Wise words

I always think that hot weather in Melbourne has a different nature to hot weather in other parts of the world. A classically hot day in Melbourne is a heavy thing. It sits upon the landscape pressing it down. When you’re a part of that landscape you feel it keenly. It has a sharp and incessant quality. Shadows are clearly defined, and the sun is as painted in the corner of the sky, ever shining, ever beaming like a heat ray. It seems inescapable and static. The only difference is when the north wind blows, which is wicked and hot; and those moments of relief when the weather finally breaks.

I experienced the hot Melbourne weather standing at the bus stop in Frankston yesterday waiting to be picked up. I watched the comings and goings: the buses stopping and starting up again, the locals passing by or entering into the station concourse, some with their shirts off, and others waiting, like I, to be collected. I was the odd man out, not just in the heat, but in Frankston in general, dressed in a suit and with a silk tie with scarlet flowers on it.

I was picked up by a friend and we drove the short distance to the chapel where the funeral of my friend’s father was about to commence. On the way we chatted, catching up on old news. It was cool in the car with the air-con going full blast. Driving down the beach road we looked out over the beach and the distant escarpment at Mt Martha, both of us commenting on how idyllic it was. It’s like a painted scene, I said, the colours rich and deep, the sea blue, the sand a rich beige, and the trees atop the escarpment a dusty green. Later it reminded me of something Rupert Bunny might have painted, a timeless, eternal landscape where ladies might once have promenaded with parasols in their hands, while today yachts scud across the water and boys in board shorts cavort.

The chapel was full. Later I was told they had double the crowd expected. The overflow spilled into another room where the service could be watched by video link. We stood at the back of the room overlooking the seated heads. It was an elegant scene, different from the sterile chapels I’ve attended in the past. It was an old house with high ceilings. A modern chandelier dangled brass orbs. A row of windows let in the light from outside. Across the road and through the trees was the beach.

As funerals go it was a good funeral. I had my own memories of my mate’s dad, a kind and considerate man with a spark of wit. He had always seemed so robust. In my memory I saw as a kind of Harry Andrews type, salt of the earth, though with a bit more levity. Whatever my thoughts of him were it was clear he was held in great esteem by very many. My opinion of him seemed validated by the crowd: he was a man of quality.

I listened as the celebrant gave the conventional eulogy, before one by one his sons got up to share their memories. This was incredibly moving. It was clear he was a much loved father. The memories shared were vivid, sometimes funny, and often poignant. Their grief was articulated in different voices, and at times it threatened to overcome them.

It’s funny, I felt glad to be there to witness. It was real and true. It was sad that he was gone, but wonderful he had existed. I felt a kind of pride at being part of the human race he had been part of. But then I couldn’t help but feel envy too. I listened to the stories of these grieving sons and wondered what I could say on behalf of my own father. I had nothing to compare, not even the smallest thing. Once more I felt a sense of being deprived. How might it have been had I a father like that? I wished I could feel so deeply, could love so much – and yet, timely as it was, when I contacted my father by SMS the other day to tell him I had to record him as a next of kin I didn’t even receive an acknowledgement. That bus has long departed.

We ended up at the Dava hotel next door. You relax. It’s a different vibe, the tie is loosened. It’s an open bar and you share a cold beer with people you haven’t seen for years. The stories flow, memories are recalled. I had forgotten some, but remembering them again they seemed just like yesterday. How does time fly? Was that really twenty years ago? There seems something strange and wonderful about it. You look around. One of your friends is unchanged. You yourself are little different. But others are older, greyer, bigger. Men now, not boys, but when did that happen?

Here we are in a funeral though. If that was behind us, then ahead was this. I stood in the chapel thinking that I will be here again sometime, and one of my friends I share a beer with today might be in the casket – and one day it will be me. But that’s in the future, now is remembrance.

It’s the nature of funerals that while it is a sad occasion we celebrate by remembering. The connections that have dissolved or disconnected by time and distance in that brief period become real again. Moments are shared and recalled, laughter blossoms, stories are told.

