On a Positive Note
It has always been my belief that no author can produce a literary work without inevitably revealing something of their own personality. Similarly, I have always thought that an actor is incapable of creating a character who has qualities that they, themselves don’t. Its the old case of you can’t give what you don’t have. If I’m right, I don’t think I’d want to get on the wrong side of Jack Nicholson!
That isn’t to say, of course, that an actor or an author will reveal all of themselves in the characters and stories that they create; only that the created will inevitably reveal qualities of the creator …. almost like a maker’s mark.
I was reading back through some of my own work recently and it occurred to me that my clumsy attempts at writing must, no doubt, reveal something of who I am. I realise too that anyone who takes the time to read my material will inevitably draw conclusions about my personality, just as I do about the authors who I read or the actors who I watch.
Given that much of what I write could be considered ‘negative’ in its nature, I suppose that my readers would be forgiven for concluding that my personality is inclined that way. I thought then, in the interests of clarity, it might be worthwhile if I took the time to explain a little about who I am and what I believe.
I am currently fifty nine years old. Its an awkward age. That time of life when you still have a vitality and zest for life, when you still have passions and drives ……. and when its considered polite to pretend that you don’t! I’m far too old to be young and I’m far too young to be old. I still have an unshakable faith in love but I feel embarrassed to admit it.
There are some really great things about being fifty nine. For starters, there are far more beautiful women in the world now, than there was when I was twenty five! While I’ve never been much worried about proving anything to anyone, when people start to see you as ‘old’ … they no longer expect you to! At fifty nine, I have made peace with who I am and I no longer expect myself to become anything more. It was always my dearest hope that I’d make some worthwhile contribution to humanity and that in doing so, I’d find meaning and purpose in my life. At fifty nine, I realise its unlikely now. More importantly, I realise that it probably doesn’t matter.
On the downside, most of those beautiful women who you look at when you are fifty nine, look back and see some senile old fool who isn’t to be taken seriously, much less be thought of in a man/woman kind of a way! At fifty nine, you feel like you’re still young. But when you chop a load of firewood or spend some time working in the garden, your body tells you that it just isn’t so. The hopes and dreams that you had at twenty five are now replaced by sadnesses and regrets … and a few wonderful memories. And there’s far more to see looking back, than there is looking forward.
For all that, I don’t have too many complaints about my life. For the past 12 years or so, I’ve had the privilege of sharing a home with my best friend. Since about age forty, I’ve fought an ongoing battle with daily panic attacks and fits of black depression and I have endured. And I STILL think that life is wonderful.
I drive a sixteen year old motor vehicle and I still wonder at how blessed I am to own such a wonderful thing. Its air conditioned, comfortable, stylish and fuel efficient and I think its a mechanical miracle. And I never drive it anywhere without that feeling of joy that comes from knowing you are blessed.
I live on a forty acre property, in a neat, cosy, modern home, surrounded by beautiful bushland, green fields and wonderful wildlife. My house is modest, and it doesn’t have multiple bathrooms, fancy furnishings or ‘street appeal’. But it is mine and I am so grateful for it.
I live in a state that is rich in natural beauty and I NEVER go anywhere without feeling thankful for the visual splendour of it all. I feel at home, in a land where I belong.
I live a privileged life where I am able to indulge myself to my heart’s content in a wide range of hobbies and interests. I have computing equipment and internet access of a standard that any research establishment could only have dreamed about, fifty years ago. But by the standards of most people today, I suppose its a bit old fashioned and quaint. I have microscopes, telescopes and photographic equipment that no private person could have hoped to own in very recent times. So I can explore the worlds of microscopy, astronomy and photography for my own enjoyment, whenever I choose.
My workshop contains the collected equipment of a lifetime and would far outshine the most elaborate factory of a hundred years ago. I can repair pretty much anything and can work with metal, wood and plastics. I have drills and lathes, welders and all sorts of machines that go zzzzzzz! Its a big kid’s paradise.
And fishing gear. I have so much fishing gear! I don’t know how many fishing rods I have in my collection but every one of them is a technological marvel and a work of art in its own right. The same can be said about my collection of lures. The quality and workmanship of these things, and of modern fishing reels and lines just boggles my mind. Did I mention boats? I even have one of those!
In my home, I have a collection of music that spans hundreds of years and I have sound equipment and digital technology that enables me to lose myself in one of man’s most noble achievements, just any time that I want. And I have a digital TV connected to my computer. I can watch endless, endlessly brilliant cinema it any hour of the day or night. And with the wonders of the internet, I can research and explore without limit, to my heart’s content.
