This following excerpt is the prologue to my unremarkable, first book – One Day, One Life; the propaganda of success (Balboa Press, 2016). The piece is called Glenbrook and I wrote it back in 2014 as I sat on a spotlessly clean Shinkansen (bullet train) travelling from Kyoto to Tokyo. My wife and I plus our friends Michael and Nicole had enjoyed 3 days of eating and walking through the lanes and temples of beautiful Kyoto. It’s my favourite city on the planet. Thank God the Americans had the humility and common sense not to bomb the crap out of this historical icon. Regrettably, they could not show the same constraint to the innocent civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Anyway, I have digressed.
As my gleaming white, bullet trained surged through the rice fields and hamlets of central Honshu, a wave of melancholy swept over me as I knew I would not be returning to Japan for a number of years. The premonition was correct. I have not been back.
The feeling that overcame me reminded me of the separation and loss of my active addiction and my subsequent rejection of Western capitalism and it’s crude propaganda. My feelings have changed in the ensuing years and I have formed a more balanced approach however I still wake up some mornings and feel different.
I dance to a different beat.
I tick tok to a different clock.
And guess what?
It’s a good thing as I can appreciate the light and dark of the society I work, love and live in…
During the pandemic I have rekindled my romance with my birth city of Sydney.
I have walked for kilometres around the harbour foreshore, the Eastern Suburbs beaches and through the Western suburbs diverse, cultural communities and old lanes and cobblestones of the Rocks.
As I walked, the haunting cries of devastated Aboriginal tribes and subjugated convicts have frozen my blood but the passion and hope of our free settlers and immigrants have reheated my heart.
I carry the blood of my convict, native and free settled mothers and fathers.
Irish, Scottish, Aboriginal and Prussian.
I own all my heritage and use none as a badge of honour.
I am who I AM!
I am a mongrel of mixed blood and proud to call myself a Sydney resident and an Australian man.
Sydney is a heroic city full of wonderful, brave human beings. People from all over the world come to Sydney for a better, easier life, and for the most part she delivers.
Sydney has wrapped her gentle arms and rough elbows around my family and we have been nurtured and loved.
Some of us lost our way but we have all made our way back to a place of grace.
Grace is fleeting………and so is melancholy.
So, here is Glenbrook, and I hope you feel her darkness and light.
Once you wade through the shadow, the piece is about renewal.
And if you want to know why I called it Glenbrook, have a Google?!
I’ll give you a hint – Glenbrook is the first mountain town you pass through on the way up the highway to Katoomba and the Blue Mountains:
“We gravitate to the edges. We are bound to in some shape and form. Like a small town in the hills above a major metropolis, we separate from the teeming masses below and find refuge or seek escape. Some of us choose isolation. Some are forced. Some have no other option but to flee. Either way, we all suffer the solace of solitary confinement on the continuum of experience we call life. It may be a series of train trips up the mountain, our backs to the suburbs, as the locomotive strains through the grades. Or we take weeks to huddle in the towering conifers, hiding in the shadows from the fluorescent lights reflecting the crisscrossed coast below.
Even then, there are those who sit in crudely constructed miners’ cabins, eating rations from beaten and battered tin plates. Then, when life, through its victories, bruises, bumps, and losses, throws us a spiritual rope down a shattered cliff face of granite, we must decide to forlornly hang on or let go of it and risk the fall. Like a child who refuses to ride the roller coaster, too scared to take the loop, those who fall are forever seen as less than, even though the plunge may be the braver deed. When you are precariously perched on the cliff, the position poignantly portrays the risk, the risk that you were tired of being the same. The same as everyone else.
I chose to hang onto the rope, even though the invisible atoms in my forearms serenaded me to let go—in letting go, the final flash would ease the pain. Somehow, though, false promise did not win the day. You see, false promise took me to the cabin in the woods above the cliff, and its lullaby was a familiar, soothing song. Between the melody at the pause of the turning page, silence masks the fear. And those who scale the cliff hear the echo of fear with which all the others run. Fear is the conductor, society is the drummer, and we are the runners. And when we keep running, we get tired. I got tired. Sick and tired.
Are you tired? Because the fuel we burn to keep running is not beneficial for us or our surroundings. The fuel that lights the flame that heats our running feet is tainted. Most things Western man mass produces mask a darker secret. For what is shiny is not always new. What is wanted is often discarded, and the festering piles of discarded waste decay like the false promise it briefly held. Shiny becomes dull—not naturally but tarnished. A rotting log gives life to the bugs and lizards on the forest floor and provides a loving layer to the moss and lichen. Nature provides a cycle of replenishment on the continuum of life, but the factories of man produce rubbish. When man and woman keep running to produce and own rubbish, they eventually become what they fervently seek. Rubbish! The society we so passionately believe in throws us out with the trash.
Unless we gravitate to the edges, and as we watch the maddening relay of runners just out of our grasp, we are given a choice. Do we rejoin the marathon, knowing what we have seen via our own failure to conform? When we fail, we see the futility of the rush to ownership. Do we let go and fall to our demise? Do we fall and grab the rope just above the jagged bed of boulders, and with that last drop of essence called life, do we start the climb back to the top? Not to the top of the pile of rubbish, but back to our humanity.
Because what we have lost as a social conscious is the reality that we are natural. Not man-made but spirit-made, where energy is passed to us from the earth until we become the earth again. Not dust to dust, but earth to earth. Dust is blown away with the wind and covers the garbage tips of man with the cremated remains of their fallen fellows. But earth renews, and its rich, consistent loam gives life anew. And the life web hangs on with a gossamer thread to the earth.
And we hang in the life web to change and renew. Our web. A way of healing. The heart. The mind. The spirit. Our communities. Our nations. The earth.