I caught up with my mates younger brother, a lovely, knockabout bloke (they’re all lovely, a great family). He had struggled in giving his eulogy. When I shook his hand after the service he was still grief stricken. Now, at the reception, we shook hands again and with a smile said “as soon as I saw you H I had to laugh, you remember…” and off he went recalling a moment I had forgotten altogether (from my mates wedding) that I remembered again and laughed with him. Fancy that, we thought.

I threaded through the crowd, catching up with the eldest son, and then my mates mum, while being introduced to others. Outside the sun blazed down. The sea could be seen from the upstairs bar where we stood. As it had in the chapel the air-con struggled.

At the end I felt enlarged inside. I had awareness. Life was bigger than I remembered and it ends with death. It had boundaries, but the boundaries gave it meaning. I had commented to one of the sons he must be proud at the turn out and the testament it was for his father. He told me his father lived by the precept in 7 Habits of Effective Men – live like you want be remembered at your funeral. Yes, I thought, wise words – but what would people remember of me?


Our time travels with us

I was reading a review before of a book I’d like to read. Other Men’s Daughters is a re-release of a novel originally written in 1974 by one Richard Stern. It was controversial then, but praised for the quality of the writing. In the review, it is presented as an intelligent and insightful piece of work.

Stern died, aged 84, a few years ago. This little tidbit is casually reported in the review, but to me, reading seems most relevant. I have not read the novel, but in reading the review of it the novel seemed true to another time, now past. It’s not that the themes were no longer relevant – stories such as this continue in life. Rather it focussed on something in such a way that is no longer true to this time. Perhaps more serious than others, the book appeared a part of the Roth and Updike style of writing about relationships and sex. What were probing questions then now appear settled or discarded arguments.

Updike in recent years has been decried by some contemporary critics, with the inference being that his writing about sex was archaic, juvenile and even sexist. The new guys know better. And Roth has given up writing altogether. Needless to say, I am a great admirer of Updike’s stories (not so much his novels), which are beautiful things; and have read most of Roth’s oeuvre, and think him a master. Literature should be timeless, but clearly, there are trends that come and go, and times – and mores – that are described, then lapse. Is it just me, but are Updike and Roth old-fashioned now? Could there be an Updike or Roth – or indeed a Stern – these days?

I wondered this as I read the review, doubting that such a book would be written now, or even if anyone would be much interested in it now if it were – except, perhaps, to question and vilify any uncomfortable aspects of political incorrectness.

At the back of my mind is Tom Petty. Tom Petty died yesterday at age 66. He is another of those artists I grew up listening to. He is another thread from the soundtrack of my life, unravelled. And in fact, his era had passed too, though he still recorded and toured. He was mainstream once, though still critically acclaimed, his music was no longer part of the rotation, and his name no longer resonant.

It seems to me that as we pass through time we carry our own time with us. We learn to look a bit differently perhaps, our eyes take on new lens, but by and large, our perspective remains as it was when it was formed – in my argument, through our late teens and early twenties. It’s the burgeoning stage of our life full of discovery, sensation and rugged education. It can be modified, refined, it may even mellow, and rarely it may be inverted – but it is the same thing in different ways.

What it means for people like me is that I can look upon many things today and find myself weighing them against things I knew before. Nothing is entirely fresh because it is another representation of what I have known before, though the comparison is often puzzling. It means that the things that were important to you before remain true in you, even if they are no longer in vogue. Very little becomes irrelevant with the passing of time, regardless of what some critics would tell you.

That’s why a book like this resonates with me, because it was true when I was made. That’s why Tom Petty means something, never mind he hardly gets played anymore. None of this makes me old-fashioned or retro, it simply means I can see things from more than one angle, and with a lifetime of context.

