. Fergus was an IRA member and Jodi was a kidnapped British soldier in Fergus’s custody. It is easy to hate someone from a distance.; to imagine the ‘enemy’ as an evil person who is void of emotions and decency. How can you maintain that contempt if you actually talk to the person and begin to understand their humanness and the path that lead them to be on the ‘side’ that they are on? Life is very rarely cut neatly into ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys’.


Blog 4: Blue Collar Pub Etiquette

Last week I was fascinated by Stan Parker’s inability to communicate with his peers in the local pub. Having spent a massively disproportionate part of my time in pubs I understand this problem very well.

“In spite of moments of true knowledge that came to him, animating his mind and limbs with conviction, telling him of the presence of God, lighting his wife’s face when he had forgotten its features, bringing closer and closer a trembling leaf till its veins and vastness were related to all things, from burning sun to his own burned hand – in spite of this, Stan Parker had remained slow with men. It was a kind of unrealized ambition to communicate with them. But so far he had not done this.” (Patrick White “Tree of Man”)

This passage makes me laugh and sigh at the same time. I sigh because I know the yearning to discuss these deeper ideas with my fellow patrons; I laugh because I know how ridiculously out of place said conversation is in a working class pub. I have been on both sides of the table.

When I was a piss head I had very little interest in deep and meaningful discourse with my drinking partners; keep it light and easy thank you very much. I’m here to get drunk, not to be enlightened. The very purpose of my presence here is to think less! If I do think, it is merely to come up with a witty response to someone else’s comment or to recall a funny or interesting story. Other than that all interactions should be limited to a few general stock responses: “She’ll be right”, “fuck that”, “well there you go”, “bullshit”, “you get that on the big jobs “or “none of my business”.

Conversation topics also need to be confined to a few simple themes: Work (usually how shit it is and how useless everyone you work with is), Sex (Smut only, and no sentimentality will be tolerated around here buddy). Sport (there will be one main sport of choice depending on the area you are in; it may be rugby league or AFL. Extensive knowledge in the primary sport should be accentuated with general knowledge of the secondary one along with a selection of others if one wants to appear well rounded; other options may include rugby union, cricket, boxing, golf or tennis). Failing this, one may demonstrates one’s intellectual prowess by discussing horse racing and punting in great detail.

Local gossip usually revolves around who is rooting who and who recently bashed whom. Any news or current affairs must be dealt with using the simplified solutions and responses agreed upon by the majority; no logical debate or searching discussion will be entered into under any circumstances what so ever. Keep yourself well within these boundaries and you will have yourself a nice evening of automatic responses and non – intellectual chatter; all aboard the sweet train to wondrous oblivion.

As Stan Parker walks into a similar pub with a head full of spiritual and existential questions, he knows damn well he best keep them to himself. I’m not sure he really has a problem communicating as much as he understands the audience he would be speaking to. He knows his uncertainty and inquisitiveness will at the very least cause awkwardness amongst his beer swilling companions. Being that this scene takes place after the announcement of the war and the general consensus is that a true Aussie bloke would join up without any qualms, it would be most unwise to question the logic of signing up to go and kill other men on the other side of the world. Ostracisation or a severe beating could very well be the result of such sacrilege.

The funny twist to all this is that once everyone in the pub has a nice bellyful of beer, all bets are off. At this time of proceedings it is almost expected to speak of things ridiculous and profound. At the exact moment it is almost impossible to collect one’s thoughts properly or speak a sentence correctly, this is the window for patrons to express their inner most epiphanies and meditations. Emotions also have a habit of spilling out at this time of the evening. Tears, assertions of love, anger and unfortunately violence are very likely to spring forth from even the most reserved sober person after they have imbued enough of the amber liquid.

Like myself, I think Stan Parker would find himself more than able to join in a lively discussion of philosophy and things spiritual if he were to find a group that actually wanted to do this. Who knows, there are probably a few other patrons of this pub secretly wishing they could delve a little deeper than the mundane surface chatter that maintains the status quo of mind numbing and unthinking.


