The sky is cloudless and radiantly blue. There is no breeze at all and the sunlight is clear and palpable; a gentle, loving caress, innocently sensual, that energises and comforts and infuses a simple joy.
To walk on such a day is an end in itself. Lazily I make my way to the ferry at Orleigh Park, the noise of the cars a minor distraction to the shining world around me. Soon I am sitting on the lawn of the Great Court talking with my old friend Gerry, a 39 year old philosophy PhD whose startling fashion sense creates more life in this place than the rest put together. He sometimes wears a mirror as a necklace so that others can see themselves in him.
There are ten or fifteen others here too, but only Gerry is known to me; he has organised this friendly get-together for the Philosophy Club. As the cask white begins to flow so does the conversation, and the tentativity I was feeling quickly vanishes, replaced by an eager appreciation, a thirst for the new people I am beginning to discover. And it is a thirst for myself too because I am feeling more alive, drinking from the wellspring, speaking from the heartmind, revealing myself, unburdening myself, offering myself and receiving freely in return. This is university now, for it is now that we are entering original territory. This is the real stuff, the living stuff: kindred spirits engaged in the dialectical dance; the mutual catalysis of the libidinous energies; the wild jazzy joy of the escalating pursuit, the pursuit of escalation.
Security intervenes. Drinking alcohol is prohibited on the lawn. We acknowledge then ignore the lone ranger and he seems to forget about it. As if this were a tacit carte blanche Gerry and I start charging at an advertising billboard promoting ‘UQ Careers Day’. The plastic sign trampolines us back and it’s addictive so we continue until the sign loses its tension, but it doesn’t break or fall down. We run out of wine and what’s left of us go the bar, Gerry and I ending up in a conversation that is hamstrung by too much alcohol and I give up trying to explain how mysticism and rationality can live very happily together within a broader metaphysical framework. Gerry is an ardent ‘to the death’ rationalist, and I love him for this loyalty. He lives his philosophy, which is why he is more free and more alive than most, relatively unaffected by the stultifying bureaucracy and the mediocrity it encourages.
I say ‘relatively’ because Gerry is caught as well; he is free and he is caught and hell if this is a contradiction then remember that all higher truths are paradoxical. He is a seeker but he seeks now with the translucent blinkers of technique and jargon and no little hubris, and one day these blinkers may scab over completely, but I don’t think so. Gerry is caught in the no-man’s land between the old and new worlds and the subtle offerings of his own unique understanding are the only guides he has out of there, as is the case for all of us who decide to make the journey. Gerry knows the transformative power of ideas - he is a living example of them - and he and I are fused in this perspective. We came together because we found and spun on the Situationists, whose ideas provoked an existential rebellion in France in 1968. That is philosophy. Stuff that rips your guts out as you recognise your own needless complicity in the horror of the banal, when the infinite potential of life lies there right in front of you waiting, wanting to be exposed, actualised, lived. If it doesn’t rip your guts out then why bother? I don’t want a hobby, I want passion. I want life swollen with urgency, a force of nature, magma bursting forth, undeniable, elemental, free of its geological prison. I want free of my geometrical prison, this Euclidean world of Cartesian alienation and I am free of it, free and bound, just like Gerry but in my own different way.
It is these moments, these irruptions of life, that I want to cultivate now. My own freedom and that of everyone are the same thing, this is why I am bound. No man is an island; a peninsula, perhaps. But to retreat to the private reality of the mad, the recluse, the yogi....no. I want to rip through the veneer of public reality, and keep ripping ‘til the whole thing is tattered and good only as a sentimental keepsake, a museum piece.
The day of the party and I know that it will be my last here in this wonderful place. Another share house lived, loved and done; my mind looking forward now to the filming of the Pirsig documentary in the US. Confusing to feel such affection for a place simultaneous with an impulse to leave, but the moment is all and tonight the moment will last for a long, long time and that is enough.