Flickering moments

I slept unusually long last night, though it seems that come Sunday night the week catches up with me and I need an extra hour of sleep to make it good. I switched off the light at 10.30 and woke up a little before 7 (typically I’m lights out 11.30, up at 6.45). I woke and felt in no hurry. I give myself leeway on a Monday morning because who wants to rush anywhere then? Certainly not if it’s to work.

Eventually I get on the train and it’s a bit fuller than usual because it’s later than customary. I sit there and do the usual thing, idly watching the comings and goings while listening to an audiobook.

My eyes light upon a man a few years older than me in a suit. He seems much older than me, but that’s always hard to judge, and something I tend to think more often than not regardless. In any case he has about 10 kilos on me and is silver throughout, hair and beard. I don’t really take much notice of him but for his leather satchel. It’s a quality piece, but what catches my eye is the strap, which at one point has frayed to the point that it looks like but a thread holds it together. I wonder, why has he not replaced it, or least made some effort to mend it? I imagine when inevitably it will part. What will he do then? My mind slips into speculative mode. I wonder when he bought the satchel, and where that was? What was his life then? What did he think and feel? What has changed?

The train carries on and at Middle Brighton a blonde woman slips into the seat diagonally opposite me by the window. At first glance she is attractive, fine featured, shapely and well dressed. She has a stern countenance though, a look that discourages easy conversation. It’s probably just an unfortunate case of a harsh resting face (I know that my resting face intimidates people), but I can also see how she will age into a hard faced old woman if she is not careful.

After that first glance I take little notice of her. She spends most of the trip staring at her phone as if she is angry with it. But then she puts the phone down and looks out the window. I catch her reflection in the glass and look again at her face. She has the most striking eyes. I wonder what colour they are, somewhere between blue and green I think, but with a crystalline purity. They are just eyes, but I wonder what they mean. What does it feel like to have eyes like that? Maybe it makes you angry, but I doubt that. I want to know more about her. Like the man she has a story.

I look out the window. Richmond station has passed and we are edging into the city past Margaret Court Arena. A spontaneous memory comes to me as the train passes beneath Fed Square. I remember a moment, many years ago. I’m with a woman, she’s Italian, with lush, dark tumbling hair and a wide mouth that smiles a lot. She thinks I’m the bees knees, but I can’t recall her name. We have just watched an old French film at ACMI and are getting some fresh air during the intermission. It’s a warm night and this girl looks into my eyes and takes my hand, and presses it down under the strap of her paints and there between her legs warm and inviting.

Look beyond

Our experience of the world is personal. We see through eyes that are skewed by temperament, experience and state of mind. Ultimately our response interacts and reflects upon those elements.

That’s true of each of the little moments and events that make up our experience of the world, and it’s true also when we begin to string those moments together. They’re like atoms that bounce off each other in our self, heading off in unexpected directions. Together they make for an ever evolving experience of life, and it’s unique in each of us.

I have an example of that, but need you to bear with me as I attempt to link seemingly disparate moments into a coherent and very individual whole.

On Saturday morning I discovered that a popular sporting commentator over many years – Drew Morphett – had passed away at the age of 69. Drew was a particularly affable character, full of energy and life which he brought to the commentating job. He was a spritely character impossible to dislike, and also very good at his job.

I was returning from my weekly grocery run when I discovered this, and I was both surprised and given to further consideration. There were three distinct phases.

The first, quite transitory, was how Drew had always reminded me of my uncle. They had a similar look, both eternally youthful with dark hair that tended to curls, and of almost identical vintage. My uncle, quite a tragic figure, died about 15 years ago of cancer.

The second thought was how many people seem to be dying these days. Of course people are always dying, and as I walked home I wondered if it was just my experience of it that made it seem the number had increased. It made sense. The older you get the more people you are aware of, and a greater number of your contemporaries, and those you grew up around, reach the age when death becomes a possibility. I wondered if that’s how it is as you get older, ever more aware of mortality? It hardly enters your head when you’re young. You feel invincible and, even so, death is decades away. But then the decades dwindle and one day death appears like an oppressive inevitability.

