Tag Archives: spirituality

The Tree of Man: Patrick White

I have chosen this post as my best creative post in the course Reading Australia. It is a bit of a review on the book Tree of Man, but I think more it is a reflection on my homelife growing up. I used first person narrative, or recollections to write this piece of creative non-fiction,

Baz Luhrmann would have done well to choose this novel to base his movie Australia on, as it truly reflects life in Australia.

This novel follows the life of a man and his wife, Stan and Amy Parker, as they move from pioneers, breaking bush to establish a home, to the modern day, a world of machines and strangers.

There are various events through the book that expose what it must have been like to live in the bush, as a settler and a citizen of Australia. There is so much in this book that reminds me of my own experiences growing up.

You must go through the clearing of the bush to set up home,

When my dad bought the land at Blacktown for 500 pound, it was uncleared, full of ghost gums, tea trees, paperbarks and stubborn pine trees. They built the house with no neighbours around. Some moved in, but there was still space to play, to mow a cricket patch in the back yard, to raise goats and ducks and hens and children. We built a BMX track around the fenceline and later a car track as my brother and I learnt to drive and ride motorcycles.

We learnt to fight fires. We kept a stack of wet hessian bags by the back tap and at the first sign of smoke the alarm would be raised with the shout “FIRE!” Men and boys would come running, and the women huddled together and provided cake and tea for those of us who fought it.

We lived next to a creek, which flooded every year or so. It wasn’t much trouble though, except for old Mrs Ferguson, who still lived in her wooden house in the hollow, with the dirt floors. The only thing you had to make sure of was that you weren’t fishing for carp or eels when the waters were pushed downstream. We would watch out the kitchen window as the waters rose. The chicken coop was up high enough, the ducks and vegetable patch didn’t mind the extra water that splashed over the banks.

We learnt to read the wind, to know if it was going to be a problem with the trees falling on the houses as limbs separated from trunks. We tied the old ironbark back so if it did fall, it would fall to empty land, not in the direction of the house or chook pen. We shut doors and windows and felt the house shake as the sound of the wind roared through the leaves and branches of the trees.

We had loyal dogs. They respected dad and kept quiet around him but when it was just us kids, they became animated and excited to be included in our games or oversee us so we wouldn’t get into too much trouble.

Thankfully we never had to follow our mates as they march into war. We earned our pocket money doing chores and a paper run.

You learn to read the animals, to live with them, to put up with them or have them put up with you. Snakes? Turn around and walk away. They will go away, then you can come get your feed of blackberries. When the frogs breed, you know that there is going to be rain enough to fill that little natural trough and the frogs will grow beyond the stage of tadpole… if little boys let them. Magpies are homebodies, keep away from the trees where they are when they are nesting, better still offer them food and they will leave you alone, and even avoid your car when toileting from above. It’s the cockies you have to watch out for, they are just mad.

The book Tree of Man showed that one must marry, watch the children grow and have families of their own. Children make decisions and have lifestyles that you don’t necessarily agree with, but you have to shut up, and accept them because they are your kids. Parents can be proud about their children’s accomplishments and brag on those, while being humble about their own brave feats.

Patrick White shows us in this book that to be a spiritual being, one must learn how to read the land. In the book; Disputed Territories: Land, Culture and Identity in Settler Societies, By David S. Trigger, Gareth Griffiths , Neville White writes in chapter 7 how he had brought two elders from the Yolngu nation to Melbourne. The men complained that there was too much noise that they couldn’t hear the land. They couldn’t feel the breeze. they wondered where men lived, and how it was possible that some people in this land of plenty were hungry. “Where is his family?” they asked.

Image result for albert tucker paintings

The Horned Intruder- Albert Tucker

The white man, the settlers have intruded on the land, because they do not read it correctly, and try to manipulate it to their own ends. Nature still wins out. Look at Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. Look at the amount of homeless people due to floods in Bangladesh. These natural occurrences happen, and we as ‘man’ have to put up with it, to cope. Because life goes on.

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on”. Robert Frost

For those who are not connected to the land, who are not spiritual beings, the day to day running of life can seem like a chore. Life goes on, day after day after day.

 

 

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Spiritual Importance of Dance

In every culture there seems to be an importance placed on music and dance. The music and dance of a culture tells stories of ancestors and events that have happened in the past. Passing on the dance and the song keeps the story alive. One is able to connect with the spiritual aspect of a culture by viewing or participating in the dance of that people.

