Earth Hour 2014

March 29, 2014 at 10:05 pm | Posted in Destroying nature, Nature, Philosophy, Social Responsibility, Special Occasions, Ways of Living | 2 Comments
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Tonight is Earth Hour, the time to reflect on the damage that we are causing to our planet.

I wrote this in my journal in fifteen minutes.  I enjoyed a glass of wine and some chocolate, and wondered as I did so, how much longer an ordinary person like myself would be able to enjoy something like that.

 

I am writing this in pen in my journal in the almost-dark, lights off.

It is quiet tonight – unusual for Saturday;

just an occasional car in the distance.

Dogs bark as something disturbs them,

street lights shine on

tall, slender spotted gums

whose high-set branches

are silhouetted against silver-grey clouds

lit by reflected street lights.

 

The only noise apart from distant traffic

and barking dogs is the buzzing I hear –

either crickets, or the tinnitus in my head.

I think of the reason for the lights out –

Earth Hour – a symbol and a reminder

of what we face if we do nothing,

if we do not change our ways –

for Climate Change has begun,

and it is quicker than we are.

 

I think of those who are steadfast

in their refusal to acknowledge any problem

or that we are an integral part of it.

I wonder if millions of minds

meditating on one thought, one desire –

to save our world –

can influence and change those other minds.

But I know that we cannot change minds

that are shuttered and barred,

locked tight against anything

that threatens their grasping hands

or their wilful disregard of what they do.

 

I think of our Earth, ravaged

by Nature so often in the past,

but even more threatened now

by the greed and lust for power

of a disbelieving and dishonest humanity.

I grieve for the damage we have already done

and I grieve for that which is to come.

 

I can do nothing in the Big Picture,

but I can do something

in my own little part of the world.

I will continue to do what I can,

hoping that my small efforts,

joined with those of others with like minds

can be enough to halt the rape

of the only planet we have.

 

(c) Linda Visman

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Stories Don’t End Where the Book Does

February 10, 2014 at 12:40 pm | Posted in Philosophy, Psychology, Reading, Writing and Life | 13 Comments
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There's no real ending

Have you ever finished a short story or a novel and couldn’t get the characters out of your head?

Have you imagined what might have happened after the story finished?

With a good story and well-realised characters, I think it happens quite often. I know it has to me.

I suppose that is why there is so much fan fiction written, and why readers love book series.

They don’t want to lose those characters, that world, that reality created by the author. They want the story to go on.

 

Harry Potter books

Think Harry Potter. To many of her readers, J.K. Rowlings’ imaginary character has become just as real as their own family and friends. He is someone they may know even better than those real people. It just happens that Harry, together with his own friends and foes, lives somewhere else.

They dwell in a different reality. It is a reality that has a door from our own that we can enter at will, or which can spill for a time into our own reality through the magic key of reading.

Why do some characters and their worlds become so real, when others do not? Why do we want to stay with some when we can’t even get to know others – or want to?

That to me is another magic. The magic created by a sensitive, observant and creative writer. Such writers do not necessarily create great works of literature (as defined by high-brow literary critics).

What they do create are real worlds occupied by real people, with real feelings and desires, hopes and dreams, challenges and triumphs. Characters with whom the reader develops empathy, a feeling of one-ness.

It’s no wonder we don’t want to leave the book – in a way it is our own life we have been reading, or that of people we have become close to. We want to know more.

Book hug

 

Do you ever identify with or become close to characters in the books you read?

Connecting Lives – why I write memoir

February 13, 2013 at 12:31 am | Posted in Australia, Experiences, Family, History, Making History, Philosophy, Psychology, Writing and Life | 18 Comments

CountryRoad in headlights_BW

There was no moon. From inside the car, our headlights illuminated the ever approaching, ever passing, road. Some of the light escaped the black surface, reflecting against trees and grass and white posts along the roadside, at times appearing to create a wooded tunnel through which we sped. In other places the eucalypts scattered into open woodlands. Further on, were more and more cleared paddocks carrying the animal that rivals the kangaroo as our national emblem. Post and wire fences edged the verges, defining the road rather than the paddocks, somehow isolating it. We drove along a corridor, from which real life was suspended until we reached our destination.