The third consideration was remembrance of Drew Morphett himself. I grew up listening to him commentating on footy particularly, him and Doug Heywood, Geoff Leek, Doug Bigelow, and so on, great names, now all gone. In particular I recalled when I was just a kid still in school when as a family we moved from Melbourne to Sydney when my dad got a transfer. We lived in leafy Gordon in a lovely house and occasionally I would go next door to the Meggitt’s where I would baby-sit for them. What I remember best about that was sitting down in front of the TV once they had gone and watching The Winners on the ABC. That was 1980, and how the years have flown.

Then it’s Sunday and all day I’m flat. Is there a reason? Probably a million reasons – life is still tough, and there is very little emotional nourishment. Still, that has been the case for ages, and I manage to override it. In itself that becomes a source of dissatisfaction. To the world I appear intelligent, confident and strong. I am those things perhaps, but I am much more besides. Even those who know me and my circumstances see that and take it on face value, even though beneath it all it is a grand struggle. That’s on me, I should share more, but I want nobody’s sympathy, and besides, the stubbornness and defiance I had long before any of this buttresses the appearance of being on top of things.

It’s like a poison inside you and sometimes you can taste it and then I wish others understood. It’s not easy. I struggle. I have to fight for everything. I’m so tired. I need tenderness. And so on. And even then as I use wit to hide the fact I feel disaffected that no-one understands. Why can’t they understand? Can’t they see me inside? Can’t they see I hurt?

There was an episode last week that epitomised this. I’m having lunch with a female acquaintance. She’s got this idea of me, one of my personas I guess. She told me months ago when she first met me she felt intimidated by my intellect. Now she seems to think me a force of masculine nature. I try to correct her. I’m not as hard-driving as that, and even if I was there are other parts to me. I feel two dimensional when there are worlds inside me. I’m sensitive, I’m tender, I’m kind, I’m compassionate, why is it that no-one ever sees anything but dominant masculine traits?

And so this feels like a betrayal that I pay no mind to until I taste the poison.

I wander about Sunday doing things and trying to get excited, but know if there is a source for the current state of affairs then it is my job. I feel betrayed. I have been let down and poorly treated, something my manager would agree with. I have had to fight for what should be my right. I struggle to get things done when no-one is interested. I never thought I’d say this, but I have become de-motivated and listless. I am burnt out and quite possibly depressed, because nothing has meaning for me.

So, it is, but no-one is going to do anything about that and so I put it at arm’s length, as I do. I feel it, but won’t indulge it. The day drifts into night. It’s dark outside. I think of how all there is seemingly is memory, as if there is nothing now worthy of it. People die and it recalls to me times when things happened and meant more. My life is looking backwards and warming myself on the memories of better times.

As if to emphasise the point I end up watching The Fisher King on TV. This is another of these elements. I know I watched it not long after it first came out in the early nineties, and that it meant something to me. I watched it then and something stirred in, what it was and why I don’t know. Still, I watch it again knowing that and hoping, I think, to feel something again. And once more I’m aware that I’m harking back to another time. The boy who baby-sat for the Meggitt’s became the man in the thick of things watching this movie as if it meant something, and to the man I am today looking back and wondering at the path that led me here, and at the path that leads away.

I went to bed last night and pulled from my bookshelves one of Robert A Johnson’s The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden.

Dare I say it there was a time when I read books by him, and Campbell, Eysenck, Bly, and Antony Storr. Back then it was a form of investigation. I was curious. I wanted to understand. This was through the late eighties and the early nineties. Now I took to this book to understand myself, and my ‘wound’.

There was no magic. I knew it all. It was inside me. I can know things and they make no difference. I can’t heal myself. I turned off the light and went to sleep. In the morning I woke and went to work.

Something has to change, I know that. Work is dead to me, and maybe fatally. I’m applying for other jobs, but, well… In the short term I plan a short break, a week, just to get away from it and freshen myself up, but not until I know what’s happening with my job. It’s a little thing, and only temporary, but it’s something. I need something more beyond that though. I need something meaningful. And maybe I need to be understood. Above all I need some nourishment for the soul. All of this ends one day, and I don’t want this to be the tale. There is more out there, and more in me, I just have to find it.