For the Native American people, it was and still is important to keep the story of the Ghost dance at Wounded Knee in the hearts and minds of the generations to come. This story is similar to the end time prophecies in the bible. All the dead shall no longer be dead but we will be able to dance with them. There will be no more tears and crying, no wounded or sick. People will be happy and will have enough provisions. The buffalo will return, the white man will be no more.

It was the great native American dream. That the land would be restored to them, that the white men would leave and the animals would once again roam on the plains. This is the promise of times to come, not for now. If the native american were to hope for it in this current age, then I am afraid they will be a little disappointed. In fact, the white man has not finished taking land from the natives. President Donald Trump has allowed the Dakota access pipeline to go ahead, encroaching on Sioux land, and potentially poisoning the waterways that give the Sioux nations their drinking water.

For African people, and African American people, the dance is not something that they make up but one that is passed on from generations before. The dance is spiritual, embedded in them from birth. The moves are not new, they are ancient and have meaning.

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Likewise, the Australian Aboriginal people have dance and music as part of their culture. They tell stories of events by portraying animals and other things in nature in the dancing. Literature for the native people groups around the world may not be a written language but a language, with stories, fiction and non-fiction being told in the dance. To the native people of these countries and more, dance is not something for entertainment but to pass on the knowledge of what came before. It is a spiritual connection with nature and with the ancestors.

 

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Patrick White and Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Ok, I am going to be a bit cheeky here and include this post under both Reading Australia, and American Literature. Why? Because I feel it belongs in both. I believe we can see Emerson, Thoreau and other transcendentalists in Patrick White’s writings. Patrick White was a man who was obsessed with the need for spiritual connection. It is evident in his books and in his life. Is my lecturer going to allow my marrying the two subjects? Paraphrasing Thoreau and Emerson… I am doing it because I believe its the right thing to do, therefore I have confidence in myself and will go on a path that is not often traveled.

In The Tree of Man, Stan Parker is in essence a Christian with ties to a conservative kind of church. He grew up believing in God and the institution of the church, he baptises his kids into the church, he prays and seems to be the spiritual rock of the family; even though he is a man of few words, his conviction is strong. At the end of his life in the book, he has a revelation. He has been striving his whole life for a connection with God, in church, praying and at times cursing a silent God. All that time, God was revealing himself through nature. He is the God in the storm and on the gentle breeze. He is there in good times and bad, even if we cant see it at the time.

Image result for footprints in the sand poem

Patrick White had an epiphany, or a revelation when feeding his dogs one night, and slipping in the mud, that God is everywhere. Before this point, he was searching for a church that was uncompromising in its message, but liberal in its acceptance of people. He was seeking a church that was fervent in sticking to points of scripture that White considered important, while relaxing on the things that didn’t really matter.

I just had an epiphany myself. I have been doing the same thing. As a Gay man, I felt totally rejected by the Christian Church when I came out. Before coming out, I was denying who I was, while in church. I have been striving ever since to find a church that will compromise on the issue of homosexuality, or being accepting of gay people but conservative on other areas of teaching. I can stop searching. I will never find a perfect church, because while it may be perfect for me, it will be imperfect for others, or visa versa.

I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colours will bleed into one
Bleed into one.
But yes, I’m still running.

You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross of my shame
Oh my shame, you know I believe it.

But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for.
But I still haven’t found
What I’m looking for.

 

In the words of U2, I still haven’t found what I am looking for. But you know what, it doesn’t matter. I don’t need a church to justify my belief in God. The church says “follow the leader, follow the rules of those who have gone before. Thoreau says to travel the road less worn, to make your own way. Emerson says to be self – reliant, trusting your gut instinct, your intuition.

For those who are getting caught up in Gay Marriage debates around the world, I say, do not listen to the voices or politics to sway you into voting one way or another. Rely on your gut, and vote your own way no matter how the crowd is swayed. ( sorry to get political).

I hope this post has been informative, and insightful to you, Please leave a comment.

Dave

Each man must walk his own journey. One must not look merely at the teachings of the elders of before but be a leader of our own spiritual journey.

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Doors of perception cleared, eyes opened within Remembering Babylon

To my fellow students of Visionary Imagination. 

Page 118.

