In a seminar I’m doing we’re asked to think of our most romantic moment. When I look I see most of mine involve flowers. How funny. Here are some. The interesting thing is what happens after I recall one or more of these moments. If I’m out on the street, everyone starts smiling. Try it for yourself.

I’m 20 and very unhappy. I’m sitting on a train on a Saturday morning. Sunk in gloom, I barely register my stop is coming up next. Then a young man who I haven’t noticed leans over the space from the window and hands me a flower from the bouquet he is carrying which I also hadn’t noticed. I feel embarrassed and don’t know what to do. I want to get on with being miserable. I’m glad my stop is close. Looking back now, I send my love and gratitude to him.

Another time. I’m 30 maybe. It’s the Friday night of a long weekend about 8pm. I’m at my cousin’s house to pick her up and drive up the coast for the weekend. As I walk out to my car I see her husband has covered the dashboard of the car with flowers from the garden. I am astounded. When I look at my cousin, she just shrugs as if to say it is nothing special or that kind of thing happens every day in her marriage. I wonder if she reads this post whether she will recognise her husband :)

Another day, just a few months ago. It’s the day for the gardener. I see him out in the garden. An hour or two later, I open my front door to leave for an appointment and see a pale orange rose on my doorstep. Delight and surprise take over the day.

A night this time, about 8 years ago. No flower this one. I’m at a pub in South Melbourne with a group of “hash harriers” planning to run around the suburb down to the Bay and back again. There’s a man there looking at me intently. He introduces himself. I’m going to run with another group, one man and a couple of women. The man in my group has sprayed himself with Lynx and my stomach’s churning. I’m running to get away from the smell. At the Bay, as a gag, they have tied cans of VB to the pier posts. The intent man is drinking a can and he comes up to me and offers me a swig. Looking back, this occurs as very romantic.

A final one for now. I’m 20 and on holidays at Coolangatta. I’ve met a guy who’s also on holidays from south of Sydney. He’s a professional lifesaver with dusty brown legs and yellow shorts. He and his mate and me are in a mini-moke driving through leafy tunnels in the national park near Murwillumbah. The sun is streaming through the trees. It’s a public holiday and we want to make a barbeque and all we can buy is some pieces of steak and a few white bread rolls. We find a deserted picnic area and the steak sandwiches are the best thing I’ve ever eaten. Later, we decide to sleep in the surf club bunk bed for something different, and when I want to go to the bathroom he escorts me to the communal men’s bathroom in the middle of the night holding my hand.


The guest house


This being human is a guest house.
Each morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ The Guest House, Rumi (Persian, 1207-1273), translated by Coleman Banks


You are a marvel


“Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? That two and two make four and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them … You are a marvel. You are unique … In all the years that have passed there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move … And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.”

~ Pablo Casals, 1876-1973

Image: Pablo Casals by Dezsö Czigány


A non-couch potato future

Contrary to the stories about the evils and viciousness of Facebook, when I started using it actively about a year ago all I saw were the surprising number of acquaintances who, though I saw them only last week, were now apparently in Paris, and a constant stream of feel-good messages. Instead of people being nasty, it was all lovehearts and people assuring the world that they’ve made it.

And sometimes, it is inspiring! Here’s one such example. It’s the story of Ernestine Shepherd. Ernestine started lifting weights at the age of 56, and now, at the age of 77 looks and speaks like a woman in her 30s. She gets up every morning at 2:30am to go for a run with her husband, and I love the scenes of her in her kitchen at this early hour. She is in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest female bodybuilder; if they had a category for inspiring others, she’d be a record-breaker in that section too.

If you’re a woman, or a man, and you’re planning a couch potato future, you might like to listen to Ernestine.


Veronika Decides to Die


This is a good book this: Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho.  I read somewhere that Coelho supposedly writes “philosophy for horoscope readers” and that he himself says he writes “fairy tales for adults”. So be it. Give me fairy tales every day.

His subject – the human condition under the sentence of death – and the setting – an insane asylum in Slovenia – is part of a long tradition that all the big guns of European literature have explored. People like Camus, Thomas Mann, Solzhenitsyn, Günter Grass and many others have covered similar ground and often with far less clarity, wit and insight than Coelho.

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What keeps anyone in any kind of unhealthy relationship?


I like reading the advice columns in the Guardian online. What the readers say to the person with the issue (the “OP”, original poster) is fascinating. A few readers play the jerk, but most engage with the issue in good faith and really want to assist the OP. Regularly, people offer profound and generous insights from their own lives.

The following quotation is what one reader said in response to an OP a few months ago. The OP was a woman in her 20s talking about her relationship with her father. The reader’s response is a tour de force. What makes it so good is that he or she has discovered that freedom is a function of responsibility, and love, a function of acceptance.

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On golden pom-poms

“Richard turned and they plunged into the wild grass and strange bushes, following the stream. By the stream the mimosa was all gold, great gold bushes full of spring fire rising over your head, and the scent of the Australian spring, and the most ethereal of all golden bloom, the plumy, many-balled wattle, and the utter loneliness, the manlessness, the untouched blue sky overhead, the gaunt, lightless gum-trees rearing a little way off, and sound of strange birds, vivid tones of strange, brilliant birds that flit round. Save for that, and for some weird frog-like sound, indescribable, the age-unbroken silence of the Australian bush.


At home, with all the house full of blossom, the fluffy gold wattle-bloom, they sat at tea in the pleasant room, the bright fire burning, eating boiled eggs and toast. And they looked at one another — and Richard uttered the unspoken thought:

“Do you wish you were staying?”