I could go on and on about the good things in my life. But I haven’t even mentioned yet, the most precious things that I’ve got. Its true that, by the standards of my peers, I’m probably a bit of a loser. Everything that I have is old and I rarely, ever purchase anything that isn’t (at least) second hand. My finances are a perennial disaster zone, I have zero employment prospects and I have an uneasy, deep down feeling that I won’t be here for much longer. I don’t know why I feel that way. I just do. But I love my life. I will be sad to leave it, when the time comes.
But the most precious things that life has given me; the most wonderful gifts I could EVER have received … and that no-one can ever take away ….. are these:
I have an insatiable curiosity about life and about the world around me.
I have an unending sense of wonder and awe over the things that I learn and discover.
I have an undying faith in the power and value of my own mind.
And perhaps the most important thing of all, is that I have a deep and abiding appreciation of all of the good things in my life.
With so much that is good about life shaping the world that I live in, you might be justified in wondering how it is that the joy that I find in living isn’t reflected in the things that I write. I will try to explain.
For starters, my life isn’t either one thing or another. It isn’t all ‘beer and skittles’. Nor is it all ‘doom and gloom’. Like every life, it is filled with hopes and disappointments, joys and regrets happinesses and concerns, challenges, triumphs and defeats. I don’t often write about the good things about life, simply because I believe they take care of themselves.
But the greatest motivation in my writing, is my fervent desire to cause my readers to THINK FOR THEMSELVES. The one appalling fact of life that I see all around me, is the resolute determination of the people in my world, to avoid using the most precious gift that life can bestow …. the gift of a logical mind.
I live in a world where ordinary people enjoy a level of material wealth that far exceeds anything that any previous generation could have hoped for. Where ordinary people have endless access to the most wonderful and amazing privileges …. the best of music and the arts, the best research facilities, domestic comforts and security beyond anything previously known. We live in an age where (at least in Western society) an ordinary person can develop and learn and grow in ways that were quite unknown to any generation that came before.
As a result of all these wonderful advances, you could be excused for logically concluding that mankind would be developing in all sorts of ways. Certainly, the pace of technological development is frenetic and continuing to accelerate. But what Of our social progress. What of our individual growth?
We live in a world where ordinary people have access to the most mind-boggling computer technology ….and they use it to post photos of what they cooked for lunch on Facebook. Despite all of our education and understanding, we remain as small and petty and mean as we ever were. Social one-upmanship, greed and ego-driven consumerism, rather than diminishing in a more educated society, seem more rife than ever. The ratings of the TV stations leave me in no doubt that, given a choice between expanding one’s knowledge …. or mentally vegetating, most people will invariably choose the latter. The ratings for amazing documentaries that teach about the wonders of our world and the potential of our species will never compare with those of ‘Big Brother’. ‘Survivor’ or ‘Australia’s Got Talent’. And if I was left in any doubt whatever about the smallness of the minds of many of my fellow beings, I need only observe TV advertising strategies to confirm it. Overt appeals to ego, avarice and indulgence, elevated volume, rapid speech in absurd voices and mind numbing repetition are apparently the most effective ways to motivate my brothers and sisters.
So if my writing seems to lean towards the negative, I suppose its because I feel frustrated at the world around me. I can see what we, as a species, could be …. and I see what we are …. and it grieves me. If my work sometimes seems insulting, its because I don’t know how else to capture the attention of a world …. who’s greatest intellectual effort for the day, is likely to be dialling up to vote who should be ejected from the Big Brother House! I don’t care who you’re dating, where you had lunch or who you just broke up with. I don’t care what car you just bought or if you have a bigger house/income/penis than me. I don’t care that you are at home amongst the cheese and red wine set, or that you are well known within your particular social/financial circle. I only care that, despite living in the most technologically advanced and materially opulent period in history, you have, in every other way, barely climbed out of the trees.
You have a sacred obligation, to yourself, to become intellectually, whatever you can be … and you abdicate that responsibility and hide within a meaningless virtual world of ‘pulp TV’, social nonsenses and smallness. You thoughtlessly sacrifice your childrens’ future on the alter of your own self indulgence and you provide them with everything to live with, but nothing to live for. You provide every physical comfort and no valid values. You’d willingly go out of your way to have your say over who should win the current reality TV competition, but you’d NEVER get off your arse to write to your politicians about issues that affect our planet and the future of you own children. And your most detestable trait; the one that I can never understand, is that you teach your children to undervalue the time of their lives, by meaninglessly squandering the time of your own.
Yes, I do love life. And yes, I am a bit negative sometimes. I doubt anyone reads my stuff anyhow!
Andrew Caddle 20130921
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Thank you, Andrew.