“I think of our early settlers, starving on these shores in the midst of plenty they did not recognise, in a blessed nature of flesh, fowl, fruit that was all around them and which they could not, with their English eyes,perceive, since the very habit and faculty that makes apprehensive to us what is known and expected dulls our sensitivity to other forms, even the most obvious. We must rub our eyes and look again, clear our minds of what we are looking for to see what is there”.

We ourselves do not recognise that which is around us. while the settlers were unaware of all the food around  them, we now may starve spiritually because we don’t see what we are living in the midst of. We need to have our own doors of perception opened to see the infinite spiritual world in which we live.

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Visionary Imagination: Summative Post

In this course, we have looked at the writings of William Blake, Patrick White, and David Malouf. We also looked at the art of Brett Whiteley.

I have discovered a theme which runs through the whole course.

God can mean different things to different people, but it is essential to life to find your spiritual journey and to follow it wherever it may lead.

Do not be discouraged by others on your journey. They may say “You Shalt Not”, but you shall, just not in their church, or on their journey.

When it comes to things spiritual, some find comfort having a set of rules and dogmas to follow, where others like to be free in their worship of God as they know him/her or it.

Do not be scared of people who are different. Blake and Whiteley may have been scarey to those who knew them. Blake with his fervency and passion for religious freedom, and Whiteley with his passion for all kinds of mind altering substances. Whiteley’s mind scares me somewhat. How many things can one think about at once? Whiteley wanted to express all that was inside him in a sort of urgency, that caused things to often looked disconnected and muddled.

White showed in his novel, Riders in the Chariot, that there are people in our own community, in suburbia, whom we consider different; all on their own spiritual journey. it doesn’t mean one is wrong, and we shouldn’t treat them with anything other than the dignity that should be afforded to every human being. This novel exposes the maliciousness of seemingly everyday people when the are exposed to people or ways that they themselves are uncomfortable with. White himself had an epiphany, which eventually saw him leave the church., but it wasnt until he saw Billy Graham in 1979 that he gave up on Christianity. In his final days, it was said he had a new testament by his bedside. He was asked if he was reading it.He said no, but went on to say, “Well, I will soon know”.

Malouf focuses his novel on a man who is different, but the same as those in the society into which he stumbles. We all must seek to try to understand others, before we start to criticise, ostracise and demean. These different people can add to our lives. Gemmy added value and meaning to the people of the community he stumbled into.

Patrick White was a well known homosexual in our community, who lived with his male partner as husband and wife and nobody blinked an eyelid, except the church. David Malouf is also openly gay. He writes about spiritual issues but himself is not religious despite having a staunch Christian as a father and a mother who gave up her Jewish heritage to be with the man she loved.

Whiteley was raised in a Christian home and school, but turned against the traditions to follow his own spiritual path, along a journey that led him into a world of drugs and alcohol. His paintings were sometimes very sexually explicit.

Blake was a man who fervently followed the Christian teachings but who was not one to be restricted by the church concerning matters sexual or anything else.

These men freed themselves from the restrictions that the world would place on them. It gave them freedom to express the visions they had.

Ones visions and imagination are our own to enjoy, but if we wish to express them, they can be restricted by people or the community in which we wish to be a part.

The people that we studied were pioneers, bravely expressing what was on their hearts. I pray that I too might have that courage.

I have been encouraged on my own spiritual journey. I feel that I am closer to God now than I have been for years. I feel closest to God when I sing about Him, about our relationship with him and how good it is to be comforted by Him who walks with us along life’s journey.

This course has challenged me. It challenged my values and my belief structures. In doing so, it made me release some, to throw off the shackles, and embrace and strengthen others. I have enjoyed studying this course.

Dave

 

 

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On Another’s Sorrow

This poem was written by William Blake as the last poem in his book “Songs of Innocence”.

It asks the question, who is without heart that he can sit and watch another in pain and sorrow and not be touched by it?

He goes on to explain that such empathy comes from God himself. God became the little child (Jesus). God became the man of woe, when He hung on a cross. He feels our pain, He knows our sorrows.

It reminds me of songs, and verse written since the time of Blake. “His eye is on the sparrow”  He cares for the seemingly most insignificant creature, and if He cares that much for a bird, how much more will he care for us. Matt 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; They do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

The Poem “Footprints (In the sand)” reminds us that we are never alone when we feel we are struggling. When we see only one set of footprints, it was then He was carrying us.

I don’t know about you, but there are times I really need carrying. I’m glad He is there.

on anothers sorrow

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