I partake of the fungal sacrament and I play DJ and I dance and my wonderful sister is there dancing with me. I am fluid and supple and bursting with joyous energy, love and laughter. There is no ‘me’ now, or rather there is the real ‘me’ - the simple, still ‘me’ behind the ‘me’ that is a distracting tangle of ideas and memories. Jesus! - To dance! To just let go and let rip, how can Heaven be better than this? Who needs Heaven when you have dance and music and friends that burst your heart and blow your mind and rupture your guts. The night is still young as I drift around from pocket to pocket, always drawn back by the music and I am drinking more water than anything and I know that things have just started and I am filled with the wild joy again, a joy that explodes beyond my control as I see that someone has brought a dog and I see it like it is God itself and the love dwarfs me and I grab the dog and dance with it and roll around with it and kiss it and I know her, some ineffable understanding fills me and I feel that she can understand me when I say wordlessly, “I know, I can see you now”. She is purer than us and I roll around laughing with love. I am soon dancing again and then find myself in my bedroom doorway. My bedroom is filled with cross-legged stoners and I am now unable to finish sentences because everything is too funny.
Uncontainable exuberance slowly gives way to languid contentment as I drink more beer and smoke a little and the night gently saunters toward conclusion. My housemate Lorna and I slow dance to Nina Simone as the sun comes up, both giggling softly about what a great night it was. This house which has seen so many beautiful times like this, I will miss it. How can you not love a place like this? A place that is charged with the sweet memories of so many. A house for one and all.
A house, a home... the question of our times. Is housing not a human right? What is a human right anyway? We have the right to do as we are told and that’s about it as far as I can tell. I want to write a story about home: about ‘home’ the eluder, ‘home’ the cruel flirt, ‘home’ the ever unattainable, ‘home’ thy name is Caprice! A Kafka-esque tragi-comedy with a happy ending: home as an inner destination and an outer manifestation of this re-connection. The ‘Myth of the Fall’ resolved, superseded.... the world itself reborn as a living home for all. But most of the time I just want a home of my own.
Without my parents I wouldn’t have a home at all, I would be screwed. Okay, more screwed. Yes your parents clinging love can fuck you up, but I will choose that trauma over absence or indifference anyday. My relative freedom is borne of their relative bondage I know it and they know it and now it is time for me to face up to that. Shane, their only employee, is gone and they are 60 and thankfully it is good honest work here at the nursery. But my life meanders. The work with the plants is enjoyable and I love the veg garden but I have nothing to do at night, or more accurately I am too lazy to make something happen. So I smoke more and I drink more and I betray what I felt when I got back from the States and god I need a place of my own. Doesn’t everyone?
When I got back from the States I wanted to explode into the world. Three weeks of guerrilla filmmaking and over 2000 miles of driving and so glad to return from the land of the Giant, until I land and am treated like a criminal. The airport staff are interrogative, smileless and there is no “Welcome back”, there is nothing, and they are nothing - ciphers, automata. Someone tells me that they are installing electronic fingerprint scanners and god knows what other anti-terrorist bullshit. It is all such a stupid waste. Yes, the Giant is here too and he is behind all this and I am angry but at least I know this now. I know that he is in me and is in us all, this phoney, sadistic guardian, and we keep doing this shit to ourselves because he is still hidden, pulling the strings. But I can reveal him now and that is all that is needed to be free of him.
Yes I know him now. No need for Illuminati, no cabals, no bad guys required. The Giant is the natural operating logic of stratified society that once was a necessary survival mechanism but now is a tyrannical anachronism. It is the whip and it is the lure: punisher and seducer. It is the life force that binds us together become twisted, malignant; it is all our insecurities, vanities and fears, reflected back and magnified through mass media and education; it is the super-organism to which we are all expendable; it is the hive mentality suppressing intellectual independence and we are workers and drones and we keep pushing and rushing because if we are let to rest we might just work his little ruse out and evolve past this adolescent phase. “Economic growth above all!” - the moronic mantra of the suited ones, who are unconscious, who are in thrall of the Giant, serving self but really only serving it.