“I— I,” stammered Harriet, “if I had THREE lives, I’d wish to stay. It’s the loveliest thing I’ve EVER known.”

“I know,” he answered, laughing. “If one could live a hundred years. But since one has only a short time —.”

They were both silent. The flowers there in the room were like angel-presences, something out of heaven. The bush! The wonderful Australia.”

~ From Kangaroo by D H Lawrence

Image: An unusual wattle I saw today at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Melbourne. There are around 1,000 varieties of wattle (acacia or mimosa) in Australia; the Golden Wattle (acacia pycnantha) is the floral emblem of Australia.

Down the rabbithole


I sat down a few weeks ago and estimated the amount of time I’m spending on social media each week, and it was about 23 hours.

That’s not including writing in this blog.

I was shocked. Maybe there’s nothing intrinsically wrong in this, and I enjoy most of it in an aimless kind of way; all the same, I don’t want to be spending so much of my life on it. Since then, I’ve dropped a few activities and cut back on the time I spend on other activities.

I also saw that I view writing in this blog as being in a different category, and that I really value it.

I may not always have something to say and I treasure the fact I have a place to say it when I do. Furthermore, it’s a place which is free from considerations and calculations. Here, the stats don’t matter and there’s no purpose or agenda, particularly not a marketing agenda which, in other places, can be deafening.

This re-evaluation was prompted by a half-day course on social media I attended. The well-meaning presenter deluged us with lists of do and don’ts, tips and strategies for growing our “social media presence” for business purposes.

After the 100th slide on driving our Twitter followers from 5,000 to 10,000, or the futility of relying on native Facebook (hence, you’d better just pay up and get a Facebook ad), or the new must-do of Periscope, Vine or blah blah blah, my friend leaned over and whispered, “I think I’m going to go live in a cave.”

It was so sweet to escape into the fresh air and run to the nearest cafe to be with people enjoying themselves across the table from each other.

What is the point of all this? It’s insane. We don’t need more noise. We need less.


The gift


I have a friend who is a master listener. Ten minutes in her presence and I feel gotten like no-one has ever gotten me before. To be listened, properly listened, is the highest gift. Years from the moment, one unwraps it and marvels over it like a precious jewel.


“The key to listening to people’s pain, paradoxically, is to be clear that we are not responsible for taking it away. The entire study and practice of Buddhadharma is designed to address the problem of human suffering. With time, we come to understand that simply being present to each other is our most basic moral obligation. There may be occasions when we can lend a helping hand. There may be instances when we are obligated to interfere, but more often than not, simple presence provides a context for others to listen to themselves, and that is the real service.

Letting go of responsibility for other people’s states of mind is fundamentally liberating. When we feel free of pressure, we are happy to listen, so we listen well. In the context of practice, releasing ourselves from this responsibility is to learn—again and yet again—what it feels like to let go.”

~ From Everything Is Workable: A Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution by Diane Musho Hamilton, pages 88–89


Image: Another high gift I wouldn’t mind: a house for sale in Cornwall, above Polperro harbour.

Don’t try to be artistic


“The whole philosophy of art is that you don’t try to be artistic but you just approach the objects as they are, and then the message comes automatically. When you look at a painting by a great artist, it doesn’t look like someone actually painted it, but it just seemed to happen by itself. There’s no gap, no cracks at all; it’s one unit, complete.”

~ Chögyam Trungpa


Coffee by Pablo at Bluff Town, Sandringham, Melbourne :)

The Socialist.


Check out Russell’s brilliant art work and commentary. I’ve followed Russell for several years, and in my view, he’s had a major breakthrough in self-expression. This, and his recent works, are sensational. I’ve been experiencing a slump in self-expression, and looking at his work inspires me that something wonderful is just around the corner. Here he is …

Originally posted on drawthepublic:

Corbyn pre-election rant.

Portrait of Labour leadership candidate, Jeremy Corbyn.

The 2015 UK general election was a disaster for the Labour Party, former leader Ed Miliband (dis)gracefully resigned, leaving his situation vacant. The victorious Conservative Party are now implementing their post-election budget, a series of massive public spending cuts aimed at tackling the national debt. Austerity is a swear word on everyone’s lips, and the public are told further austerity is the only way forward—cold comfort when your standing in the queue at a food bank.

Yet, in spite of these hard times there are Conservative backed plans to replace the country’s nuclear deterrent, Trident, to the tune of 130 billion—enough money to run the ailing National Health Service for 40 years. Enter staunch socialist, and CND advocate, Jeremy Corby. An outsider in the Labour leadership election, who is lighting a fire under the seats of the political establishment. This champion of the…

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Ode to Friday

I published this poem once before in 2012. It’s on my mind again tonight. Here’s Derek Walcott, trailing clouds of glory …

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

~ Love After Love, Derek Walcott (St Lucian, 1930 – )

An ontological view of the Adam Goodes conversation


Here in Australia, an Aboriginal man named Adam Goodes, a star Australian Football player, is at the centre of a raging national conversation about racism. He has been booed by the crowd for the last one to two years, and he has taken leave from playing football this weekend due to the toll the booing, and the national conversation about the booing, is taking on him.

The newspapers, radio and TV are filled with opinions about whether or not it’s racism, and what it all means.

My view is that the conversation is fruitless as long as it remains at the level of content. The place the conversation needs to go is to the ontological level. Here are four points about the situation from an ontological point of view:

  • the incompletions of the past are coming up into view
  • the past cannot be completed while ever blame is present
  • the past cannot be completed until one party takes 100% responsibility for the relationship, which is to say, for the future
  • what’s missing is a possibility – a future to live into – which people can be enrolled in.