Transition Girl

Why transition girl?... Best answered by a quote from the Iliad....."The soul was not made to dwell in a thing; and when forced to it, there is no part of that soul but suffers violence."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Jack's septic skin graft

Yielding to pressure (and my apparent urges to debrief about some of the things that I think about), my principle reason for blogging is to help me process ideas for my creative writing so I will slip occasionally into dreadful verbose diatribe prevalent among wannabe writers. You have been duly warned. Now onto today’s topic.

A friend asked me how I deal with loneliness the other day. I don't actually think about it much to be honest, because I have good friends that mean it is rarely an issue. Nonetheless, the loneliness question is an interesting one. I feel lonely every now and then and more often than I would care to admit. I don't think that's particularly unusual and I don't think my responses to that feeling are out of the ordinary either.

Here's what I know. I probably feel loneliest when I'm at work. I don't really connect well with the folk in my work team – which I believe may be a bi-product of being a manager. There was a time when the connection was better, when I wasn’t the boss, when I could socialise with such folk without the concern that I would lose their respect if I behaved in any extraordinary way. While I generally don’t place a lot of weight on image, it is impossible to avoid in a work context where reputations are destroyed by idle gossip. Don’t really see the point in “work related” socialising if I cannot truly relax and be myself. So I largely don’t.

What I do in my leisure time then is critical to my well being. Some of what I do contributes positively and some of what I do contributes negatively.

Affiliation. I think the way I deal with loneliness generally is to spend time with my friends outside of work - with the people I do connect with on some level. I suppose that's the way most people deal with any occasional feeling of “not fitting in”.

Escape. I try not to drink alone - I will occasionally have a G&T after work but tend not to open bottles of wine unless I have someone to share the bottle with. I don't think there's anything anti-social about drinking alone - as long as it doesn't involve consuming one or two bottles in one sitting! My preferred (and more constructive) forms of escape are my hobbies – the writing, the photography, foodie stuff, movies and so on. And I realise that a key element of some of these hobbies is alone time. I guess that must mean I am comfortable in my own company. I know this to be true, with this weekend a prime example – I recharge by being a hermit every now and then!

Distraction. I manage to be “entertained” (unfortunately) by random encounters. I think I’m getting close to out-growing it but I still slip up every now and then. For example, went to a party at a friend's place not so long ago. I almost didn't go but I thought getting out of the house would be a good idea and I made an effort to doll myself up to cheer myself up. It had the desired effect with several of the boys at the party commenting on the 'pull-power quality' of the attire. There was one boy there that I had not seen before who slinked up to me later in the evening and we discussed how neither of us wanted to go dancing with the others, who were in the process of deciding to kick on to a club, and whether we might entertain each other doing something more low key. I said yes – I didn’t really need it and I didn’t really want it either but he was easy on the eye and built to entertain.

To quote one of my favourite soliloquies from an inspiring episode of “This Life”…Burned by experience. If you had the choice: to drink a free bottle of scotch with a boring git in a bar or to go to bed with a stick insect – bottle of scotch every time. All because of the one night stand. They are meant to be the solution. Crash, bang, wallop. No bad after effects. Ships that pass in the night. Works for you? No names, no small talk. You come, you go. Sometimes you don’t even come. No relationship. No ties. Nothing. And no one gets hurt. Just the sex – that’s all. Bollocks.

I guess the upshot of the anecdote is another way I tend to deal with loneliness is via the occasional meaningless one night stand. And, if it’s not immediately obvious by my inclusion of the quote above, I tend to be a little disappointed with myself when I slip up. It is soulless activity. When all is said and done though, who doesn't just get to a point sporadically where they need to touch skin that is not their own? Not really sure if it is what was meant by work-life balance… I could probably do a lot more to meet people like join a club or something but that seems so contrived to me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

the four loves

I have been thinking a bit lately about the nature of love that forms the foundation of relationships – especially between friends. Not because Valentine’s Day has come and gone but because I felt compelled to examine the idea to better understand my own motivations in one of my strongest current relationships as the dynamic of that friendship evolved in a new direction.

The details of that change are immaterial other than to say it caught me so off guard that I needed to pause to reflect and satisfy myself that my motives were pure. The friend is someone I respect and cherish deeply. I would use the “L” word with that person if I were comfortable using such language (and sadly, for me it is only a word I use to describe how I feel about things not people). And it seems this moment of realisation about my degree of comfort with the friendship came upon me with such stealth and gentleness that it did not even occur to me there was a giant elephant that had found its way into my room. I am denying its existence as only I can and do.

