Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Funny what it takes for some people to get perspective.  To see themselves.

Funny how hard we can resist seeing ourselves in a clearer light, sometimes.

It's often been posited that we know who we are in large part by our reflection in the world.  That is, by how we see our effect on the world - and in a world increasingly defined economically, by who wields how much of that 'power', there's a great tendency to define ourselves by what we own.  Or don't.

Right now I'm watching yet another world-record natural disaster unfold, one f a seemingly endless series of record weather events.  I've just been through a little one myself, the strongest summer storm winds in my area in living memory, made worse by a century's so-called agriculture and the massive dust cloud that ensued.  As I keep half an eye on the evacuations in North Queensland ahead of Cyclone Yasi, and hear stories of people's different reactions, I am struck again by how powerful the urge is to defend property in some people - to BE at one with their homes, cars, deny the brutal reality that anyone who gets caught in the eye of this beast in any structure less than a Category 5-rated building will very possibly die.  Category 5 means 'no buildings left standing'.

Then at the last minute - actually after the last minute, because it's too late to outrun her now - people can have a little Moment Of Perfect Clarity.  Like the young family in Mission Beach who were determined to 'ride it out' but then thought better of it, and posted on a weather forum that they were now resigned to losing their house and were taking refuge in an underground carpark.  Like, the worst place to be with a 10 metre storm surge.  Fortunately, the weather nerds on the forum contacted local emergency services who went and found them, and got them out.

Or we want to own people, or groups of people, to feel a sense of identity through a position of power over others, however benevolent our intentions are.  Families are a good example.  Parents who live through the trials of seeing children grow and develop into their own people, and confuse protectiveness and love with ownership.  At extremes it can be outright slavery or high-pressure hot-housing to 'create' high-achievers which will reflect supposedly well upon the parents' skills, or genes, or something.  Those patriarchs and matriarchs acting out dictatorial fantasies.

Or we want to own information.  Everyone knows an office/playgroup/church/wherever gossip, the faux-confidant for whom the phrase "remember those who gossip with you will also gossip of you" was coined.  We want to own correctness, which is why we are so attached to our opinions.

This list could go on and on, casting every vestige and semblance of identity-creating behaviour and thought into the frame of ownership.  Because that's exactly the relationship we have to the world, all too often.

Yet all it takes is the right magic moment; a few words, a single clear thought, but most often some tragic and sudden loss or pain, to wake us up from this fantasy of separation.  Even if we only awake for an instant.

The patriarch is confronted by the son who disobeys, threats ensue, "you will be no more my son!!" a bluff is called, and the world falls in.  Your house is blown to matchwood around you.  Your gossip undoes you. Or maybe, just maybe, someone with good intentions manages a way not to just call you on your bullshit, but to get through that armour of need, of desperate defense of normalcy and your identity status remind you that in fact, you are not you because of your money, your house, your claim to righteousness, or your adoration by some masses.  You are you despite all that crap, and that crap more often than not gets exactly in the way of being more you.

It's no coincidence that the phraseology often goes "to hold an opinion", or to "have" a point of view, and so on.  The possessive is used, as it is sneakily by inference when we "express" an opinion or more forcefully when we "profess" a faith.  Which is, after all, a claim to rightness, and another form of opinion.

Sadly, though, it seems that most of us still need most of the time to learn the ancient way.  By repeated painful choices.

Then thing is, once I started to feel like I had some sort of ongoing readership here, I feared wanting to own it.  Because, people, (and this in an opinion of mine, don't forget) the more you own *anything*, the more it owns you back.

I might have learned some lessons about this lately.  Through error, certainly, but also because when I look closely enough, or in a detached enough way, I see those about me act out the play and drama that could be, or used to be, my life and way of identity.  Thanks to those folks sharing their frailties with me, knowingly or otherwise.  There but for grace go I, and all of that.

I'm trying not to own so much, you see.  I would like to learn those lessons of losing oneself that death must inevitably bring, before being pushed to do so.  Why?  Because my life is all the sweeter for it.

Try some, yes?  It's home grown.