Fascinating and just a little weird.
Image by _Tawcan via FlickrI went to the gents before and noticed that the elastic on my Calvin Klein's had lost a lot of its ping. They’re oldish jocks so it’s no great surprise. Still as I stood there I contemplated the process by which elastic perishes over time. Is it use or is it simply age? Well, I thought, frequent use will obviously accelerate the process, but largely it is process of time. Over time the elastic will dry and deteriorate all by itself whether the jocks are worn every day or never worn. Like everything else it ages and, short of keeping your jocks in a vacuum, there’s not much you can do about it.
Naturally my thoughts followed onto other materials. Steel won’t perish, but exposed to the elements it will rust. Even concrete is subject to its own particular form of cancer, notwithstanding how it will weather and crumble in any case. It shouldn’t be a surprise, everything declines with time.Even trees? I wondered at that. There are trees that have been around hundreds, even thousands of years. Is there a natural end to them? Is there a time when they shrivel and die? I thought probably yes, though clearly on a much different time frame to us.
The difference with trees of course is that they are organic. They grow, they blossom and flower, and they regenerate of their own accord. In some way so do we. Our DNA dictates how tall we will grow and what colour our eyes will be; we will inherit traits and potentially diseases. We will grow to a certain point and then stop growing; for a while we will remain in a kind of physical stasis before the inevitable decline begins. One day the decline becomes so much that we fail altogether. And so the process begins again.
Why is this so really? Why should a tree last ten longer than a man? Why does a man outlive a dog or cat or indeed most animals? What is the genetic trigger in our make-up that makes these accepted facts?It’s odd the things that occur to you standing in a urinal.
I went for months without dreaming, or without any recollection of my dreams anyway. I have never been a person who wakes with dreams still fresh in mind. Since I was a kid dreams have stayed with me sporadically, but when they have I have tended to believe it was not accidental. I believed quite superstitiously perhaps that I remembered the dreams when I needed to, that they were pushed into my conscious mind because there was a message contained in them. This is a form of synchronicity too.
For that reason I have been disappointed in my quiet nights. My life has been busy, and occasionally full of strife. I was ripe for some guidance, or at least a different perspective - but none came.
This last week though they have returned. It helps maybe that the last ten days of my life have been pretty full-on, full of incident and intrigue. It's natural I think for that turmoil to be reinterpreted in dreams.
The dreams have had a calming effect on me, though I soon forget them. I wake with them in me and aware that my unconscious mind has been busy through the night. I lay and reflect upon what I can recall, blank faced, drawing no definitive conclusions but feeling in me the presence of hidden meanings. It is enough sometimes to have simply dreamt - it might seem silly, but there is something reassuring in the mere fact of it.
There have been no great revelations, but each morning from about 4am onwards I feel as if I'm in the thick of it. I don't know, but I wonder if there is some kind of energy that is transferred or connected to. Like synchronicity there is more to it, and I would not be surprised to find that across town others are dreaming of similar things to me at the same time. Do our minds meet in never never land? Does our unconscious know of things we do not?
I think yes, and perhaps this is something like that innate or absolute knowledge I wrote of yesterday. I'm sure we do not know all that we know. I'm confident that in our dreams we are transported to another, more elevated plane. Our dreams are like sage old men that gather together to share secrets with each other, before retiring into the recesses of our unconscious mind. Now and again some of that knowledge reaches us in our waking state, strange and mysterious, like news from a distant and unknown place - but somehow real, somehow believable even while strange.
That is what I think anyway. I'm reluctant to dismiss my dreams. I cling to them.
One morning on the tram last week as I went into work I looked out the window from my seat and saw a 4wd - or SUV as they call them these days - with a licence plate of 'GOOD4U'. Just as I looked at it a lyric in the song I was listening to on my iPod was heard - "good for you".
At the time I took this as a very strange coincidence. It's not a common lyric, and it's an even less common registration number - only one in all the state. I pondered for a moment if it could mean more, and then concluded that in all probability it did not. It was chance, strange and mysterious, but no more than that.
I wrote earlier in the year about synchronicity. At the time I felt an overwhelming - if sentimental - belief in it. I recall my mind going around in circles trying to find a rational cause for the series of events I had both witnessed and been part of. I could not, and after the space of months still cannot. At the time there was reason to suppose that these seemingly random linked events there was a meaning, a purpose - that was the essence of synchronicity, in my mind at least: a series of coincidences that signify some deeper meaning, if it is to be discerned.
