Wednesday, 31 December 2014

You say you want a Resolution?

If there’s anything that grinds the gears of The Closet Recluse, it’s New Years Resolutions.

The cries of “new year, new me”. The voluptuous surge to public running tracks and gyms on the first of January, only to see them vacant the following day.

The wallowing in the hangover of the “best night ever” only to see you begin the new year just way you finished the last.
The idea of a resolution shouldn’t be slandered. The notion of improvement of self should be encouraged; for one should never be satisfied with themselves to the point of complacent satisfaction.

Yet if it takes one 365.75 days to come to the conclusion that the same change promised this time last year is required – simply because everyone else is doing it – is unhelpful to the point of being unhealthy.

Coming to the conclusion on June 2 that you consume too many chocolate biscuits should spark a change on June 3 – not January 1st of the following year.

A heated argument estranging your family-member antagonist post-discussion on December 25 should immediately entice the desire to work on your empathy in order to become more compassionate.

Of the two above examples, similar with new exercise regimes, nothing is more emphasised than the fact that change is gradual.

The word “resolution” derives from the Latin term resolvere, meaning ‘to loosen’, which, on the surface, directly opposes its English development resolute, meaning ‘firm determination’.

However, most definitions of resolution generally adhere to a “course of action” as opposed to an “instance”, which lays the trap for so many in our society who pound the pavement on Day 1, but fold the following day to the allure of the couch.

The turn of the year is but a number, a man-made construct – much like time itself – to remind us that sleep is for when it is dark outside.

The same goes to people who blame the year on their shortcomings and failings.

The death of a family member this year caused me just as much relative hurt as when I stubbed my toe back in 2002. It was not 2014 teaching me that pain is date-attributed. It reinforced only that pain runs deep; a lesson in seeing the bigger picture and the depths to which hurt affects us as humans.

So enough chiding of those in support of the Western secular tradition of glorified goal setting, here is my resolution to not having a resolution: look back, not forward.

Reflect, not plan.

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." - Gothe 

Far from TCR becoming a blog of motivation and healthy lifestyle tips, rather than set an end result, be appreciative of the process.

Reflection allows for consideration of what made the past gleeful or unbearable. Some situations are out of our control, but the enthusiasm to so quickly label something as good or bad without first addressing the pathway to its happening is the cause for so much lack of motivation.

For this next little while, be the audience member of one’s internal self. The external – family, friends and public – will judge the end result, yet they know nothing of the thoughts, the feelings, the doubts or the drive.

TCR wishes everyone a very Happy New Year, not because everyone else is doing it, but because if there’s one person you’ll forever have to please, it is one’s self.

And in the depths of true honesty, that is the hardest task of all.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Born by love, shaped by ignorance.

"It'd be easy to be convinced that the human race is on this mission to divide things into two, clean columns. Everything has to be good or evil. Healthy or deadly. Natural or chemical. (By extension) for example, our soldiers in Iraq are GOOD, and paedophiles are EVIL, ignoring the fact that some troops like kiddies and some paedos carry guns..." - Tim Minchin

You can never be wrong with an opinion. You can be belittled for having one, but at the end of the day, it is your property, your entitlement, and your view.

To factually back your opinion, you can be wrong.

To stereotype - this form of new age black-and-whiteism - you can be wrong.

At no more blinding time than yesterday's Lindt Cafe hostage situation, has this tabloid-fed, narcissistic quality society possesses been apparent.

Reality is not so different from a piece of canvas art: a combination of brushes, strokes, density, intensity and colour.

Therefore, are we so colour-blind to assimilate one religion or one's religion as poxy due to a small
percentage and their actions?

We consume media like we consume breakfast cereal. The digital age has developed our nature for voyeurism; feeding our bottomless pit for stomachs that crave the toxins better known as curiosity and fear.

Books will be written how the golden age of social media and trends, generated the desire for immediacy, at accuracy's chagrin.

Misinformation is accepted - worse, tolerated - for the benefit of a soap opera directed at a generation who grew up in the age of movies and television. Experts in the second-hand experience.

Yesterday, the flag unfurled had ARABIC writing on it, not ISLAMIC writing. This is just one of many examples from today of this casual, ignorant racism sourced from people we trust to deliver us the truth.

What this flag is and represents is irrelevant on the grand scheme of things. To an individual - much like an opinion - it's relevance is significant, purposeful.

This human being (with his flag) endangering the lives of many in a Martin Place cafe, is not the representative of Islam or Muslims, in the same way that the fucking idiots of the Cronulla riots were not representative of Australia as a country while they bore our nation's flag.

If Matt Colwell (rapper 360) had this time again on  ABC's Q&A where he said, "the Australian flag to me, I identify that with racism", I don't think he'd change what he meant. Only the way that he said it.

I understood Colwell's point of view, and I am hoping that this piece of writing - written in the Notes section of my iPhone - displays that I agree with his notion.

But labelling the flag as a symbol of racism is just another case of the black-and-white theory, and is just as helpful as those involved in the 2005 riots.