Let me describe the four types of love that permeate our world. I borrow heavily from a book by C.S. Lewis (in fact called the Four Loves and summarized nicely in Wikipedia!), which explores the nature of love. By distinguishing need-love (such as the love of a child for its mother) from gift-love (epitomized by a love for humanity), Lewis happens upon the contemplative that the natures of even these basic categorizations of love are more complicated than they, at first, seem. In considering the nature of pleasure, Lewis then divides love into four categories, based in part on the four Greek words for love: affection, friendship, eros, and charity.


Affection (storge) is fondness through familiarity, especially between family members or people who have otherwise found themselves together by chance. It is described as the most natural, emotive, and widely diffused of loves: natural in that it is present without coercion; emotive because it is the result of fondness due to familiarity; and most widely diffused because it pays the least attention to those characteristics deemed "valuable" or worthy of love and, as a result, is able to transcend most discriminating factors. Ironically, its strength, however, is what makes it vulnerable. Affection has the appearance of being "built-in" or "ready made", says Lewis, and as a result people come to expect, even to demand, its presence—irrespective of their behavior and its natural consequences.


Friendship (philia) is a strong bond existing between people who share a common interest or activity. Lewis explicitly says that his definition of friendship is narrower than mere companionship: friendship in his sense only exists if there is something for the friendship to be "about". Friendship is the least natural of loves, states Lewis; i.e., it is not biologically necessary to progeny like either affection (e.g., rearing a child), eros (e.g., creating a child), or charity (e.g., providing for a child). It has the least association with impulse or emotion. In spite of these characteristics, it was the belief of the ancients that it was the most admirable of loves because it looked not at the beloved (like eros), but towards that "about"—that thing because of which the relationship was formed. This freed the participants in this friendship from self-consciousness.


Eros is love in the sense of 'being in love'. This is distinct from sexuality. Lewis identifies eros as indifferent. This is good because it promotes appreciation of the beloved regardless of any pleasure that can be obtained from them. It can be bad, however, because this blind devotion has been at the root of many of history's most abominable tragedies. In keeping with his warning that "love begins to be a demon the moment [it] begins to be a god", he warns against the danger of elevating eros to the status of a lustful god.


Charity (agapē) is the love that brings forth caring regardless of circumstance, self-sacrificing and unconditional. Lewis recognizes this as the greatest of loves. Lewis compares love with a garden, charity with the gardening utensils, and the lover as the gardener. Lewis warns that those who exhibit charity must constantly check themselves that they do not flaunt—and thereby warp—this love, which is its potential threat.

My favourite of these types of love is agape. And while philia is the least natural of the loves, this love along with agape are the pillars of strength within the strongest of my current friendships. And it is amazing just how empowering that can be. Almost makes me willing to take that leap of faith. You know, the one where you open up to a person and trust them completely.

Friday, February 12, 2010


My creative process involves a whole lot of procrastination and developing a number of ideas that take a while to whittle down to manageable projects. The ideas emerging from 2009 are a fine example of this approach.

I started to work on a screen play, Twin Ghosts (which I was supposed to finish by June of that year if there was going to be any realistic prospect of getting government funding for a film). It still sits unfinished though I have prepared a solid treatment now.

I also started working on my second novel, the Penitentiary (my next three year project) though I shelved it for a while after a major case of writer’s block that hit me about the time of the February 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. A year later, and perhaps with a year of sub-conscious mind mulling occurring in the interim, my writing pen has returned with a passion and this second novel is now a work in progress bounding along in earnest.

Since then I have also added to the list of projects a concept book, Dreamorama, comprising a collection of short stories based entirely on some of the weirder dreams that have populated my nightscape over my life. There are some gems amongst those dreams, including many Lovecraftian style nightmares. One such nightmare inspired my short story Cat Spider. Finishing the collection of short stories may have to be a retirement plan!

I think I might be spreading myself too thin – all of the above is just too grand by way of goals to set myself but then focus was never really a strong point for me. It’s probably irony but to top it all off I’ve been thinking a fair bit about the nature of ambition generally the last few weeks after a really bad dream I had about a close friend. The dream seemed symbolic to me of barriers that exist to achieving our potential. I started writing another short story, High Watermark, which attempted to explore the themes of ambition. When I mentioned it to this particular friend, he got really annoyed that I could even suggest he lacked drive. While I explained I wrote fiction with particular biases and filters (as do all writers), this did not really satisfy him and that reaction was entirely logical because missing from my explanation was a critical piece of the puzzle.

