Tuesday August 30th

The most important thing in my teaching/learning day is to make some space at the start of the day for unstructured, free-wheeling contemplation. This morning this meant going for a long walk to the Bird-Hide in Homebush Bicentennial Park, reconnecting with greenery, with the life of water birds and with the early history of Sydney … the two-up games played in the Mangrove swamps during the depression, the ship Hulks derelict from the Second World War and earlier… the reclamation of this amazing tract of land from the industry that squatted there up to 10 ten years ago… now it boasts one of the last remaining stands of salt-flat- spinifex along the banks of the Parramatta River…. and water birds migrate here from Siberia!
And then some space for reflection and gathering of thoughts for the day: much to be done… but not to allow it to crowd my thinking. One thing at a time, with attention, with care, with joy…
Yesterday we circled around Virginia Woolf in 20thC Literature. I spoke about her and Katherine Mansfield and George Orwell… as all committed to letting the “Truth” emerge from the hierarchical structures and the structures of deception which “Society” creates around us all. So in the hands of these masters of Literature, the creative Word, IS the word of liberation… and, each in their own way experiments with language, almost like an instrument of magic, seeing how it can penetrate through the tough surface texture of “Untruth” which crowds us all in…
Strangely the same theme is appearing in the text we are doing in Australian Literature: Helen Garner’s Joe Cinque’s Consolation; this is an extraordinary book that has at its heart a feelingful quest to redeem the murdered Joe Cinque from the indifference and deception that surrounds his mysterious death. His parents in particular, Maria and Nino, are the silent sufferers who our law courts really make no allowance for. Helen Garner, in the role of the Angel of LIterature, uses LIterature here to save society from its own worst rigidities. The rationalistic, unfeeling Law, which we have produced, is shown to be deeply wanting in what human beings truly need. But the book goes further: it dares to suggest that our whole society has essentially been shaped by the forces that shaped the legal system. Unlike more “primitive” societies, where more credit is given to the domain of feeling, of conscience, of love… our society bends to the rationalist legal eagles, accepts their judgments as final… goes along with the status quo… privately perhaps hating it, but fundamentally approving of a system designed to privilege the individual over the group. Leave us alone our society cries… I want my way… I don’t really want to think about the suffering of anyone else….
In this context I was deeply struck a few weeks ago by a talk I attended by an Aboriginal Elder- a woman- who spoke about Aboriginal Spirituality. The cornerstone of her talk was her declaration that for the Aboriginal every living thing that we meet in the day has to be regarded as a potential manifestation of the creator… and that if we live our life with this consciousness then all will be well.. this is how we should live… with care of others uppermost in our hearts…
But how difficult this is for us individualists, locked in a society where “I” is the holy icon to which we bow down day and night.


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