A hopeful path forward in a fractured world – Sarah Wilson’s new book

January 17, 2021 at 9:18 am | Posted in capitalism, Democracy, health, Living creatively, optimism, politics, sarah wilson, Simplifying, sustainable living, value of the arts | Leave a comment
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An adventurous heart

Sarah Wilson’s This One Wild and Precious Life navigates through the problems facing us all right now: coronavirus, climate change, racial inequalities, political and economic polarisation, as well as loneliness, in an accessible, thought-provoking way.

The author spent three years pondering these issues and she takes us on her travels over that time, inward and outward, as she questions and explores and tries to find a way towards some coherent answers. It all started from her observation that at the moment we are fundamentally disconnected.

‘Without meaningful connection – to others, to life, to ourselves – we also experience what sociologists and psychologists are calling “moral loneliness”, which is when the supply cord to connection, caring and doing the right thing has been severed.’

Wilson interviewed psychologists and poets, scientists and philosophers on her journey. She travelled and hiked in her quest for answers, drawing on stoicism, Jungian theory, existentialism, feminism and various spiritual practices, which, she points out, emerged in response to turbulent times like our own.

If this sounds heavy-going or ploddingly sincere and worthy, this unique book does not come across anything like that. The honesty and freshness of her writing is a joy to read, as we are welcomed into the intimate world of a remarkable person. The portraits of her in the media come across as glamorous and beautiful but she turned her back on the wealth and glamour, and her beauty is a result of her health, health that was hard-won. Continue Reading A hopeful path forward in a fractured world – Sarah Wilson’s new book…

Why read? Why write? Why bother? On reclaiming our language and our lives and having a laugh

September 13, 2020 at 12:46 am | Posted in capitalism, Comedy writing, Democracy, humour as medicine, Living creatively, social capital, value of the arts | 2 Comments
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The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity

Because I’ve been writing a new novel (working title: Tumult) I’ve postponed writing a new blog post. Immersed in the world of the novel, it’s only when I feel super strongly about a book I’ve read that I’m desperate to tell people about it. Two small books stand out. Carlo M. Cipolla’s The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity and John Freeman’s Dictionary of the Undoing.

Even though The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity (Penguin, 2019) was first published in 1976, with its chapters such as ‘Stupidity and Power’, it has direct relevance to the Trump phenomenon. This international best-seller explains that ‘stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals’. Lest this sound like a depressing read, it is actually a very funny one, and Nassim Taleb in his Foreword to the latest edition writes that it’s not cynical or defeatist – no more than a book on microbiology is. Instead, it’s ‘a constructive effort to detect, know and thus possibly neutralize one of the most powerful, dark forces which hinder the growth of human welfare and happiness.’

‘Something is very wrong with the world.’

And when I began reading Dictionary of the Undoing (Corsair, 2019), I thought that John Freeman is our William Blake (see here) Dictionary of the Undoing is an arresting and profound book, simply and succinctly analysing how we arrived at our current mess. Continue Reading Why read? Why write? Why bother? On reclaiming our language and our lives and having a laugh…

Drinking the days: biographies and oysters

January 28, 2020 at 10:36 am | Posted in Australian memoir, Christina Stead, Democracy, Dennis Glover, Kay Schubach, Living creatively, mental illness, optimism, value of the arts | Leave a comment
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‘Set wide the window. Let me drink the day.’ American writer Edith Wharton (1862-1937) wrote that. I love it and would often think of it after opening the curtains first thing.

But her words took on a tragic tone in the mornings after the bushfires began. We could no longer open windows. Canberra’s air quality suddenly became literally the worst city in the world.

Actually it wasn’t as sudden as it seemed. Canberra’s air quality has been gradually worsening in the past few years, along with the rest of the country’s, thanks to our Government doing less than nothing about vehicle and other emissions responsible for raising CO2 levels.[1]

But I was aiming at an uplifting, positive post, damn it! I normally slant towards the upbeat, the whacky, the whimsical, but before veering in that direction, a serious point needs to be acknowledged. Continue Reading Drinking the days: biographies and oysters…

Thinking women, hope and regeneration

June 12, 2019 at 6:56 am | Posted in Andrea Goldsmith, Australia behind, Australian novels, Democracy, Living creatively, Movies, optimism, Toni Jordan | 2 Comments
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 Am I advocating escapism?

It’s been hard to find anything uplifting to say in the last few weeks. The last time I read John Milton (1608-1674) was in English (Hons) many years ago. But I just came across a quotation from Paradise Lost that seems like a sanity-saver in the world we’re enduring now.

‘The mind is its own place, and in itself

Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.’

I can imagine a certain homeless lad I see often, camping endlessly outside Dickson Woolworths, waiting for a Government flat to come up – or any of those poor, skinny, desperate blokes on Manus Island or Nauru who find themselves simultaneously in Hell and in Limbo – saying, ‘Yeah, that’s easy for him to say!’

And yes, Milton had his books and his house, music and writing, and his wife (a succession of three) and children.

But everyone has his own trials and Milton was blind when he wrote Paradise Lost, and of course when writing poignant poems like ‘When I consider how my light is spent’. His first two wives died, he also lost a son and a daughter, and he had a strained relationship with his remaining daughters.

