An afternoon at Purling Brook

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The whole eastern half of Australia has been in the grips of a crippling drought. Farms have been devastated as the big dry stomped cracks across the land. A close ally of mine works in mental health and recalled a story of a farmer who’d lost everything. The bank told him to liquidate his stock as it wasn’t worth taking to market. He took his rifle down to the dusty paddock where his cattle were corralled, shot them, then turned the gun on himself. The cost of this drought has been horrendous.
Just recently we’ve had rain! Up and down the coast there has been some relief, with torrential rain hammering the land. You could say life, and with it her sister hope has returned to the land.

Purling Brook waterfalls are cradled in the Gold Coast hinterland. It’s a world of giant trees, majestic cliffs, oceans of greens, creepies, crawlies, peaceful waterholes and powerful waterfalls. To be honest, the last time I was at Purling Brook this drought really had it’s hand around the neck of the country. The usual free-flowing creeks and rivers had been reduced to a trickle. The mighty Purling Brook falls were as a leaky tap, drip, drip, dripping downstream. I knew this recent rain would breathe life into this wonderful part of the world.

One of the things that makes this waterfall particularly appealing is that it’s off the usual tourist road. The entry point is too steep for 21 seat mini-buses full of snap-happy, loud tourists. It’s not as widely known as the lovely Natural Bridge or Springbrook. It’s a little piece of paradise in an ocean of beauty. Being classically introverted, this place suits me perfectly!

So with an afternoon to myself, a mind clouded with the noise of life and a camera just itching to be used I headed to Purling Brook. To be honest, I’ve been going through my own personal drought, the details important to those know know and love me. I was all in knots, angry, scared, tense and worried. Johnny and June kept me company as I wound up the mountain, ready to answer the call of the wild. It’s just over an hour from my place, half an hour on the rat-race freeway, the other half swirling up and down those steep, windy mountain roads. Without a doubt, getting there is a particularly enjoyable drive for anyone who loves a path less traveled. I kept peering at the peaks around me, some covered in clouds, some basking in golden glory. I selfishly prayed that the rain would hold off just for me! In my small backpack I added a brolly and a plastic bag (one that the government forced me to buy!) just in case everything went pear-shaped and the heavens opened once again.

I parked in the waterlogged, muddy carpark. Attune your senses to this: you open the door and feel a wave of cool, humid mountain air filling your lungs. It’s perfectly still, a calm after the storm. The chime of crickets and croak of frogs surrounds you. That hot southern sun seems so much friendlier up here, and it’s a welcome relief to your previously air-conditioned skin. Feel your shoes sink slightly into the soft, fresh mud. Hear the squelch as you trundle across the sparsely populated carpark. The trail to the top of the falls is covered by a cathedral of trees. It doesn’t take long for the sound of crickets, frogs and birds to be drowned out by the roar of the falls!

The entry point to the falls is at the summit. The gentle path runs parallel to the brook. Waters rush and gurgle over rocks, then rest in seemingly still pools. This irregular pattern continues as the path runs down to the final drop down the roaring falls. There’s a lookout just to the right of the falls and boy, it does not disappoint. Undulating valleys weave into each other, leading to the coast. In the far off distance, the skyscrapers of Surfers Paradise remind you that you’re not meant to be anywhere but here. All you can hear is the rush of water as it gallops over the precipice. It’s unrelenting. It’s fluid motion contrasts against the unmoving cliffs. Your eyes are both fixed and darting, as if you can focus on a single drop of water as it pours downwards. All I can do is stop. Stop. Take it in. Be. Be thankful. Be grateful. A trickle of sightseers skip down the stairs, taking selfies and videos before heading back to their cars in search of the next lookout or falls. Me however – I just pause. I’ve got no schedule to keep, save for the nightly schedule of the setting sun. The rains had meant the park rangers had closed off the path to the bottom of the falls, and I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to take the trek down. My disappointment turned to joy however, as on my way back to the car the rangers had arrived to unlock the gates and give the ‘all clear’!