What I didn’t tell him was one of those biases related to a personal experience I had a few years ago that has led me to a view that ambitious people can be princes of darkness. Ultimately I would rather convince myself that a friend is not ambitious than deal with what being ambitious might mean for his motives.

Let me to you about the earlier experience.

I encountered a Machiavellian politician a few years ago who used to invite himself to dinner at my place every now and then. The politician surreptitiously pulled me into a quiet corner one evening to tell me how much he wanted me, to taste the lips that formed my beguiling smile, but that he could not act upon that desire for one reason alone. He could never date me seriously because I was too unusual for his conservative set. It would hold him back in terms of his career. He was an ambitious man.

Knowing precisely what he was saying to me was incredibly shallow, he spend some time caveating his comments to tell me I was the most incredible person he had ever met – smart, beautiful, sensual, engaging on so many levels. He said I would make a great left wing trophy but women like me were simply just not conservative enough for an institution that was built almost entirely upon image.

How does it feel to be told that, despite all your accomplishments, you are not good enough to be the equivalent of a handbag – an accessory? (More so when the man who is telling you expects all his women to be the plain vanilla generic variety knowing that you can only ever be the handmade original one of a kind Gucci...if you were a handbag...)

You might see why I prefer to contemplate the idea that my close friend lacks ambition. (Aside: you might also see why I have strong reservations about ever dating again if the only people I seem to encounter are people who only care about image!)

I am not sure what is worse. People who are concerned for image or people who are afraid of experiencing passion. To me, these two ideas are opposite sides of the same ambition coin. In the latter case, most people I’ve met struggle with the idea of feeling life in all its full glory and the heights and depths that experiencing such emotions can take them. I’m used to being surrounded by people who are intimidated at the thought of spending time with someone willing to push the boundaries - to appreciate living life in all is messy splendor. Lacking drive. Let’s call a spade a spade.

Sure, people can sleepwalk through life (either because they are explicitly ambitious or implicitly so) and so many people do so because it can give them a greater sense of control. We should never underestimate there is great value in certainty. That said, to me, it is the equivalent of “life” that is a diet soft drink when only the real thing will do. Who really likes the metallic artificial flavour of such an unsatisfying drink? Ultimately, it doesn’t quench any thirst. It barely wets your mouth. It is sanitised. Expurgated.

And I often feel I am being “managed” as a result. Sure, I live within the boundaries others set for me (most of the time anyway) – I recognise other people care about what others think and I try to respect their choices. (Aside: I’ve managed a whole professional career in that cage with the full knowledge I am not an institution person, a compromise I make such is my passion for public policy.) But I don’t have to like it. And I will continue to believe ambition is a dirty word because to me it symbolises a chain that binds us and holds us back.

Time to return to the novel writing…

Friday, February 05, 2010

youthful idealism lost

Reminded about a poem I once heard in what was a poorly reviewed film, The Invisible, though the reading of this poem alone made the film worthwhile to me. The poem, In the Night, was about putting on a mask during the day - pretending - and the numbness and mindlessness that comes with that. And then the sadness masked consumes at night. Or as a friend of mine described it, loneliness and wanting to escape from a world that hurts and feeling the truth in separation. The truth in being alone.

Day burns down to night;
Burns the edges of my soul.
In the night
I break into Sparks of suns,
And become the fires end.
The dust of bones...
Night knifes my breath,
Swallows whole my tongue.
Turn back reverse return.
In the night
I see The real concealed
In the days bright lie.
Eyes stitched shut;
White teeth smile.
Sleep walks, And talks,
And feet Mark time
To the drum less beat.

The Road Less Travelled

Just clocked up almost two and a half thousand kilometres on a seven day road trip. A wee bit longer than the average Sunday drive and done sans laptop (and in fact limited access to news, papers or anything that would distract me from a week of quiet contemplation and catching up with some of my oldest and dearest friends).

I started my break with a dream about nuclear war (eek!) and finished with some decent research for the second novel completed with a few strong dramatical threads to start building the story and a number of book recommendations from various folk that should keep me out of mischief for much of the rest of the year.

I also decided to take the long way there, driving my way along the Princes Highway starting from Melbourne - the scenic coastal route (though the breathtaking ocean views were north of the Victorian border starting from Eden in the State of New South Wales). It was mostly smooth driving except for the fires near Mallacoota about six hours into the first day's drive. (Thankfully, the fires were well east of the highway.)

The pictures are from my favourite parts of the drive (noting some are courtesy of Google maps).