It was central NSW in the early 1980s, and we were driving home from a holiday trip. I felt the dry warmth of the heater that kept out the cold winter night and glanced behind me. In the back of the station wagon, our five boys sprawled on mattresses, blankets scattered over their sleeping forms. It had been a long and active day, and we still had another fifty miles to go. Joe and I had fallen silent, discussion on our holiday activities exhausted. He drove, as he always did, more focussed tonight than usual on the road’s dangers. Kangaroos or wallabies had no concept of waiting for a passing car before they crossed the road. I relaxed, staring through the windscreen at the mesmerising asphalt strip.

A light seemed to flutter through the passing trees, and my gaze drifted sleepily to the left, to the barely-seen outline of a farmhouse, set back a little from the road. Uncurtained windows glowed a warm yellow against the blackness. It must be dinnertime, I thought. Perhaps it’s a family, eating together at the end of their working day: father talking about what he’d got done, about what needed doing tomorrow, next week. He and mother smiling as the kids shared what had happened in school, or on the bus that took them thirty miles each way every day. I felt a longing rise inside me. How nice to be in our own home, the journey over, boys in bed, Bill occupied with one of his projects and me, comfy in a lounge chair with a novel.

I sighed. Maybe my cosy farmhouse picture was wrong and quite different occupants shared a less than homely light. I imagined an old man, leathery face set in deep discontented lines. Across the once colourful table cloth, now soiled by crumbs and spills, sat a small, white-haired woman, hunched and silent. There was no friendly conversation here. Childlessness and disappointment had worn a deep divide between them. Years of enforced cohabitation, love and respect long buried, had led to a cold and bitter truce. Their only goal was to get through each dreary day. I shuddered at that scenario and looked for more lights.

A few minutes later, I saw one on the side of a hill. Again, uncurtained windows hid rather than exposed the occupants within. Nobody out here to peer in on their intimacy, only a passing whoosh, hardly noticed, carrying a reflective passenger on her way. Who are the people in that house, I wondered. Another surge of feeling washed over me, so strong that I glanced across at Joe to see if he’d noticed. His eyes still darted here and there across the road, face impassive. He probably wouldn’t notice anyway.

I looked again at the lighted windows, now disappearing behind us and felt a sense of loss. I wanted to know who they were, these people whose lives were completely separated from mine. I wanted to share in those lives; feel their joys and successes, their sorrows and failures; know what they did and why, how they lived and worked and what they shared – love or hatred, fear or security. Strange I should feel that way when I had a full and reasonably adequate life of my own. It was the same urge, to be a part of other lives, that I get when I visit cemeteries, especially those with old headstones. The names written there, the relationships – “my dearest wife”; “cherished daughter”; “sadly missed” husband”; a son “tragically taken” – are more than just words to me. They belong to a world where I might have belonged, where I might have had my own special place.

night driving

We drove on. Every lighted window we passed that night reminded me of the disconnection of existence, and of how I wanted to make connections instead. Everywhere that I see people, whether singly or on groups, every news story or biography, memoir or personal story reminds me of how I can take a tiny peek into a small part of strangers’ lives. But there are many more who I can never, will never know, never share an action or word or thought with. To me, given other circumstances of birth, they could have been people I know intimately. They are might-have-been brothers or sisters, parents or cousins, close friends or bitter enemies.

Every now and then, I still see the homely yellow glow of a lighted window. But many of the windows I pass along my life’s road are dark. Their inhabitants leave nothing, not even a headstone, to mark that they were here.

I think we all deserve to be remembered somehow. Perhaps that’s why I have the constant urge to write my own life, to share my experiences and thoughts, trivial though they might be. It is a way to connect with others. To let them see a distant lighted window and wonder at the person inside. To give them a glimpse of how another person faced her life. For me, it is also a way to explore my existence, to give it meaning, justification, validation. I wrote, therefore I existed. I woz ere.

I woz ere

(c) Linda Visman

What would you go back and change?

August 27, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Posted in Experiences, Family, History, Mental Health, Philosophy | 9 Comments
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My husband and I were talking today about our youth and about the choices we wished we had made then. We wondered what we would do if we were allowed to go back and change some of those decisions.

You often hear people say, when speaking about their younger selves, “Oh, if only I’d known then what I know now!” Or “I wish I’d done things differently then.”

It is interesting to speculate – since we cannot go back in time, that’s all we can do – on which deed, word, relationship or other thing we would change?