And the Giant is war because war divides and war is terrible, fearful and male, and war is bloody good for the economy. I exploded against the hypocrisy of rich white Americans blandly protesting against war as if they weren’t complicit, as if they didn’t owe their wealth directly to it. America the beautiful indeed, such grand and inspiring landscapes, but the Giant is a cancer eating away at the healthy living tissue of the world: all-consuming consumption. The threat of violence ubiquitous as those innumerable flags and enormous cars with their enormous insane fixed grins, baring their grilled teeth at the world. In short, the unholy trinity of wealth, blind nationalism and popularity; and what is popularity but the worship of mediocrity, of kitsch, the only artistic sin.
Yes the Giant is everywhere now. We are all complicit in our own suppression, walking blindly, willingly into servitude. There is only one way out: Unchain! Release the self from its self-imposed bondage. Let it fill the world, unite with it, re-enchant it. One and the same: the mystery is in the flesh and the rocks and the trees and everything. It is all alive, it is all you, it is all me and there is nothing to fear but ourselves, for the Giant lives only in us. He is part of us, a natural part, grown monstrous and insatiable, ever isolating, dividing, judging. He is a coward and he is scared what will happen if we reconnect with each other, with it all - what need of him then? But his resistance betrays his desperation. He is dying even now, it is inevitable, it is the law of nature - what arises must pass; and what grows quickly, dies quickly.
But what is death?
Death is regeneration.
Death is evolution.
Released, re-integrated into the realm of the living... and now a new phenomena, a higher version of the unifying matrix from which the giant arose, for this is as all things a cyclical process. A helical process.
A return, and a venture into new territory. The old wisdom rekindled to fire the forges of creation once more. The result; is it yet knowable? Is it yet conceivable? Perhaps we get glimpses already.....can we call it ‘a new culture’?
Every time I am away I miss the trees, especially the gum trees. Stark sculptural majesty, hardy strength, shining trunk, dappled branches. Australia is the gum tree and it is this as much as anything that makes it feel home to me. And yet a place held me and turned my head. I felt something in Spain that doesn’t exist here yet - culture. It is not the Aboriginal culture that is dead here; they will always have it because it lives in the land and it lives in them and it is beyond the reach of white ignorance. No it is we, the new ones, whose culture has been stolen, and we don’t even realise. We are lost, adrift on a sea without meaning, for our myths have faded. We have forgotten what myth is....so we don’t read the signs anymore. The Aborigine feels no shame; you are ‘pariahed’ out of ignorance my friend. You have more than anyone who dispossesses you could ever have. Stand tall because you are men and women still and keep the myth alive for this is living knowledge. Look upon the self-obsessed white as you would a child and envy him not, pity him instead, and maybe one day he will come to you for help.
Most probably associate ‘culture’ with opera, ballet, literature or theatre but these are artefacts of culture...the fossil record. Some such stuff may still hold some mytho-poetic power but it is only a tease, a taster of something that once was our daily bread, wine and song... our very belongingness. Now all we might feel is the poignancy of this loss, this absence... if we are alive enough and the art is good enough.
Culture originates in the land: that is where it is, that is where it springs from, that is what it is energised by. Culture is connection to place and to memory and the memory is in the place. Brisbane is shrouded still, it has not been revealed, unveiled. It is a shameful memory that is all the more shameful for it being shrouded. Expose it: The massacres, the injustices, the stupidities, and through facing them atone and reconnect with the place. With the river that we need to clean, with the people that we need to value, with the trees that we need to love. For then a new culture - a hybrid culture, with hybrid vigour - will grow from the shallow alluvial soils of West End and New Farm, and from the once red hills of Red Hill, and from the once rainforested Paddington, and from the river that is the heart. The oldest culture anchoring the newest.