Of course, you know by tomorrow I’ll be that force of nature again. Look beyond it.

Not fade away

I’ve got a heavy cold right now that makes me feel as if my head might pop at any moment. My nose is blocked, and I can feel the pressure behind my eyes and in my ears. I took the day off yesterday because I was sneezing all over the place, and because I had a new oven being installed. I spent the day quietly on the couch or in bed and in between working at the novel. Being crook is a nuisance, but I’m back at work today.

At the end of the night yesterday I was lying on the couch contemplating bed when instead I clicked on a movie to watch I’d recorded last week. Travelling North seems to me one of those forgotten movies. A zillion movies get made every year across the world and some will be remembered for decades to come, for the right reasons, or wrong, and most will fade into the past. A few, for reasons I can’t understand, get lost in the past. Travelling North is a worthy movie, but one of those lost movies. Who here has ever heard of it, let alone seen it?

It’s an Australian movie starring Leo McKern and Julia Blake and based on a David Williamson play. It has a solid cast and is well made and is clever. It’s not a movie that should be forgotten, which is one reason I recorded it. It came at me as a novelty. Oh yes, I thought, I remember that movie. I wonder how it plays now.

I probably wouldn’t have cared, except that I saw this movie at the cinema when it came out. I remember it very well. I went with a mate to see it at the Roseville Cinema in Sydney. For dinner before we went to a Black Stump restaurant. In retrospect it seems an unusual movie for us to have elected to watch, but we both enjoyed its modest pleasures. That was a while ago, I knew, but when I saw it was from 1987 I felt a mild flutter of wonder. I knew it was from about then, but I realised that was 30 fucking years ago. 30 years! How does that happen?

Back then when I saw it first the actual storyline would have had no direct relevance for me. It’s the story of a couple of retirement age driving up from Melbourne to a new home in the north of Queensland. They go from the hustle and bustle of the city to a laid-back lifestyle in a tropical setting. It’s a well-worn trail, with thousands of retirees making the trek from the southern states to the tropical climes to warm their bones with their working life done. I was not much more than a kid then and all of that was many years distant, if at all – and I doubt it ever crossed my mind.

That time is 30 years closer now. I’m still a way off and very much doubt that I would go north – it might be pretty, but I’d miss the conversation and the culture. Regardless, there will come a time in the next 20 years when I will need to consider what I’ll do. If not travelling north, then what?

Who can say? A lot can happen in 20 years, and I hope it does. I’ve changed in the 30 years since I saw the film. Back then everything was ahead of me. Right now a lot of it is behind me. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve lived an interesting life, and occasionally a big life. My desire is for that to continue, though it’s harder now. I still want to feel that vibrant urgency, still want to be relevant – I don’t think I can live without that.

That’s my problem with retirement. I accept that I’ve a harsh perspective on it, but that’s because I’ve observed it so much. I’ve watched retired husbands – long careers behind them, but past – trail after their wives in the supermarket. Just recently there’s been a bunch of press on retirement and aged care homes, and none of it good. But I’ve also listened in as retired couples have lauded the facilities and activities of their retirement villages. They make it sound like landlocked cruise ships with lawn bowls and cards and group activities, and so on. Perhaps that’s as it should be – but it’s not for me, and I can’t imagine a time when it will be.

If you ask me I’ll tell you I want to stay independent to the end. I want my own home and space, want to make my own decisions and live life as I choose too. The Leo McKern character in the movie is a retired civil engineer and ex-communist. He’s done things and has become a curmudgeonly old man. Well, excuse me, I think that’s exactly as it should be. Live on your terms, and fuck convention.

There will be plenty who object to my suppositions and to each his own. What it feels like to me is that to settle into a retirement home of any sort is to accept the fact of eventual death and to wait for it in comfort. I don’t accept it, and I won’t wait for it.