Mostly, we do not realise at the time what importance a seemingly minor choice can have for our whole future. If we knew that our choice led to unhappy consequences, would we change it? And if we knew that, then we would also know what other, happier consequences resulted. Would we be prepared to negate those happier consequences in order to avoid the others?

I can take an instance from my own life where I used to wish I made a different choice.

In 1968, I went ice-skating with another student at my college. It was the first time we went out together. He broke his ankle at the rink. Feeling sorry for him, I visited, to see how he was. I was not smitten with him but, six months later, we married. I knew it was a mistake at the time, but marriage was expected of a girl then and I was a good Catholic girl who had to pay the price for the sin we had committed.

Our marriage had its good times, but was not a generally happy one. I often suffered from serious depression. We fought a lot. We lasted for sixteen years. If I’d known how it was to turn out, would I have changed my earlier actions if I could? At what point would I change my choice – going ice-skating, visiting him, not ‘doing it’ instead, pulling out of the wedding? Any of them would mean my life could have been far different.

If I went back in time unaware of the future, I would still be the person I was then. I would therefore probably make the same decisions I did then.

If I went back in time knowing at least this one future, then I would have to deny the chance of everything in that future happening. So, that adds in quite a few complications – five of them being our sons.

Would I be willing to not have had them, and to know that? Would I deny them and their children an existence in return for an unknown future that may be better, similar, worse, or even non-existent? I love my sons and my grandchildren, and I could never do that.

I would not be the person I am now either; someone quite happy with life. Someone who has grown wiser through the adversities and pain she has suffered. Someone with a second, wonderful husband and a family I am proud of. Someone who is alive, and able to write such a philosophical blog entry.

No, I would not go back and change anything. I am the sum of my experiences and of my responses to them. I am reasonably content with the person I have become, and I do not want to give up what I have earned. If I need to change things, I can do it now or in the future.

My husband said the same thing about himself.

 

Would you go back and change something that resulted in your life taking an unwelcome direction?

What would you be willing to give up in the life you have now in order to make that change?

 

© Linda Visman

27th August 2012

Small Stones 21-24

January 27, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Posted in Gardens, Nature, Philosophy, Writing | 1 Comment
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Here are four more of my small stones, written as part of the writing our way home challenge.

 

21. Magpies

I wake up to nature’s summer music;-

the magpies carol with enthusiasm,

encouraging those who hear

to join them in celebrating the day.

 

Well, that’s what it seems like –

even if they are just saying,

‘Keep out; this is my territory!’

 

22. Broken Promise

A tiny grey speckled bird’s egg lies in the garden bed.

But for a small hole at one end, the shell is whole.

When I pick up the delicate casing, a single ant emerges.

 

The empty shell is heavier than it should be, so I check.

A dessicated embryo is stuck to the inside wall,

And it weights the egg at its little end.

The egg’s promise of life is only fulfilled for the ants.

 

23. Nectarine

Red and yellow skin and soft white flesh.

A nectarine, ripened to perfection.

Succulent; delicious.

I hold the taste in my mouth for as long as I can.

 

24. Mist

Misty cloud descends on the rainforest;

its cool, ghost-like tendrils spread among the trees and ferns.

They settle on branches, leaves and fronds

and gradually coalesce to drops

that fall to water the earth.

© Linda Visman January 2012

Christmas Day

December 25, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Posted in Australia, Philosophy, Society | Leave a comment
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We have just had a simple lunch out on the verandah – toasted sandwiches with a cup of tea.

It is so lovely out – a beautiful Australian summer day; warm but not hot; breezy but not really windy; not as humid as it has been; sunny and bright; and still clean from yesterday’s rain.

The beauty of the place we live brings home to us, even more than usual, how very fortunate we are.

We have peace and security, in our family, our home, our neighbourhood and our country.

We have plenty to eat, regular and clean water, the clothes we need, a comfortable bed and a home of our own.

We have reasonable health, even after several scares, and we have good medical care.

We are blessed with lovely friends and decent neighbours, as well as families we love and are proud of.

We have worked hard through life, and can now enjoy retirement in a delightful place where people come for their holidays.

My husband and I exchanged gifts this Christmas morning; gifts that were bought with love and thoughtfulness.

We were able to speak by telephone with our eight children, who all live far away, and with their older children; to share in their day just a little – enough to know that we are loved, and to tell them of our love for them.

