Tagged: australia

Toughen up, boy

1953 Vintage Photo 1950s Georgia _Father And Child

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?

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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?

Vidins in Mackay :: Mackay City

You’d never know it at first, but Mackay is a hub for excitement. We rolled into town as Elton John was doing his ‘Last Man Standing’ tour, so half the town was excited and the other confused. Shops were playing the Piano Man’s tunes, but no-one seemed to be humming along. Mackay isn’t the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of pop culture, but Elton thought Mackay would a good place to stop off. I’m just glad he flew in, I suspect he’d fit in with the Grey Nomad crew quite well. You know, of a certain age, self-entitled, white and chubby.
Another exciting thing is happening to North Queensland at the moment – their footy team has once again reached the grand final. Quite an effort really. Unlike Sydney teams, they have to travel every fortnight to a game, their team stacks the ranks of representative teams and their marque player was on the bench for the later half of the season. The colours of the Cowboys certainly held sway over this northern city.

Mackay city, believe it or not, has a remarkable collection of art deco buildings. From pubs to more pubs, garages, shops, pubs and the occaisional pub, Mackay is littered with art deco.  I thought I got some photos of Mackay city, but I didn’t.

Mackay is filled with beauty, from stunning lookouts, crystal blue waters, amazing beaches and miles of lazy sugarcane. We spent two wonderful days, exploring, enjoying the water.

Cape Hillsborough is maybe 40 minutes north (double that if you’re stuck behind a Grey Nomad). I’ve often said that northern New South Wales is God’s country, however if he ever went on holiday, it would be here. Hillsborough – wow! Where the forest meets the sea. The word on the street is that kangaroos and wallabies come onto the beach at dawn and dusk. We saw some in the scrub, but sadly none on the beach. Imagine green bush, sweeping beaches, craggy cliffs and stubborn islands, and you have Hillsborough. A true hidden gem.

We spent two amazing days in Mackay, on our push north to Airlie Beach for our trip out to Hardy Reef…

Vidins in Mackay :: Agnes Waters and 1770

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1 June 1770. That’s 247 years ago, and when Lt. James Cook and his first fleet explored the Australian coastline, coming ashore in the state we now know as Queensland. 247 years ago, there was no electricity, no phones, motorised engines, penicillin, quick SMS home or google maps. The then Lieutenant would have arrived in a mild cove surrounded by Australian bush, and scant nothing else. It would have been mild, being a Queensland winter. He wouldn’t of been able to pop down to the Foodworks in Agnes Waters. He wouldn’t of been able to post a selfie on Insta. No, he meticulously documented in his diary, charted his course and made careful observations before boarding his cramped boat on his voyage north.

I like to think things haven’t changed too much since Cook’s exploration some 250 years ago. Cook aptly named the point 1770, because he landed in 1770. Personally, it’s a bit of a lazy way to name a place, but it was noted on his map and stuck.

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We spent a lazy afternoon on Agnes Waters beach, a stones throw from 1770. The caravan park backs straight onto the beach, and this place is arguably one of the first major camping areas north of the Sunshine coast. It felt, well, like a caravan park you went to when you were a kid. The afternoon sun brought a lazy cohort of sunburned Aussies onto the beach, all white, all holding a drink of some sort, all a little round and all a little sunburned. You got the feeling these people lived for places like this. Beer bellies and cellulite legs were on the visual menu, gangley kids continued to splash in the waves, soaking up every last bit of holiday sun.

Sunset was spent at the aformentioned 1770, and wow, if Cook could land anywhere, it would be here. The point creates a natural cove to the north. Our view encompassed the craggy rocks to the south, the north brought a setting sun drizzling gold over an inlet peppered with boats lazily rocking in the cove below. Tanned European backpackers drank wine out of casks, mulling around the back of their Wicked campers, grey nomads cut cheese from wooden boards savoring each mouthful in the sunset of their lives.

The children explored the monument to Cook, itself nearly 100 years old. I reflected on this beautiful part of the world. It’s apparent isolation, yet still less than a days drive from Brisbane. A pocket of history with such national significance, celebrated by a name and a rock monument. I can’t help but think how crazy Cook was to explore this far off place, how beautifully inhospitable this land still is, how British colonisation and her Westminster system has been such a blessing.

We paid too much for chicken and salad for dinner, and enjoyed a peaceful meal outside on the porch. Evening birds bid us goodnight, as we drifted off on our first night away…

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Father’s Day matters more than ever

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I remember seeing him in the freezing mornings covered in a blanket, on his knees in deep prayer and meditation.
I remember watching him shave every morning.
I remember being subject to his firm, yet loving discipline.
I remember his terrible jokes.
I remember watching his hair going grey and receding.
I remember being able to hear him clear his throat in the shower every morning.
I remember a man who, in retrospect, made very difficult decisions to lead his household in holy and righteous ways.
I remember a man who would take punch after punch to drag his children out of the gates of hell.

I am blessed to have this man, who called me his own, even though I wasn’t. This man who took responsibility for me in every way, and to the best of his capacity. A man who still does this, even to this day.

Yes, I am talking about my step-dad, a man whom I have absolute respect and love for.