There’s something perfect about walking alone in a rainforest. My ears were caressed by the sounds of birds, the scuffles of unseen critters in the undergrowth and the ever present rush of the waterfalls. My skin was cooled by that cool mountain air. Gentle breezes sift through ancient rainforests and glided over my skin. I find myself in quiet contemplation. I utter short but heartfelt prayers – confessions, requests for forgiveness and gratitude. I find myself freed from many of the chains that bound my soul. Like the sunlight peering through the canopy, rays of heavenly light warm my spirit.

My pleasurable amble continued down the mountain until I hear an unusual shuffle in the undergrowth! It was too slow to be a reptile and too ‘shuffly’ to be a kangaroo or wallaby. My interest was instantly aroused. I stopped, turned, paused and listened. ‘Shuffle shuffle. Shuffle. Shuffle shuffle’ I listened intently. I focused my eyes on the undergrowth, looking for movement until there it was! Something I’d never, ever seen in the wild before. There, shuffling about in the undergrowth it was. An echidna! Long spines slicked backwards, covering a wombly yet strangely agile body. My camera is on. I snap. And snap. And snap away! I get as close as I can, clearing away some of the undergrowth to get a clearer shot. I try to stay still, and my patience is rewarded! This peculiar creature revealed its inquisitive head from it’s makeshift burrow. I’m about a foot away and it sniffs the air nonchalantly and pauses just long enough for me to take a snap! It was a truly memorable moment!

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My walk continued downwards. Fallen tree trunks became beds for bright green moss. Creepers inched up towards the canopy. Twisted roots from mighty trees snake across the path. The lower I get down the valley, the louder the sound of the waterfall becomes. My excitement builds. The humidity increases. Mist from the mighty fall seeps into the valley floor. I turn one more corner, and there is is. The foot of the serenely violent falls comes into view! The spray can be felt over 50 meters away. It refreshes my body, covers my glasses and feels just perfect. I only took a handful of snaps, sometimes a memory captures a moment better then an image. I’m alone, it’s peaceful, it’s perfect. After perhaps ten or so minutes, a pair of university students emerge from the track and share this perfect moment. A somewhat cheeky grin rippled across my face when they both asked me to take a few snaps of them in front of the waterfall, then announced that they’d be taking a dip in the pool below the falls. They stripped down to their bikinis, I gave a wink and headed back up the trail.

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The walk to the bottom of the falls is a ring track. Down one side of the falls and up the other. The decent is much more severe – a few hundred steps, much steeper and unforgiving. The trip back up is much more leisurely. I find I’m still cooled from the spray of the waterfall and the walk up is done at a brisk but enjoyable pace. Glimpses of other waterfalls and those beautiful valleys punctuate the lovely mountain trail. The afternoon sun slowly turns brilliant greens to gold. I’ve found a few hitchikers along the way – small leeches are flicked off my ankles, leaving trickles of blood running an irregularly shaped path down my leg.

I find my way back to my car. I’m slightly puffed, sweaty, smelly and hungry. I also feel like a different man, compared to the one that got out of this very car not a few short hours ago. My soul feels restored and my spirits lifted. I feel like I’ve been given spoonfuls of grace, light and love – the very remedy that I needed for such a time as this. Once again I feel an immense sense of gratitude – thankful for what I have and no longer envious of what I do not. I may have spent a few hours, but there were immediate returns on the investment. Time well spent alone, in this pristine wilderness, wrapped in the safety of the All mighty – what a way to spend the afternoon!

 

 

 

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Ban the Bag Ban

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The great state of Queensland has recently implemented legislation to outlaw ‘single-use’ plastic bags. It is now an offence for a retailer to supply ‘single-use’ plastic bags to their consumers. The rationale for this legislation is based on ‘environmental concerns’. Consumers can now buy plastic bags to use for 15c, or the more sturdy ones for a dollar or so – both made of plastics.  

