Tuesday, 22 January 2019

I don't do reunions

Recently the ten-year photo challenge swept my social media.  I had it pop up in another part of my life the other day.  The experience was ... illuminating.

I have a fairly dismissive view of  my high school, with its snobberies and vanity and bottomless self-congratulation.  I have an even more scornful attitude to its ex-students' association, which seems to consist of people who peaked in high school and can't move on at all..  Nevertheless, it was a bit of a shock to get a message out of the blue from a person who was my friend in high school with a dinner invitation:

I think the last time I saw this fellow (or indeed, any of that group of sometime friends) was in 2007 or 2008, after I was married but before the girls were born, when my wife and I went to dinner with them.  Nevertheless, I was stunned by the physiological reaction that kicked in for me.  My stomach felt terribly tense and I could not keep still.  My head suddenly felt like ants were crawling around in my skull.  I don't understand why I reacted this way.

I suppose it was inevitable that I would refuse the invitation.  These are people to whom I've not spoken in over a decade.  And so much has changed for me - so much has changed me - that I would be basically a stranger to them and vice versa.  Divorce ... loss of children ... moving to the country and back to the city ... near-ruin financially ... a couple of fatal accidents ...  No sir, I'm not the man I used to be.  I thought about replying with an excuse.  I could have claimed to be running a trial in Warrnambool that week.  And then I thought be buggered to that.  I'm not going to pretend to be what I no longer am.
Zaphod banged the console in fury, oblivious to the dumbfolded looks he was attracting.  "The old me is dead!" he raved, "Killed himself! The dead shouldn't hang about trying to interfere with the living!"
- Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at

This was the reply I sent -

I'm not going to lie: I feel proud of myself over this.  I know what I am, with warts and scar tissue and armour-plating and all.  I know what sorts of relationships - friendly and otherwise - I will find rewarding.  And I have not compromised for the sake of some sort of bollocks about school days being the best days of your life.
Forty years on, when afar and asunder
Parted are those who are singing today,
When you look back, and forgetfully wonder
What you were like in your work and your play,
Then, it may be, there will often come o’er you,
Glimpses of notes like the catch of a song –
Visions of boyhood shall float them before you,
Echoes of dreamland shall bear them along
The past can stay right where it is.  I'm doing just fine without it.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

A killing. Facta non verba

I haven't had time to do more than glance at the news today.  Perhaps that's just as well, because I know it'll annoy me.

Yesterday a young women was found fatally injured and sexually assaulted in Bundoora.  As crimes go, it resembles the murders of Jill Meagher and Eurydice Dixon and more than a few others.  The Homicide Squad has been doing its usual highly capable work, and the Facebook pages of news outlets have their usual combination of condolences and calls for the death penalty.

By tomorrow the editorial and op-ed pages of the Age and the Herald-Sun and any number of segments on radio and TV will fill up with the usual headlines about a war on women and toxic masculinity and the roots of male rage.  No doubt the Gillette ad will get a guernsey.  I expect the incels will also rate a mention. And as always, it will all be talk, and intellectualism, and abstractions, and big ideas.  By way of example -

Last night, I took part in the evidence search conducted by Victoria Police.  This crime occurred in my SES Unit's area and so we were called upon to provide scene protection as well as extra bodies and eyes.  Clearly I shouldn't talk about what we did, and so I won't.  What resonated for me was that that literally nobody at the scene was talking in abstractions, or showing their own cleverness, or signalling their wokeness.  Each person was following instructions and doing their own greater or lesser part in helping the authorities investigate the crime and uphold the law.

Image Credit: Herald-Sun newspaper

The key word here is doing.  Doing seems remarkably unattractive to people who most love talking.  It's hard, for instance, to imagine many members of the commentariat slogging through brushwood in overalls and heavy boots looking for anything out of place.  It's not in the least sexy or heroic.  You can't take a break to go and get a good coffee and browse Twitter and attempt to "subvert the dominant paradigm" (as a student slogan in my University days wordily put it).  And a suspicious attitude to following the directions of the person in charge may seriously affect the entire project.
I think one can concede good will to the commentariat and the other virtue-signallers.  No doubt they believe that their hearts are in the right place and that their words are a valuable and worthwhile service.  But I don't think one should concede that what they do makes a difference.

Image Credit: The Age newspaper
Do you want to make the world a better place?  Find some overalls and a good pair of boots.  Come and get your hands dirty.  Facta non Verba

Friday, 4 January 2019

Cool Change

And finally, we get some relief from the heat.  Yesterday was a fiercely hot day: 45C in much of the north of the State.  Every time you went outside, the sun hit you with a real sting.  Everything seemed to be trying to avoid the fire of the day: birds were clustering in the shadow cast by the house and the pump room was full of flies.  The cool change came a bit later than expected.  It was cooler when I went to bed but that seemed to be mainly because the sun had gone down.  It cooled off overnight, and right now it's a balmy 21C before it begins to climb again tomorrow.

Oldest Sister Economist and I spent most of yesterday in town so that she could get some shopping done before heading back to Indonesia.  It was good to catch up an we certainly had a great lunch at the Australia Hotel.  Shepparton is a good place, but I'm still glad I left for Melbourne.  I'd exhausted the range of experiences I could have here.

I'm feeling remarkably peaceful about the year ahead, and so far I'm doing well with taking care about what I put in my head.  I've got three very dfficult cases coming up, but what of it?  I like a challenge.  My only concern is that this job won't last forever.  Unemployment still scares the bejeezus out of me and probably will forever.  While the future does not wholly exist for me, I would like to have at least a plan.

I need to enter a few races.  The plan to do a few over the break was overtaken by work with cattle, but there's still ample summer and autumn left, thank heaven.

No more for now.  I'll try and write something a bit more coherent later on.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

What am I putting in my head?

The start of 2019 finds me in a reflective mood.  I've been up here on the farm for my summer break through a particularly protracted run of hot days.  Camus spoke of a situation like this as a time to take the measure of one's riches (Summer in Algiers).  On balance, I think this is a dangerous thing.  Taking the measure of what one has inevitably leads to pondering what one does not have, and this is the root of dissatisfaction.

Some of you will know that I've been pondering a lack of friends lately.  An oddish thing that I've realised is that there are a couple of people in my current circle I could become close friends with.  I've deliberately held back on moving things in that direction.  This has actually surprised me a little.  I can't say I decided (not) to do it, so much as rationalised a visceral reaction.  I don't know why that is, except that people seem to spend much of their time trying to hurt and damage each other or to secure emotional ascendancy over each other.  I don't have it in me to turn my life into a psychological game of Risk.  This is an odd thing.  Google comes up with multiple suggestions for people who are mateless over summer, but they tend to involve making friends.  By contrast, being without a significant other over summer is viewed as a broadly positive option.  Does anyone else think that being a loner or a hermit needs to be offered as a positive life choice a bit more?

Image result for facebook friend purge

The other lack that I've detected in my life that I can remedy is much easier to address.  There's a persistent lack of peace of mind that I tend to put down to my (over)use of social media.  This may itself be a reflection of the preceding paragraph, but that's another matter.  Anyway, on my to-do list is a purge of my Facebook for "friends" I never interact with or scarcely know, and also of pages that tend to be a waste of time.  Even more serious is a purge of Twitter: the number of people I need to mute is quite long.  At any rate, the criteria I feel I need to apply are -
  • Is it illuminating?
  • It it uplifting?
  • Is it ennobling?
  • Is it funny?
If the answer to all of these is "no" then it's probably not adding anything of value to my life.

Looking over this post, I think the lesson is that I need to be as canny about what I put into my brain as I amd about what goes into my body.