Continue Reading Thinking women, hope and regeneration…

Recipes for happiness

April 3, 2019 at 12:24 am | Posted in Bookshops, creativity, decluttering, libraries, List making, Living creatively, Simplifying | Leave a comment
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That warm glow of excitement and satisfaction

It’s been a while since my last blog post and I make no apology. I don’t write them for click-bait – they’re for contemplation and the odd laugh. I’ve been working – writing non-fiction – and, of course, reading. One thing I read expresses precisely my situation about books to be read. New Yorker staff writer Katy Waldman admitted in that journal (4 December 2018) that she was ‘criminally behind on the books I want to read, and my job consists of reading books, so I can only imagine what most readers feel. … The deficit grows by the hour.’

Judging by the towering pile of books on my bedside table, and probably on yours, we know exactly what she means.

Continue Reading Recipes for happiness…

Yellow horses: a story of thwarted ambitions and coming full circle

August 29, 2017 at 8:25 am | Posted in art, creativity, Franz Marc, Living creatively, Writing | 1 Comment
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We wondered why the tulips were taking a long time to come up

Silver needles in my knees

I’ve been working on a book about an abstract artist and having some minor setbacks. First, a previous writing job kept spilling over into the time I wanted to be researching the new, much bigger project. (And this keeps happening. They come back wanting more and I do more because they pay me.) Although shorter and simpler than a PhD, the new project is like a PhD in that if I take even one day off it, it takes about two days to get back down to the deep level of engagement with the subject again that makes the connections come easily and the writing go quickly.

Second set-back: I hurt my knee and spent many hours of many weeks doing physiotherapy Continue Reading Yellow horses: a story of thwarted ambitions and coming full circle…

Lamplight on the darkened path

May 7, 2017 at 4:04 am | Posted in capitalism, creativity, Democracy, Living creatively, media negativity, public squalour | Leave a comment
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A Bigger Prize and The Short Goodbye

In Sickness, in Health and in Jail by Mel Jacobs

‘The world breaks everyone, and afterwards some are stronger in the broken places.’ Hemingway said that, and Mel Jacobs quotes him in the front of her poignant memoir, In Sickness, in Health and in Jail (Allen & Unwin, 2016). The author describes the shock, social stigma and logistical nightmares involved when her husband went to jail for two years after breaching the rules concerning his online hunting weapons business.

It was being uncharacteristically slack with a couple of technicalities (which were, granted, against the law, but seemed so minor in the scheme of things) that landed a decent, normally highly moral, small business guy in jail. A pity that the justice system doesn’t use such finely honed powers of legal scrutiny on anyone in finance or banking, I thought, since at the same time I was reading Elisabeth Wynhausen’s riveting The Short Goodbye (Melbourne University Press, 2011) about the global financial crisis.

Almost no one in finance or banking – no matter how illegal, unethical or immoral, no matter how many millions of lives they’ve ruined – will have to endure the appalling conditions of Australian prisons described in Jacobs’ book, and it’s exactly the same in the UK and Europe and the US. As Wynhausen states:

‘Even as unemployment around the globe soared, the financial institutions responsible sped from the wreckage they had left in their wake, to grab whatever they could get their hands on. After nine big Wall Street banks … were bailed out with US$175 billion from American taxpayers under the program President Bush signed into being, though President Obama would cop the flak for it, they handed out nearly US$33 billion in bonuses. (p. 189)

Continue Reading Lamplight on the darkened path…

Cycling and writing

April 12, 2017 at 2:45 am | Posted in Cycling - health benefits, cycling - mental benefits, depression, Living creatively, writers' health | Leave a comment
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A people-centred society

Riding a bicycle regularly has measurable benefits for your body and immeasurable ones for your brain and creativity. In my last blog I hinted at these benefits and in this one I have the space to expand on some of the glorious results of swapping four wheels for two, and I don’t mean the kind with the internal combustion engine attached. I mean the kind that relies on human muscle power.

That muscle power is the key to the benefits. Cycling improves the strength, tone and flexibility of muscles and sluices synovial fluid through the hip, knee and ankle joints, which eases arthritis. Pumping oxygen through the bloodstream enhances your energy, expands brain capacity and improves your complexion.

Continue Reading Cycling and writing…

Go on – make something beautiful

January 23, 2017 at 2:45 am | Posted in Andrea Goldsmith, art, creativity, Living creatively | 3 Comments
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I believe that we’re all creative. We can express our creativity through dancing or drawing, cooking or wood-carving. We can express it in how we live ordinary life or in taking beautiful photos of our life, through making people laugh or by writing a blog.

Nigel Andrew once believed that blogs were ‘an outlet for opinionated egos’ but he’s now convinced that they can be ‘a thing of beauty, a repository of interesting and original thought, of humour and pleasure, of amiable interchange among friends’. (Literary Review, August 2016, p. 1) Continue Reading Go on – make something beautiful…

Titans and sex goddesses: on Tim Ferriss and Helen Gurley Brown

January 14, 2017 at 9:30 pm | Posted in Anti-ageing, depression, health, Living creatively, nutrition | Leave a comment
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What do you have for breakfast? This is one of the questions that Tim Ferriss asks those he interviews in his Tools of Titans: the tactics, routines and habits of billionaires, icons, and world-class performers (Vermilion, 2016). Protein shakes are popular with many of these titans.

Tim Ferriss (See www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog ) is the best-selling American author of The Four-Hour Working Week: escape 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich (Crown, 2007) and other books and podcasts.

Tools of Titans is ‘a compendium of recipes for high performance’. Some of these ‘recipes’ are intriguing and some sensible. Some of them I do already and some I can’t wait to try. Continue Reading Titans and sex goddesses: on Tim Ferriss and Helen Gurley Brown…

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