Queensland has had the ‘big two’ supermarkets forever, that have supplied the ‘single-use’ plastic bags, no doubt the cost had been factored in to their bottom line. Aldi, newish to Queensland have made their shoppers bring their own bags, and pack their shopping themselves. It was a business decision 

How a business decides to pack shopping should be between the business and the consumer. It’s a private transaction. Consumers in our mostly market driven economy should have a choice on where they shop. Aldi customers were prepared to pay less for their shopping and have the inconvenience of bringing their own shopping bags and packing their shopping. Inversely, consumers of the other supermarkets paid more for the convenience of the shop supplying and packing their bags (until the automated checkouts started). It was a private transaction between two private parties.

I could talk about how many times I’ve used single-use plastic bags multiple times – including using them for bin liners, vomit bags, sandwich bags, or even using them as bags again. I could talk about how now there is the single-use plastic bag ban, I still have to buy MORE plastic bags to line my bins, but I won’t. My gripe is simply this:

Why have we, as a society, let ‘the government’ determine how we carry our own shopping home? Why do we have that level of interference by ‘the government’, that we have gotten to a situation where we have allowed them to be involved with such a mundane, routine decision as how we can carry our shopping home? Does anyone else find that obscenely obtrusive?

I was at my local supermarket the other night, griping (again) to the checkout person on why the government feels fit to tell me how I can transport my shopping. The checkout person told me that even if I was to bring my old ‘single-use’ plastic bag to use again, they are not allowed to fill it up.

I recall a few years ago when my children were in day-care, the local council had mandated what lunch wrapping and lunch bags could be used for my kids lunches!

If a retailer or supermarket makes a decision that they will stop supplying bags, good on them. It’s their decision to make, and consumers will act accordingly. For ‘the government’ to tell me (and you!) that they know better than me (and you) on the most appropriate way to take my shopping home – makes my blood boil. 

So who’s with me – let’s ban the bag ban! I’m sick of being told how I can take my shopping home, having ‘the government’ dictating such a non-decision to me. BAN THE BAG BAN!

 

Living up to the rules you create

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Have you ever told your child to stop yelling, then five minutes later you’re yelling?
How about told them to be respectful of their elders, then shortly after you find yourself badmouthing your elders?
It’s a pretty rotten feeling, isn’t it – breaking your own rules. It sets a pretty bad example.

What about the big name politician or preacher who stands for solid family values, then gets found out for having affairs? They’re unable to live up to their own lofty rules they wanted to create.

It’s infuriating when someone sets rules (especially for someone else) when they themselves don’t follow them. It certainly infuriates me.

There’s a lot of people now wanting to create a lot of rules, laws and regulations. Only a few years ago I got a letter from my children’s pre-school. It informed me that the local council will now be regulating what the children’s lunch is wrapped in!

You’ve probably heard a lot of talk about diversity. Heard slogans like ‘diversity is our strength’. Maybe you’ve heard an employer wanting to employ a more diverse workforce. You might have heard of diversity targets or quotas. Probably the most common one you hear is increasing the representation of women on company boards and senior management positions. Some people are even arguing that this should be legislated, with companies having to report what they are doing to encourage women into senior leadership and board positions. Am I saying women in senior management and boards is a bad thing? Certainly not! As an interesting side note, you never hear anyone arguing for women to be working down mines or driving trucks at the same rate as men. Inversely, I’ve never ever ever heard of anyone arguing for quotas for men to be equally represented in nursing or teaching. I’ll make a generalised assumption here and say that it is the more progressive section of our society arguing for an increase (and legislation) in women in senior leadership and board positions.

There’s also a concurrent movement happening  in relation to the recognition of a range of sexual attractions and gender identities. The most recent big thing to happen in Australia is legislation passing to allow same-sex couples to marry. Some Australian states currently have legislation in place, or are considering legislation to allow a person to change their gender identity on their birth certificate. These rules differ from state to state. In most states that have changed this law, there needs to be medical evidence of a change of gender, for example, evidence of gender reassignment surgery.  There is consideration to change the law in Queensland allowing a person to change their gender on their birth certificate based on their feelings. That is, a person can update their gender on their birth certificate without any other evidence. A man can simply identify as a woman, but continue to live as they were without any outward or inward changes and request to have his (her!) gender on their birth certificate changed. I’ll again make a generalised assumption here and say that these and similar changes have been championed by the more progressive leaning in our society.