For me, right now, it’s simple. I’m happy to live simply. Have my home, a vegie garden, a dog, and hopefully a partner to share it with. That’s to start with. But you need more than that if you are not to become one of those lost husbands dogging their spouses heels in the supermarket because they have nothing better to do. You need something for yourself.

I know this because I have always needed that. I’ve been strident because I wanted to feel life and engage with it. It has become my nature and it won’t change just because I might retire one day. You need to do, or at least attempt to do. All your life you have contributed to society, if only modestly – why should that change now? So okay you tell me, because you’ve retired, because those days are gone, because now it’s time to rest and enjoy. Enjoy what though? The ethereal pleasures of playing bridge and going to the theatre?

I believe that you must put in as much – if not more – than what you take out. A life living as a valued member of the community builds that balance up, from which you withdraw as necessary. At retirement the deposits cease unless you make an effort otherwise. You begin to draw from that account and what fun it is to start with – but then it pales, doesn’t it? For the active mind I’m sure, it would. To take without putting back becomes a superficial existence. What meaning acquired over lifetime of rich experience evaporates in the artificial sunshine of retirement.

I want to keep putting in until the day I die. For me it means in that little house with the vegie garden I must do something more. For me that will be writing, but probably something else to. And if I could I would live like that starting tomorrow.

I can’t disengage. I can’t put things at arm’s length. This is what you have to remember. When you die you don’t come back. This is it. Why waste it? Why become irrelevant? Live all the way through I reckon.

To resist, or not to resist

A couple of nights ago, on his way home from work, one of the guys here was set upon by two muggers. There was no physical violence, it was all threat, but the threat was real and confronting. Both of the muggers wielded axes.

Their victim is a pleasant, gentle soul, much more a lover than a fighter and so he handed over his wallet and hurried home. With a young family he packed up and spent the night at his in-laws. Understandably shaken he didn’t come into work yesterday. I caught up with him this morning to venture my concern. He’s okay, though the encounter is undeniably disturbing, and has the potential to be disturbing for quite some town.

Crimes like this seem to be more common, though it may be we are more aware of them, or they are reported on more often. The general view is that these are the times we live in. Law and order, always a hot potato, is a big ticket item right now. I don’t agree with everything being said, or even much of it, but I understand the rhetoric.

On hearing of this encounter I was initially shocked. You know these things happen, but there is a distant between you and these events. Then it happens to someone you know and it becomes far more real.

After the initial shock I wondered how I would react if faced with the same situation. I know the sensible thing is to do what he did and be compliant and passive, handing over my valuables and walking away. That is, if you like, the rational, sensible approach. I pride myself on being rational at least, and in conversations around law and order would rather take a calm and unemotional approach to it. It’s easy to be outraged, but it only distorts the truth. The solution comes not from emotion, but reason.

I suspect that if I was in a similar situation all of that would be forgotten. I’m well known, even notorious, for being stubborn (surprisingly so). Much of that comes from a rational place. If something is true and worthy then I will stand up for it, but undeniably there is an aspect of ego to it.

I fear if faced by a couple of axe wielding muggers that I would dig my heels in. As soon as someone tries to compel me to anything is the moment I resist. On top of that I can taste the disdain I would feel for these men. They feel the need to threaten me with axes? How weak. I would find it hard to hide my utter contempt for then. I could not stomach the possibility of them prevailing. Quite irrationally I would fancy my chances with them. Even considering the distortions of an inflamed ego I would reckon I could outsmart them. I would like to think of myself as a lover, but I’m very certainly a fighter.

What then? Who knows.

This guy was mugged in Lalor; it’s very unlikely I would ever get approached in the civilised streets of Bayside, let alone threatened. I suspect also that they wouldn’t try it on with me. I have a bit of size and confidence on my side, not to mention attitude. I don’t swagger, but people pick their mark and I reckon they would assess me as too problematic. Even so.