Blog 2: Musings on Violence

This week I chose to delve into a couple of choice quotes from Patrick White’s “Tree of Man” that didn’t belong in my essay. There  are still so many more I would love to explore!

“Across from him, in the window of a cottage, an old man was taking elaborate precautions to wrap up a roll of notes and hide it at the bottom of a tobacco jar. That old bugger’s head, breathed the watcher smokily, would split open like a cob of corn. Then he shivered for some uneasiness of soul, some suspicion that he too could be easy money”. (White, 383)

What a marvellous observation! The unnerving moment when the hunter realises that he could so easily become the prey. The intoxicating power Ray felt at his ability to dominate and even destroy another human being, left him oblivious to his own vulnerability. The realisation that somewhere or sometime there may be a predator stalking him in much the same way must have been an extremely sobering and terrifying idea.

Nobody has a monopoly on the use of violence. It could savagely strike any one of us at any moment. However, if a person chooses to live a life immersed in the use of assault and intimidation, the chances of becoming a victim oneself rises very rapidly. The path of violence is always a treacherous one and unfortunately for Ray, like most who choose the path of brutality and crime, his story did not end well.

“Souls unite in the face of violence, if only on the common ground of frailty” (White, 247). This quote has a slightly different flavour. It reminds me that there is an intimacy to violence. Wether to partake in it or to witness it is a disturbing and humbling experience. It forces us to face our mutual potential for destruction; both the ability to inflict it and to suffer from it. The smallest and most sheepish man or woman possesses the aptitude to inflict severe damage on anyone they choose if they want it bad enough.

It is good to keep such things in mind before venturing down the path of violence. Once it has been unleashed, just like the start of a bushfire, we very quickly lose the ability to keep it under control and run the risk of being engulfed by its fury. It is not glorious and well choreographed like in the movies. It is dirty and fast and very ugly. I believe action movies do for violence what porn does for sex; it distorts and oversimplifies the emotional repercussions of such intimate acts.

We still have much to learn.

Blog 1: Interpreting Our Sensual World


For the sake of brevity I will focus my writing on a couple of lines from Judith Wright’s “The Five Senses”.

This poem throws me right into my philosophical mind. What is ‘out there’? And how do I know that what I perceive is reality? “Some pattern sprung from nothing”; my senses are presenting me with information and my ‘mind’ is organising this into a format I can understand. The jumbled sensations entering my brain through my various preceptors become “thread for that weaver” which informs me of my surroundings and allows me to function within my environment.

What is the “weaver”? A scientist or materialist philosopher may see it simply as the brain functioning like a super-computer. This analytical explanation may be acceptable, but I would like to escape the dry rational realm for a while.

HOORAY FOR POETRY!!!! I can relinquish the unwieldy shackles of cold hard logic and dive deep into the rabbit hole. Some things may never be explained by sensible deduction; sometimes we need to go beyond our rational minds and adventurously explore a more profound province. Leave our deliberate thinking brains behind and journey to the subconscious, the unconscious, the sensual and sacred.

So what is the “weaver”? Dare I say God? When I read this poem I cannot help but connect the mind to God. Does this make sense? Probably not. Can I explain it? Maybe; but even thousands of words will be just a paltry description of an internal experience. So even if I get to take a ride on a mystical train for a brief moment, how can I share that trip with others? Wittgenstein explained that philosophy suffered from the frustrating limitations of words; tragically it appears even the seemingly free domain of literature and poetry suffers from this crippling impediment. DAMN!!!

Visual art, dance and music can touch our psyches from another angle, but again the pure idea will be diluted in translation. A brilliant filmmaker can merge all these art forms and still fall short of transferring their unique reality to the audience. Each person will be ultimately alone with their unique interpretation of what their private “weaver” has put together for them.

Maybe we can take solace in the idea that we all recognize the “weaver” and this is one thing we all share. We can revel in our earnest attempts to impart our exclusive perception of the world around us.