The most common responses you hear from people at the sound of this is something along the lines of “I don’t want a man who thinks he’s a woman in the toilets with my wife/girlfriend/mother/daughter”. Very valid concerns indeed. I also want to convey my sincerest desire that no one should be legally discriminated, bullied or harassed based on their gender identity or sexual attractions. Secondly, my sincerest thoughts genuinely extend to people who have a schism between their biological identity and their truly held belief that it doesn’t represent the gender they identify with. I personally can’t imagine how difficult it would be to wrestle with competing identities, societal expectations and discrimination.

So now, we have the more progressive leaning in our society arguing for an increase in women in senior leadership and board positions, including legislating for organisations to increase the representation of women in these positions. We also have the more progressive leaning in our society arguing (successfully, in some states) that gender is fluid and a biological fact on a birth certificate can be changed, and changed based on a feeling. If legislation proposed in Queensland is passed, it would be possible for a man simply to change his/her birth certificate to a woman based on their current feelings.

Let’s follow this through to some not-impossible real world implications. Keep in mind that male-to-female athletes have started to compete in women’s teams, often dominating their biologically women competitors in the process. A company wants to increase the representation of women at a particular level of seniority and puts measures in place to mentor and recruit female employees into those roles. It would not be impossible for a man in Queensland to feel he was a bit womanly, change his legal birth certificate to female and apply for those roles. The company would not be able to prevent him from applying based on his gender, as he is now legally a she. It’s possible that his nomination and acceptance means a more qualified, talented or motivated woman is unable to attend. It’s not impossible.

I prefaced this article based on living up to the rules you create. Living up to the laws you create. Have you noticed laws often have the reverse impact, or require more laws to counteract the negative impacts of those laws. A recent example in Australia is laws being updated that GST (essentially, our sales tax) to be applied to internet purchases from places like Amazon in the US. It was expected that this would net a massive increases in tax revenue. You know what happened? Amazon US now simply refuses to ship goods to Australia. No more taxes for Malcolm!

If you put a law in place to prevent discrimination against women, I promise you that before too long, people who identify as intersex will want a law to prevent discrimination against them. If you put a law in place to prevent people being nasty to others because of their race, gender or beliefs, you might be able to prosecute a few idiots who sprout off unkind things. What you will achieve is not more tolerance or diversity, but less people willing to talk openly and honestly about genuine concerns they have. If you put a law in place saying that a particular section of society can have special access to a program, support or job, two things will happen. Firstly, more people will suddenly identify with that section of society to gain access to that particular program, support or job. Secondly, there will be another cohort of society that thinks they are equally or more deserving of special access to their own programs, supports or jobs and they will want legislation to support that.

Laws designed to help a particular group (or punish another) inevitably lead to those helped being the ones that find themselves at the rough hand of the law they created when a new, more discriminated group comes along. The early feminists had great success breaking down barriers, seeing women enter the workforce, gaining the vote, having more reproductive rights. The early feminists were generally white women from the middle and upper classes. The next feminists recognised that it wasn’t just white women being oppressed, but it was also women of colour. The feminists realised that white women were actually quite privileged, and the feminist women of colour suddenly saw them as the enemy. White feminism became bad, because they only had rights because of their privilege. Now, we have some feminists argue that straight white and women of colour are the privileged ones, and it is the women who have differing sexual attractions or gender identities are the ones that are really downtrodden. It’s those nasty heterosexual white and women of colour feminists that are privileged, because heterosexuality is oppressive. This isn’t nonsense. This is happening now.

The government can’t legislate your problems away. It can’t validate you – not in a lasting, permanent way. If you play the victim, you’ll always be the victim, even when greater victims come along and claim you’re the oppressor.