Despite these rich blessings, he wasn’t, and never will be my dad. Even though he loves me like a son, and offers me the same rights and privileges as all his children, he is not, and will never be my dad.

There are some that have been arguing that all a child needs is love. That love is love. And who can argue against the fact that a child needs love to bloom and flourish?

My dad was taken from me by cancer, but I am still blessed to not have my heritage withheld from me. I am still blessed to know my dad’s family – uncles, cousins, extended family. I can look at a family photo and see exactly where I fit in. I can see the classic Vidins traits in my brothers, my uncles, my cousins, my niece and nephew. I know where I’m from. I know where half my roots lie, where half my heritage is from.

I can’t imagine what it would be like not to know half my story. To look in the mirror and only have half the picture. To look at a family tree and not know half the roots, or half the branches. To not know the heritage, faith, ideals, quirks of half your family. To be robbed of being able to make up your own mind on your identity.

Love was never in question when I grew up. I got it in spoonfuls from my mum, my dad, my step dad and a host of extended family on all three sides of my family. I never had a deficit of love. I just didn’t have my dad. I remember snippets and snapshots, I’ve got second hand stories and a his smile when I look in the mirror. I’ve got his name on my birth certificate and his ears sticking out of my head.

To say that all a child needs is love robs a child. A child needs their mum, and their dad. They need the good, the bad and the ugly. To be able to make up their own mind on the bits they’ll keep, the bits they’ll learn from, the bits they’ll challenge and the bits they’ll cherish.

Love might be love, and my life has been greatly enriched by people that continue to love me. I’m thankful and blessed and gracious for all the love I’ve received. I guess when you boil it down, I just miss my dad.

Love whoever you want. Marry whoever you want. To be honest, I couldn’t care less if you prefer Adam or Eve. Just don’t rob a child from their right to have their mum and dad.

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Political Correctness vs Manners

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We hear a lot about political correctness. You’ve probably heard people say things like ‘oh, that’s not politically correct’, or ‘that wasn’t a very politically correct thing to say’. It pervades almost every area of our lives – in some areas more than others.

 You’ve probably also heard the saying ‘manners maketh the man’. I know I certainly heard it growing up. Manners were drummed into me from a very early age. Things like standing when an elder entered the room, opening the door for a lady, taking my hat off inside, table manners, conversational manners – I could go on. I suspect for many in my demographic this was the case. I’ve recounted a story before of a family friend, a doctor and true gentleman who referred to my grandmother always as ‘Mrs Vidins’, in the most respectful, humble way. His manners were always impeccable.

 I’m sure you’ve come across people who have fantastic manners. The inverse is probably true too. I’ve certainly met people who come across as disgusting pigs – foul mouthed, disrespectful boors.

 Political correctness is the idea that you are restrained by an outward force – a cultural norm, a policy, a coercive power. It coerces you to not say something, or do something, in the name of ‘offending’ someone, regardless of the truth or accuracy of the message. You may have bitten your tongue sometimes because you were worried, or feared about the repercussions of your words. I’ll give some examples. You might have wanted to question the effectiveness of our past, or current refugee processes, but didn’t because you were concerned about being called a racist. You may have wanted to raise your thoughts on same-sex marriage, but didn’t because you knew you’d be labelled a homophobe. Perhaps you had questions on the millions of dollars that were being spent on our indigenous brothers and sisters, without any identifiable increases in health, education, workplace participation or decreases in violence and abuse, but didn’t because you knew you’d be labelled as a hater.

 It’s important to pause at this stage, because I’m sure some will think I’m pointing the finger at progressive, or left-wing political correctness. If you’re thinking that, you’re correct, I am. I’ve noticed the most intolerance has come from the left in our present age. It comes in the form of bullying, of the threat of legal action (s18c, anyone?), of having your businesses targeted (refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding). It even comes in the form of opposing a whole nation (the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish Boycott, Divestment & Sanction (BDS) movement). We see our politicians take a politically correct line when talking about terrorism. How often have you heard a prominent politician say a terrorist atrocity undertaken by a Muslim in the name of Allah has nothing to do with Islam? It’s like saying a drunk driver hitting and killing someone on the road has nothing to do with alcohol. Are all Muslims terrorists? OF COURSE NOT! Are all drunks likely to get behind the wheel and be a danger on the road? OF COURSE NOT! Political correctness is that outside force preventing you from speaking the truth, asking a question or voicing a concern because it may cause an offence, be taken the wrong way or cause a retaliation. It’s external.

 Manners, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. The total opposite, in fact.

 Manners come from a place of inner strength, a place of confidence. Manners isn’t cowardice, oh no. Manners, which goes hand in hand with self-restraint, comes from a place of steadfast conviction. Manners give you the confidence to articulate, not as a reaction, but as a confident position of concrete values. Manners comes from a place of seeking to understand first, to inquire, to test and to challenge, wanting the best, even if that means discomfort during the process.

 Manners is an absolute inner process that regulates, analyses, tests and speaks from a place of conviction, with conviction. It comes from a place of respect – self-respect first, then respect for others. Manners is the practice of holding back, not out of fear of retaliation, but from understanding there is no point in an argument for the sake of an argument.