It is for that reason that I dismissed my experience last week as mere coincidence - what reason did it betray? Besides, coincidences, however strange, will and must occur.
It is only in the last few days that I found by accident that synchronicity was a term coined by Jung to explain such strange acausally related events. I was surprised to find such an eminent figure - a scientist of some sort, no less - was in actual fact the proponent for something so distinctly odd. It was as if in all his years of practice he had come to understand that not everything could be explained by simple human or psychological factors. There was more after all.
"The philosophical principle that underlies our conception of natural law is causality. But if the connection between cause and effect turns out to be only statistically valid and only relatively true, then the causal principle is only of relative use for explaining natural processes and therefore presupposes the existence of one or more other factors which would be necessary for an explanation. This is as much as to say that the connection of events may in certain circumstances be other than causal, and requires another principle of explanation."It's a tenuous argument in many ways, but it can't be dismissed - what he is saying basically is if effect cannot always be proved to have followed cause then there must be other explanations. That's probably true, but it's hardly definitive - in the first instance there may be a causal link invisible to the eye; in the second if there is no link then the explanation is an open field barring a better understanding: to say something is not white does not mean it's black. Jung has defined something in absence, he has hypothesised into existence this thing called synchronicity to explain what he does not know.
"Final causes, twist them how we will, postulate a foreknowledge of some kind. It is certainly not a knowledge that could be connected with the ego, and hence not a conscious knowledge as we know it, but rather a self-subsistent 'unconscious' knowledge which I would prefer to call 'absolute knowledge."
In most places talking about the weather is considered polite conversation, the thing you’ll talk about when you’ve got nothing else to say. In Melbourne it is different. In Melbourne discussion of weather is a perfectly reasonable because in Melbourne the weather is another distinct part of the cities personality.
Melbourne weather has always been notorious, not just within the city but around the country too. Go to Sydney or Brisbane and you’ll hear cracks about Melbourne’s weather, how cold it is, or wet, how gloomy – somehow overlooking the fact that Sydney gets twice as much rainfall as Melbourne; we get colder winters, but we also get hotter summers.
Within Melbourne the discussion is all about the variability of the weather. ‘Four seasons in one day’ is a phrase you’ll hear a lot in Melbourne because often that’s just how the weather will be. You learn pretty quick not to take too much for granted when it comes to the weather here – it might be fine now, but that’s not to say it won’t storm later.
In large part these unique weather patterns are an outcome of our geographical position. We are perched on the southern most tip of the mainland. To the south of us is Tasmania, but beyond that is Antarctica. When the southerlies blow you can feel the ice in the air cutting right through you. To the north of Melbourne is the desert heart of Australia, hot, dry, rugged. In the summer particularly when the northerlies blow living in Melbourne is like living in an oven, the parched, hot air baking the city dry. There are days when in the wind there are elements of the red dust of the dead heart.
They are the two main elements of the Melbourne weather map, almost opposite in effect. There are days they combine to produce wild weather, gale force winds, fierce storms. We can have days alternating between these two forces, and hours sometimes.
The weather of the last month has been proof of this.
This summer has started off hotter than usual. They say this is the trend, that global warming will mean the temperatures rise. So far I would reckon we’ve had 7-8 days over 35 degrees. Combined with the long-running drought the effect has been disastrous. For the last 3 weeks bushfires have raged through the high country and Gippsland. Look at a map of Victoria and you’ll see a large black spot where there once was forest but is now burnt out – a huge area unimaginable I think to people who come from smaller countries.
For much of the last 3 weeks the fires have been increasingly fuelled by hot days and the north wind which has at times and in places produced firestorms. One person described the sound like a freight train roaring through. It has wrought devastation.
Last week the fires ripped up the slopes of Mt Buller and threatened the alpine village there, before a late wind change saved it. That night in Melbourne we had our hottest night in 45 years – the lowest it got was 27 degrees.
The next day was hot too, but mixed in with it was a cold front moving in from the west. I went to the pub that night and sat by the window with a friend sharing a pre-Christmas drink. As we sat there the rain tumbled down. It fell in large, heavy drops, mixed in with hail. It was early still but the sky darkened with it. A few from the pub went out into the rain, their arms spread as if to embrace it, their faces upturned, dancing in it as if it was something they had not seen before. And rain now is so rare as to be almost unknown.