Always be careful about the laws you want made. You might have to live up to them one day.

 

Goodbye Charles, Goodbye Gertie

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Goodbye Charles. Goodbye Gertie.

I followed you from Australia to Oklahoma, New York to Pensacola. We sojourned in Salt Lake City, holidayed in the Hamptons, cruised the coastline of Australia. I fell in love with both your parents, marveled at your wanderlust, ached to find out what was happening next in your most perfect life.

Travels with you both – how can I explain? That VW Bug, the ‘stang, the Indian. Calgary seemed so much cooler with you. The South shone. Seeing Paris through your eyes was as close to perfection as you could get. Every day travelling with you made me long for just one more day.

You showed me a life I never ever ever could have imagined. A life of travels, rented apartments, last minute getaways. Experiencing. Sensing. Creating. Creating. Creating. How I will miss enjoying your creativity in every, every, way.

I’m sorry I can’t keep following you, the reasons I suppose I’ll never be able to fully explain. I’m sorry I won’t be able to follow that amazing life – a life I could only ever dare imagine. A life away from the stifling office, away from crushing responsibility, away from the ordinary things that ordinary people do.

You made me dream of a life too beautiful for dreams.

Gertie, I’ll miss your pictures. Your drawings, your photos, your scribbles, your perfect way of creating life from a blank page. I’ll miss how you inspired Charles every day. I’ll miss the way you looked at him, the way you looked out for him, the way you seemed to draw out every perfect letter.

Charles, I’ll always be amazed at your words. I can’t tell you how much you’ve taught me, how you’ve shown me a glimpse of what is possible. Of being perfectly free to be nobody, but yourself. I’ll miss that about you, and I don’t think I’ll ever meet anyone quite like you.

As I sit here on my porch, my mind half turns to my garden and my washing. My family and the job I hate going to. I think about the traffic on the highway and getting that little niggle on my bike fixed. My mind half turns to those things, but I wish I could escape for one last adventure. I wonder where you both would go – maybe back to Australia, maybe Asia, I hear the Pacific is perfect this time of year. Wherever you go, I wish I was there. I wish I could travel with you, and I’ll always be sorry I can’t continue on.

So goodbye Charles, and goodbye Gertie.

I will always love you.

A Drive in the Hinterland

2Once you’ve cleared Nerang, you’re in the mountains. It only takes about 40 or so minutes to get to this point – so close! I often wonder why I don’t come out here more, knowing the simple answer is time. My camera, Nana Mouskouri and The Seekers are keeping me company. There’s something special about Judith singing ‘A world of our own’ when you’re in a world of your own for four hours. It’s been my first real drive since Mackay, and the first in a long time sans loved ones. An introverts dream – time alone, where the music choice is mine, the route is up to the toss of a coin and I get to do those stops that you promise to do another time.

Recent rain put the rain back in subtropical rainforest. Narrow mountain roads wound through towers of green, arching over my drive like a reclaimed cathedral. Tree trunks spired around me, reaching the heavens for a glimpse of light.1

I stop by a creek for some serenity and snaps. Close your eyes and just picture it – the bubble of water tumbling over rocks. Cicadas singing the song of summer. Frogs harkening the coming of more rain. Nettle tingles my shins and my shoes sink into soft soil. Still water pools in a billabong, insects bounce off the mirror-like surface. It’s peaceful, its perfect. I bet you wish you were here!

3A side-street with no name provides the perfect detour. The road has light debris, a carryover no doubt from recent storms. It seems like one of those places frequented by the rich and famous, wanting to be rich, but not famous. Farmhouses with unusually high amounts of security dot the no-through road. The letterboxes are named, not numbered. Names like Wurrunyah, Taralgon and Wangawallon adorn high fences containing perfectly manicured lawns and homes that wouldn’t look out of place in Better Homes and Gardens.