 Political correctness is a fear that your words, or some actions will have dire ramifications either directly, or from a third party. Political correctness is suppressing the truth out of fear of retaliation. Despite what some argue, there are truths. There are universal truths. Biological truths. Scientific truths. Spiritual truths. Truths that have real implications for here, and the hereafter.

 Manners always seeks the best, even when there is disagreement. It’s the dignified silence in the face of howled insults. Manners is the confidence of truth, spoken in earnest respect. It’s not a cowered, timid mumble. It’s not a brash bulldozer of anger.

 Political correctness seeks to crush. It seeks to paint over truth with lies. It seeks to silence. It hates dissent. It fears the thinker. It scoffs at the one confident in truth. Political correctness employs all means necessary – shame, legislation, violence to silence and intimidate anything outside the ‘correct’ narrative. It uses name calling, lies, gross distortions and hatred to plough over and rip up. Political correctness hates free speech, free thought and debate. Intolerance is its mandate, coercion is its goal. It does it for power, for powers sake. It is never satisfied with enough.

Manners seeks to edify the individual. It seeks to understand, it seeks the truth, it proclaims what is right. Manners is the respectful debate of ideas. It’s the safe harbour where ideas flourish, where the individual is nourished. Manners come from a place of confidence, it extends the hand of respect. Manners doesn’t compromise the truth, and confidently invites others to seek it.

Let me tell you this. We need more people with manners, across the spectrum of ideas, ideals and thoughts. We absolutely need less political correctness. Next time you have a choice when it comes to the truth, what will you do? Will you cower to political correctness, or will you use your manners to confidently proclaim what is right?

 

The Quiet Whisper of Truth

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Have you noticed the world getting louder? That there’s just so much more grabbing for your attention? I’m finding I’m being bombarded almost from the second I wake up, to the moment I go to sleep. 
There just seems to be so many ‘things’ that want to take from you. Expectations. Things you ‘should’ do. Political messages, religious demands, work pressures, the crush of insatiable capitalism. 

 It’s unrelenting, and it seems to be increasing. 

 I don’t really ‘live online’, and try to keep a low social media profile, however even I’m finding there’s so many things that make my blood boil as soon as I log onto Facebook, or read the news. Things that affront my faith, heresies, wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. Things wanting to tear down. 
I’ve found there’s a stack of things simply yelling at me. Yelling, assaulting almost every part of my being. 

Have you found that?
Even in my own walk of faith, there seem to have been people and organisations yelling out at me, proclaiming all sorts of things. Yelling out a mish-mash of political messages intertwined with an ‘interesting’ doctrine. Yelling out for me to attend their church, their conference, their course, or read their latest book. Yelling out for me to join their particular political movement, cause or group. These things – they burden. They saddle with distraction, and they crowd out the quiet whisper of truth. 

Yelling out. 

Here’s what I’ve also found, in amongst the noise. The quiet whisper of truth. 

From the get go, this quiet whisper isn’t some zen-like state. It’s not finding mindfulness, or meditating on nothing. It’s not something abstract that distracts you, or promises self-fulfilment, or fills your mind with another distraction. No, this quiet whisper is something completely different. 

I’m talking specifically in relation to my faith, but I think these principles can probably be applied to most areas of life. You see this yearning for the truth in so many areas. You see it with food, when people seek out the ‘original’ ways of doing things. You see it in some aspects of environmentalism, where people seek ways to live without the noise of everyday, and electing for a sustainable lifestyle. You see it when people restore cars, aiming to get their classic back to ‘original’ condition. You see it when people lose their way in their relationships, and they seek to find the things they first enjoyed about each other. 
The quiet whisper of truth. Listen to her. This is how she makes herself known to me:

She is the quiet whisper guiding me to holiness, when there’s yelling about ’10 things I need to do to improve my life’
She’s the gentle beckoning to repentance, when the seductive siren of lust tries to tempt me
She’s the sweet call of righteousness, when the hiss of shadows tries to lure me to corruption
She’s the unfailing rock I grasp to, when the tide of popular culture melts beneath my feet
She is the wisdom of ages, unchanging, unfailing, unfaultable, when the dross of fancy speakers, loud music and ‘Jesus is my boyfriend’ messages turn to dust. 

 This quiet whisper of truth. Heed her call.

I’ve found this whisper, this whisper in places seldom sought. 
I’ve found her in the beautiful Law. I’ve found her in the ancient voice of the prophets. She calls out your name. I’ve found her, not in the flashing lights of the pulpit, but in seeking, and searching the scriptures. 
This whisper of truth, I have found her in the counsel of men who speak quietly. I have found her in the voices of women refined by fire. 

 Her voice isn’t brash, but her authority is immutable
Her call is sweet, but her message is life-affirming
Her whisper illuminates the hidden darkness in you, her embrace calls you to repentance, her grace calls you quietly, calls you to the light. 

 I’ve found this quiet whisper of truth makes me squirm, and makes me uncomfortable. Truth will do that, for darkness can’t hide when the light of truth beams down. 

 Let me encourage you to seek this truth. Seek out her quiet whisper, this quiet whisper of truth.