There is a sense of gentle peace all around us today – no cars going by, no noisy parties, and even the local dogs aren’t barking for a change. The twittering of the numerous birds only adds to the beauty.

We have so much to be thankful for – and we are thankful for it.

I hope that anyone who reads this has had the good fortune to experience the same peace, joy, love and thankfulness.

That is what Christmas is about – even for a non-believer.

© Linda Visman

A Different World

December 2, 2011 at 9:09 pm | Posted in Gardens, Mental Health, Nature, Philosophy | 1 Comment
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I sit on the grass two-thirds the way up our yard and look down the slope of the land. Introspective.

The grass is longer than it should be, because I broke my toe on Sunday, and it will be a while before I push the lawn mower about again.

Dogs are barking in yards behind, below and beside me, but their territorial claims wash over me.

Cars pass below, but don’t impinge on my solitude.

A sunset-silvered jetliner sails high in the blue, and then is absorbed into shaving-cream clouds.

I look closer, down at the grass beside me.

A tiny spider – we used to call them money spiders when we were young – is busy creating a guy rope between my trouser-covered leg and a blade of grass.

Equally small, a spotted red ladybird clambers up another blade of grass.

A second one steps from a brittle leaf onto my leg, and I take it up carefully in my hand, but its wing cases open and it flies off almost immediately.

Amid the grass and weed stalks, midges flit about, searching for whatever midges search for. One has found something – the gap between trouser and boot – and I scratch at the itch absent-mindedly.

A green ant, larger and stockier than the little black ones, climbs the hill of my leg, and I give it the brush-off. I don’t want your bite, thanks!

I pick up dead leaves and bark shed from the moulting Spotted Gums. My fingers shred and shred and pick up more. When I realise I have a pile between my legs, I toss the bits around over a wider area.

I can no longer see the tiny spider or its fine, silken thread, but the ladybirds are still there.

I stand.

And wonder how many tiny creatures I have just crushed.

I wander about the lawn, a colossus above a whole different world of hidden life.

I think how, every day, our feet and machines, our chemicals and pollutants

Disturb and disrupt,

Despoil and destroy,

And we do not even notice, or think about it.

I see a small, pale grey feather and pick it up. It is fine but dense – probably from a Noisy Miner.

There is another small feather in almost the same spot. This one is ultra-fine, downy; unbelievably soft and wispy; speckled brown and white – from a young Tawny Frogmouth owl.

I hold them high between finger and thumb, one in each hand. When I let go, the breeze carries them away.

The Noisy Miner’s feather falls first;

The Tawny’s feather floats on a soft current of air, and lands lightly further up the slope.

I leave them where they land;

The elements will take them back to themselves.

I go back to my world.

 

© Linda Visman

Friday, 2nd December 2011

Author of Ben’s Challenge, a novel for readers from 10 years to 100. Click on the image above to see it on Amazon – printed book or Kindle edition.

Entitlement or Responsibility?

August 3, 2011 at 12:11 pm | Posted in Philosophy, Social Responsibility | 2 Comments
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The choice of TV stations and free-to-air programmes, as well as of pay TV, has certainly expanded considerably in the last couple of years. Then again, this is like many other aspects of our society. We have access to so much, and for such little cost, that it is almost, if not literally, obscene.

There are so many people in the world who struggle to keep body and soul together, or to have any kind of personal freedom. And yet most of us in western society have everything we need, and more, so easily and so cheaply. And it is usually based upon the exploitation of cheap, exploited, overseas labour in third-world countries.

We have also come to expect this as our right, and that is tragic for our greedy and selfish society.

We are not learning – or indeed, teaching our younger generation, that it is a good and positive thing to work for what you get. It should not be handed out on a damask-covered platter.

How will our young ones learn responsibility if they are given whatever they want? How will they even know the satisfaction and sense of achievement that comes with doing something for themselves?

How will they learn to exercise their imaginations if they are spoon-fed with computer games and movies and wii games, with instant communications and instant gratification, with advertising and political exploitation.

How can they stretch their creativity if they cannot make something from almost nothing, to fulfil their needs, or even for their entertainment?

I fear that there is coming a time when creativity will be stifled – if it has not already arrived. The exceptions will be those few who are given the opportunity to stretch themselves by caring and discerning parents, and those who have the strength of character to go their own way, against the pressures of conformity.