The detour is complete, and I head towards Natural Bridge. I slow down going through Numinbah. The post-war School of Arts has a dance on the 2nd Saturday of every month. I imagine the returned soldiers who built the community halls, schools of arts and RSL halls after World War Two, coming back from far-off places to build these carbon-copy halls right throughout this nation of ours. I wonder what it would have been like, coming from Europe, PNG or the Pacific, coming back to Australia, shutting up and getting on with life.

I decide not to turn to Natural Bridge. The unknown road ahead invites me with a 7mischievous whisper, so forward into New South Wales I go. I’m right in the middle of the hinterland now. My windows are down and the cool mountain air kisses my cheek. Moist mountain air fills my lungs. It smells like eucalyptus and moss, if you could imagine such a thing. Just over the border and I hit green, cleared farmland. Cows raise their heads from grazing on lush green grass to watch me pass. They chew listlessly, tails flicking away ever persistent flies buzzing around. Paddocks surrounded by moss-covered fences hold livestock. Holding them in, but in reality, who would want to escape this thinkers paradise?

Abandoned farm houses with rusted roofs dot the paddocks and meadows. You’d be hard pressed to find one that wasn’t either on a slant, covered in ivy or crumbling over a rusted tractor. Curiosity gets the better of me, and I train my long-range lens on these modern relics, tributes to the sheer audacity of farmers trying to tame the Australian wilderness.

4Numinbah Road twists like tangled fencewire through the escarpment. Grime covered homes hide behind the tree line. Letterboxes made of tin milk cartons dare the mailman to put his hand inside and offer all manner of creepy-crawlies sanctuary. The road straightens out somewhat as I approach Chillingham. This little town hosts not much at all – a puddle-covered tennis court, an honesty-box vegetable stand, an overpriced café and an art gallery that opens every now and again. Weatherboard houses are strangely symmetrical and painted in light pastel, and I think this town wouldn’t be out of place in a Wes Anderson movie. Naturally, I construct a short story of an eccentric retiree who falls in love with a widowed hippy who bond over sunset tennis and billy-tea.

8I’ve hit the plains of the valley, where sugarcane towers in the breeze. The mountains dominate my rear-view mirror. I’ve always loved the mountains, and I’m reminded of the escarpment in my hometown. Houses on stilts perch high above the floodmark, sentries watching over the sweet crops below. Fresh shoots of green explode in rich, dark soil – this rain a blessing from above.

I turn north to slowly head home. My travels will see me navigate the hinterland once more – joys to continue once more. It’s much of the same, but all so different. Lookouts invite the casual traveller to stop – an invitation I take. At one, a dampened bible sits on the rock. A feather is used as a bookmark, next to it a post it note simply says ‘take me’. A bible, and like the valley that soaks up the rain, so do I ache to soak up the truth.6

I find myself disappointed to find my way back to the M1. To my west, the mountains parallel the freeway and already I long to be back in her windy roads. Alas, this straight stretch of road and responsibility carry me back home. The better the road, the more cares one seems to have. The faster the limit, the more one has to think. The more lanes brings greater complexity. I reflect back to the single-laned mountain roads, where speed is limited by natural beauty, where distractions are beautiful.

I give thanks for safety on the road, and for a few hours of selfish fun in one of the most beautiful patches of God’s green earth. The Gold Coast / northern New South Wales hinterland – thank you for slowing me down and bringing me back to earth.

Toughen up, boy

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My kids recently had ‘lockdown’ training at school – think of fire drills, except for other adverse events. I don’t know what they do in this training, but it seemed to upset my son a little. He hasn’t wanted to sleep near a window, has been taking a while to get to sleep and has been a bit clingy at night time.

My natural reaction to seeing my boy upset is to comfort him – I’m sure that’s a natural reaction for most parents.

I held my little boy close, gave him a cuddle, prayed with him and generally settled him. My boy, without a care in the world, in a safe home, in a warm bed, with a full tummy. His room full of toys, his draws full of clean clothes. He has electricity that turns on, running water and a pantry full of food. He has emergency services literally a phone call away. My little boy, I held him close.