It was cool over the weekend, cool enough that I had to wear a jacket out, with sporadic showers throughout. It was a pleasant change. Then came Christmas day. This was pretty well miserable through and through. The warmest it got was 14 degrees. For much of the day it rained. We considered lighting a fire, and I know those who did. Up at Mt Buller, so recently threatened by fire, snow fell, highlighting the surreal quality of the weather. Snow fell in some of the outer suburbs too.
It is coolish today, as it was yesterday, and supposedly the rest of the week. The rain has been welcome but is trailing off. It will be hot again for the weekend. And after that? Who knows…
The conversation on Friday was creative and at times surreal. Cheeseboy has a touch of whimsy to him, though I’m not always sure it’s intentional. One of his endearing qualities is a willingness to be silly, to engage in unconventional conversation as if it is perfectly normal. It may have been the potent Belgian beer that did it, or simply the fact that it was Friday night, but from quite early on we seemed prepared to consider subjects that were a touch left field. That’s how we came to discuss praying mantis’.
I suspect that the female praying mantis is something that most men have paused to reflect upon at some stage of their life. I know it has always made me stop for a moment, and think that biting off the poor fellows head just at the critical moment is a tad extreme.
How did this come to be? Is it inbred, programmed in the genes of every female praying mantis? Or is it something taught? This we discussed.
I imagined a mother-daughter conversation just when the daughter was hitting puberty and maybe getting a little frisky: the insect equivalent of the birds and the bees lecture, but with a twist.
“Now dear,” the mother might say, “soon you’re going to get these feelings inside you. You’ll start to change and develop and it might seem a little confusing to you, but it’s all perfectly natural. One day you’ll wake up and you’ll find the dull little boy praying mantis you’ve always known will be looking at you in a different way, and it will feel nice. This is where sex comes into it. Do you know about sex – of course you do, but there’s something you may not know.”
“One day a boy is going to ask you out. He’ll bring you flowers, take you out for dinner, and then take you home with him. Don’t be afraid dear, this too is perfectly natural, a necessary part of life. He’ll take you to bed and after a cursory attempt at foreplay will start to have intercourse with you. Now this is where it’s very important – promise you won’t forget, dear? Well, it’s this, he’ll huff and he’ll puff and carry on as if he’s very proud of himself – don’t worry, you’ll recognise it – and then after a few moments when he has his orgasm DON’T FORGET TO BITE HIS HEAD OFF!”
Unfortunately there are few father-son conversations of the same ilk, because the father has already become a meal. You could imagine a conversation down the pub though:
“Had a close call Saturday night.”
“Yeah? What happened?”
“You know that chic I was chatting up?”
“The one with the big tits?”
“What about her?”
“Well, I put the moves on her. Nothing special, just the old patented charmeroo.”
“Anyway, off we trot to my place for a bit of the old horizontal dancing, if you know what I mean.”
“So I pour her a glass of the good sherry that I keep under the sink and we start to chat and before you know it away we go.”
“And this is where it gets weird Dennis.”
“Whatta ya mean?”
“Well, I’m doing my thing, and pretty well too by all accounts when some finely honed instinct of mine makes me look up – just in time.”
“This girl – Sally her name was – has got her mouth wide open as if she’s about to bite my head off.”
“So what happened then?”
“I pulled my head back, kinda by reflex, just when her jaws snapped shut. Fair dinkum, she’d have taken my head clean off my shoulders otherwise.”
“You’re kidding me!”
“I kid you not.”
“I’ve heard about bunny boiling, but biting your head off, that’s a bit much. What was her excuse?”
“Reckons the sex was so good she couldn’t help herself.”
“Yeah? You buy that?”
“I can see how it could happen, mate.”
“Fuck me dead. So what now?”
“Seeing her again Saturday mate. Give you the lowdown Sunday…”
A friend of mine sent me an article last week which makes weird reading. Basically it states that many astronomers and scientists are beginning to speculate as to whether the world we live is a type of matrix, as seen in the movie of that name - that in fact all we see and feel is the creation of a civilisation far in advance of our own, and nothing is real as we know 'real' to be. It sounds a bit like an April fools joke but it seems there are plenty of people serious about it. I find it so fascinating that I sort of wish it was true - wouldn't that be interesting! I guess I don't really mean that because I don't really like the idea that my strings could be being pulled by some other entity, but it is wickedly intriguing.
Goes to show - there are a million and one mysteries out there still to be solved.