I don’t want to be mugged, and I seriously don’t know how I would react. Part of me is glad of my obstinacy. I believe in it as something just when faced with injustice. You can’t give way to these things. But I’m smarter than that too. Sitting here at my desk while it’s still but a hypothetical I hope I would be humble enough to give way. Quite aside from the danger of resisting there’s the peril – and ultimate weakness – of letting my ego prevail. To be a true man I need to let that go. The ego is not about being rational, and is entirely selfish. I need to be better than what my ego demands, and that’s true in all aspects of life – but much easier saying than doing.


Strive mightily

An aphorism popped up on my phone before. Two things prevent us from happiness, it read; living in the past and observing others.

Things like this pop up quite regularly, and for the most part I glance at them and promptly forget. This one held my interest though. Was it true? I wondered. Did I believe it?

It probably is true, objectively speaking. We’re always being urged to live in the moment, and this is but a more specific variation of it. What gain is there to dwell in the past? And isn’t close observation an invitation to unwelcome thoughts?

If life is but to experienced then I would consider it sage advice. That’s not how I see life though, and is antithetical to my home-wrought beliefs.

Firstly, there is some common sense regarding the first part of the comment. You can’t live in the past. It’s done and dusted, and whatever happened then can’t be changed now. You have to live in the here and now, because that’s all you’ve got.

Still, you would hope to learn from history. What happened before informs who you are now and to disregard that is to be no different from an instinctual beast. In an ideal world there is wisdom to be found in experience and new learnings. It may be ‘done’, but it remains true.

The past for me has always been significant. The very fact I keep a journal like this attests to a need to record and preserve. My life may not amount to much in the grand scheme of things, but it’s all I have. One day I’ll be dust too, and whether there remains a record of me or not I do not know – but at least I am putting down a trail.

You live a rich life that is full of things, romance and drama, controversy and contemplation, adventure and struggle. That’s if you’re lucky. Once it has happened it’s gone, it’s true, but that’s no reason to disown it. For me to describe and consider the events of my life is an attempt in two – to make some broader sense of it, and to keep it close to me. If I don’t I fear it will be drift off and be lost.

That’s why every so often I’ll put down some long forgotten memory that has come back to me. It’s a missing piece of the puzzle I put into its rightful place by recording it. There is great wonder in that also. How am I that person? How am I this one? This past is my identity, even if I can’t make sense of it.

There are other things I record too, a contextual history if you like. In more recent times there are recurring themes such as my mother. Once more wonder plays a part. She was there so long, and now she is gone: how can that be so? There is sentimentality, but also inquiry. I play with the edges of these things, like scars that have not quite healed. I look at myself, what I feel and think, how I react, in all of it seeking an oblique view of the familiar.

I don’t want to lose that either. It’s mine.

And what about observing? Well, I can understand how life might be simpler with your eyes and ears shut, but what’s the point? That would be hell for me. There was a book, I can’t remember which, where the protagonist declared he was an eye. I can understand that. To see, to hear, to query and wonder at are to me the elements of an intelligent life. Life enters through dumb receptacles, but if we’re lucky we can filter and analyse and truly feel what those dumb receptacles experience. For me that is life.

Finally, there is the false premise at the heart of the aphorism. Am I wrong in thinking that most people believe the ultimate aim of life is happiness? I’m not one of those people. I’m not against happiness. If it’s going around I’ll greedily accept it. It’s a secondary consideration though. It’s not the aim in itself, but hopefully the outcome of more important things.

What are those things? There are words that describe the sense of what I’m talking about – curiosity, knowledge, romance, wonder, and so on – but they are not the thing. What is it then? It’s to strive mightily, I think. For what? Knowledge, feeling, understanding…

My aphorism then is almost the opposite of that which led to this entry. Live beyond this moment. Life may be linear, but our experience is not limited to that plane. My advice is to never cease to wonder. Ask why and how, and don’t be afraid of asking for more. And if you can, choose to feel deeply, the sorrow as well as the joy.