It dawned on me as I held him close – I want to keep him safe, but I think there’s a bigger lesson to be learned here.

I sat him on my lap and looked deep into his brown eyes.

“Boy, inside of you is a man-in-training. When you’re learning to be a man, you’re going to have to face things that are scary, uncomfortable or frightening. Sometimes, my boy, you’re going to have to be tough, and you’re going to have to be courageous”. I settled him, put him in bed and once again reminded him that sometimes, he will need to face his fears and just be tougher than the situation he finds himself in.

It’s a hard thing, looking into your kids eyes knowing you won’t always be there to protect them, knowing they’ll have to face hardships in their life that you won’t always be able to help with. Just like Johnny Cash’s classic ‘Boy named Sue’ . I don’t want my kids to live in fear, but I want them to have the fortitude to face challenges in their life.

So I’m asking, what have you dads (and mums) done to develop a bit of toughness in your kids? I’m so aware that our kids, certainly in Australia, are probably the most pampered, protected, safe generation ever. Our kids are well fed, immunised, protected, educated – the works! How do you prepare your kids for possible eventualities? How do you gently push back and help them find strength within themselves during hard times? To give them permission to fail, to gently let go so they can start building resilience within themselves?

Cultural MOOP.

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There’s a colloquial term used by Antarctic researchers called ‘MOOP’, or Man Out Of Phase. It relates to the body’s natural circadian rhythms being out of sync during three months of unrelenting darkness in winter, and the alternative three months of summer sun. You may have experienced low-level MOOP on a Monday morning when you’re at work, feeling disorientated, unmotivated, delirious and questioning every life choice you’ve ever made that’s lead to this point in your life.

The thing with MOOP is it’s very easy to fix, and the body fixes itself naturally when the usual daylight / night time patterns commence. The body’s circadian rhythm starts kicking in again, and you go back into phase.

It’s funny to say MOOP. MOOP. It’s a funny sounding word, with very real consequences, and thankfully very easy to fix. MOOP. You’ll be thinking it in your head long after you’ve finished reading this article. MOOP. Man Out Of Phase.

For all the funniness about MOOP, what happens when a society becomes out of phase?

Sounds like a strange thing to say, right? But it is. Our culture – our Western culture is defined by many rhythms. Patterns. Occurrences. Cultural patterns. Biological occurrences and truths. I’m sure you could rattle off a few cultural or religious patterns we have in Australia – Christmas, Easter, New Years Eve, Australia Day, Anzac Day, Labour Day. Days that have deep significance historically to Australia, our cultural identity and the patterns of our society. Many of us know that Christmas relates to the birth of Jesus, that Australia Day commemorates British colonisation of Australia and Labour Day recognises the importance of the labour movement in fighting for better working conditions.

These days represent significant events. Significant culturally for western culture, and significant events in the development of our great nation. I want to emphasise that these events are significant, and for some these events may bring up painful triggers. Australia Day, for example, is recognised by some as a day of invasion, dispossession and the start of some horrible ills against aboriginal Australians. Australia Day is also a recognition of all the wonderful things brought by England and through the tradition of enlightenment – the Westminster System, democracy, railways and beer in a bottle.

These days, occurrences and events keep us anchored. They help us remember, and they give us an identity to forge ahead in life. They form part of our sense of wellbeing, security and culture.

What we are seeing, however, is our great Australian society quickly becoming ‘MOOP’. We are quickly becoming adrift from these defining remembrances, occurrences and observances. Original meanings of events are being drowned out, replaced or deliberately forgotten. Almost all notions of Jesus have been removed from Christmas and Easter, replaced instead by the gods of consumerism and consumption. Australia Day is being attacked, with over-reaching local councils especially deliberately throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