These are the ones who give us hope for a future that is not robotic or constrained by the bread and circuses of those who rule by giving the masses what they want.

We should hold back on giving our children what should be earned, and on allowing what they should produce from their own creativity.

 

© Linda Visman, August 2011

Pink

February 9, 2011 at 9:24 am | Posted in Philosophy | 3 Comments
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Pink is simply the name for a colour composed of a mixture of red and white. There are so many shades of pink that one is exhausted repeating them all. Lots of them are named after flowers, which carry the greatest variety of shades in nature. Some of the latest colours are given more striking names – shocking pink is an example. 

I have always disliked – nay, I have always hated pink. To me it has been a soppy colour, only meant for those primping females who thought more of their appearance than any character strengths. It was the colour for weak and sissy girls, and even though I was a girl, I was always determined that pink should never represent me. I wanted to be a boy, so pink was NEVER my colour. 

Even now, in the days of gender equality, pink is for girls. When I go to a department store and pass by the girls’ clothing section, all I see is pink. They are, at least, bright pinks nowadays, not the pale, insipid pastels of my childhood and early adult years. The colour now has a bit of attitude and character. I still hate seeing all those pretty and not so pretty little girls dressed in it though – vying for the perfect pinkness perhaps. 

The colour has even become the name of a popular singer. “Pink” took the girl world by storm a few years ago. I have no idea what she sings or how good she is but, with that name, she has probably become one of the mega-rich of the entertainment world. Unless she has spent it all unwisely – not at all unusual these days. 

I remember the fad for pink in decoration – was it the 1950s or the 1960s? Anyway, everywhere you went, you came across pink living rooms, pink waiting rooms, even pink houses. Trouble was, the quality of the paints in those days was not the best, and those ‘lovely’ pinks soon turned into drab, flaking or powdery calamities.

No matter what I think of pink as a gender defining colour or as decoration for buildings, it is always a beautiful colour in nature. Who can deny the splendour of a pink crepe myrtle in bloom, or the softness and fragility of a pink rose? Tell me something more striking than a field of pink tulips or cherry blossom in full show. But I still didn’t like pink anywhere else.

Then, two years ago, I became personally involved with pink. My breast cancer brought me into contact with a movement that is represented by a pink ribbon. I even wore pink when I attended fund-raising events, and I now own three pink T-shirts. And I wear them at other times occasionally. It seems that my hatred of pink has undergone quite an about-face.

Evil without Consequences?

December 17, 2010 at 6:11 am | Posted in Philosophy | 1 Comment
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A writing prompt asks: If there were no consequences, what’s the most evil thing you would do?

 Here is my response to that prompt:

 There can be no such thing as “no consequences” for doing something evil. The concept of evil is social, cultural and religious/spiritual/ethical. It therefore affects people, as it is from people and their beliefs that these concepts come. If an action has nothing to do with people or their world, then it has no moral value and is therefore not classed as evil.

 Following from this, to be evil, an action must have a moral value attached to it – it must be something immoral. If it is immoral, then it is against the ethical values of a society, culture or religion, or of an individual. If an evil action is carried out, it must have consequences of some kind.

 I cannot rob an institution or an individual without it affecting the institution or individual, or indeed others, in some way, whether it be through the initial loss, or through increased costs of insurance. I cannot injure somebody without consequences – their pain and suffering; the cost of treatment; loss of income or ability to conduct normal activities; increased fear in them and others; policing costs; etc.

 One might consider that some actions, normally considered evil, can be justified in certain situations. This may be eliminating a person who has done terrible things: a child molester; an evil despot; a mass murderer. For those there may be the death penalty, the legal consequence for certain crimes in many countries. For others, assassination does the same thing, but without legal sanction.

 But what if you could get away with assassinating the person and ridding the world of their wickedness? Would that not be a positive thing for society? Perhaps, but one must also consider what effect such an act would have in the mind of the assassin. To kill one person for a “good” cause can lead to a range of outcomes, from guilt at taking another life to the belief that killing is not such a bad thing after all. Some serial killers grow out of what they perceived originally to be a purifying action.

 I would not carry out what I might be tempted to, even if I were told there would be no consequences, because I know that there is no evil action that has no consequences.

© Linda Visman 17.12.10

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