The result of being culturally MOOP results in society being disorientated, unattached, unsure of its identity and grasping at straws. Tonight is Halloween. All the shops are decked with gaudy inflatable pumpkins, faux-spider webs and irritatingly garish ghouls. Shelf-packers at my local shops are dressed as zombies, bloodied morticians and characters from terribly twee horror movies. ABC is having a Halloween fright week on the kids channel, catalogues are encouraging us to stock up for trick-or-treating. It’s the most ridiculous ‘event’ ever, and it’s a symptom of a culture out of phase. I’m not opposed to Halloween. I’m opposed to these traditions of zero relevance to Australian culture of society elevated to a place of almost reverence. Forcing a celebration of something that isn’t culturally significant, doesn’t remember something that adds to our understanding of the world or helps us reflect on what it means to be part of this great country. It’s a symptom of a society that doesn’t know who it is, and is having her age-old cultural traditions deliberately forgotten, and replaced with something of zero cultural significance, relevance or observance.

Since WW2, Australians became accustomed to immigrants and refugees, mostly from Europe. I’m sure many of these ‘New Australians’ were treated terribly, and probably suffered at the hands of racists. I recall stories from my dads family, who were accepted as refugees and resettled in Australia. They had some pretty mediocre times. Through this experience, however, Australia learned to be accepting. We learned a little bit about these different cultures – Italians, Greeks, Balts. I’m sure many had a rough start here in Australia, but they made their way. On a baseline level, however, these cultures had a common theme with the western / British culture of Australia. This connection, however lose, was a baseline cultural acceptance of Christianity. Be it protestant, Roman Catholic or Orthodox, there were baseline understandings, even if the outworking looked different. Baseline understandings on what Christmas and Easter was. Baseline understanding and acceptance of a day of rest. Baseline understandings of personal responsibility, liberty and democracy. It took a few decades, but we learned to accept, get along, work, marry, laugh and celebrate with each other. If these groups were to ‘re-tribe’ to their original groups in Australia i.e. all the Greeks live in their own group, all the Italians live in their own group etc, they would still fit in with Australia as a whole. Why? Because of those baseline understandings that these groups have in relation to the significance of events such as Christmas.

I’ve mentioned this before, but cultures that forget their identity quickly perish. They become absorbed by the dominant culture around them, or collapse under their own deliberate forgetfulness. One of the reasons that the Jewish culture has continued for over 4000 years is they have been following the same calendar, traditions, observances and rites every year since the exodus from Egypt. The same observances – every week, year, seven years, fifty years. The same food, prayers, observances, scriptures, at the same time, over 4000 times.

If we follow this cultural MOOP through to possible eventualities, what do we find? I foresee a few possibilities.

The first may be spiralling into a death-roll of consumerism. Almost every ‘event’ now has been reduced to a celebration of consumption, rather than an opportunity for remembrance and reverence. Christmas will continue to be an opportunity for hyper-consumption. Easter will continue to be about eggs. Australia Day will become a forgotten embarrassment, not a day for thanksgiving and reflection. Days of non-significance – mothers and father’s day for example, will become just another opportunity to consume.

The second possibility could be the emergence of a more dominant culture. A culture that is also very old, very ridged and from the outside, very uncompromising. A culture that does not share the same baseline expectations, understandings, festivals and traditions. A culture, an ideology that focuses on submission. However right or wrong this ideology is, it is very focused on it’s end goal, and how to achieve that through everyday submission. When a culture forgets why we celebrate Christmas, when a culture forgets the birth of enlightenment, when a culture forgets the fight for individual liberty, it is easily overcome by an ideology demanding total submission.

I don’t want this essay to sound like a call for a Christian theocracy. It’s absolutely not. It’s not a call to return to strict societal roles. It’s not a call to return to the 1950’s. It’s a warning. A reminder. We have a rich cultural heritage. Imperfect, sometimes violent, sometimes unfair. We also have rich reminders though, these things I have mentioned before.

So here’s the question. Are you going to succumb to cultural MOOP? Are you going to allow yourself to continue to be culturally and historically disorientated? Will you allow your history be forgotten, amputated, corrupted? Or will you remember the whys of western culture? The hows of how we got here? The whats that our ancestors had to do to get to this point?

What are you going to do to remember, respect, preserve and continue?