What an event like yesterday should instil in all of us is the reminder of humanity, devoid of religious undertones. Just shaped by the love and compassion you demonstrate to a family member or friend, instead of the ignorance that shapes your view.

Substitute the assimilation and embrace the likeness to one another. We are, after all, all tiny, insignificant bits of carbon placed in a big, old situation we've come to know as civilisation.

Generalisations, along with its brother stereotyping, help no one. Classing an entire religion that houses extremists and innocent people as bigots is fatal.

It is apparent justification for slaughterings, mass executions, blood-red anger and wars.

We want the world binary, but creating false dichotomies are just as unhelpful as those you try to squeeze into one of your two lists.

In this current climate, just be kind instead.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

More family, less Santa.

And if my baby girl/When you’re 21 or 31/And Christmas comes around and you find yourself nine thousand miles from home/You’ll know whatever comes/Your brothers and sister and me and your mum/Will be waiting for you in the sun.

“Which was the first Christmas you remember?”

A return trip home has seen my father bring out the deep questions on Christmas Eve.

December 25 means a lot more now than it did when I was six years of age, but yet I woke on Christmas morning completely nonplussed.

In the formative years, there was a bundling down the stairs, a race of anticipation as to what I was brought for Christmas.

How many presents had I received? How big were they?

And just what did Santa Claus choose out for me after a full 365 days of convincing myself that my ADHD-afflicted “naughtiness” hadn’t overridden my “niceness”.

I couldn’t accurately answer my father’s history-indulging question accurately, so I answered thus: I certainly remember what I first viewed Christmas as.

And that was commercialization.

Not the togetherness, the oneness, or the unity. I simply remembered Christmas by wrapping paper and a sense or lack of fulfillment by what my parents – in disguise – had given me.

And yes, I have all of the usual objections/To consumerism, the commercialisation of an ancient religion/To the westernisation of a dead Palestinian/Press-ganged into selling Playstations and beer

Of course, being a reflective piece, hindsight is a wonderful thing. But I look back on my six-year-old self with no more or less disdain than I do looking back at the 21-year-old self just six weeks prior.

I am attacking a very innocent and defenseless age group when I say that the concept of Santa Claus is one that I believe should be dispelled.

After all, it is only when children reach a certain age that they realise Santa was a concept, and not a person. A concept aimed to reward children for a year’s worth of good behavior – better known as the trait called politeness – only to see them act like rambunctious scoundrels until the parents’ next reminder: “Santa’s watching”.

But let’s step outside the plausible fantasy of Father Christmas that is this ever-giving, omnipresent guardian that has control on a child’s behavior above and beyond the very real parents.

The creation of Santa Claus is actually based on the very real story of a man named Nicholas of Myra, who was orphaned at a young age and distributed the leftover inheritance to the poor.

But while the mythology behind Santa Claus provides a heart-warming fantasy for children, it is when we move onto the issue of gifts that strikes a cord for which many parents tread carefully in playing the “Santa game”. It causes the concept of Santa to become discordant, and to become disproportionate.

Santa’s wealth and resources come under fire when a shit of a child, born to a lavish household, receives PlayStation 4’s and other things they want from ‘Santa’. All the while, the child of the working class parent receives stationary and underwear, considering – when school starts back and the comparisons begin – why Santa isn’t as fond of him or her as the next child.

By extension, does the parents’ not-as-extravagant-as-Santa’s gift get undervalued and not appreciated?

Santa died for me when I wanted a Nintendo 64 game and instead got a football instead. The recognition of my own mother’s handwriting only confirmed previous suspicions, but taught me the valued lesson of appreciation.

Surely now in these formative years, the focus of Christmas has to move away from the scramble to open presents, and onto the wholesome experience that will stay with them til death – family.

And you, my baby girl/My jetlagged infant daughter/You'll be handed round the room/Like a puppy at a primary school/And you won't understand/But you will learn someday/That wherever you are and whatever you face/These are the people who'll make you feel safe in this world/My sweet blue-eyed girl

I opened with Tim Minchin’s “White Wine In The Sun” to pay homage to what I believe to be the best Christmas carol available.

As someone who lives not quite nine thousand miles from home (but still not at home nevertheless), this year’s Christmas and the five years before it have taken on a significance that is far removed from what my parents got me.

Even to be reunited with friends I have grown up with converging on our hometown from different corners of the country, reinforce the significance of what I will eventually impart to my own children.

But even a quick peep on social media today saw that many of my friends valued the very same thing. Sure a new iPhone 6 is a material pleasure that will be cherished for the purpose it serves. It will however get dropped in nightclubs, house regrettable photos and footage of you from afore-mentioned establishments, and eventually die to be later replaced by an iPhone 7.

Love is eternal and at Christmas time there is no better front for that to be apparent.

The best gift a parent can shower their child is the love, affection and support mechanism from their time suckling a mother’s breast right through to when they have children of their own.

As Minchin begins and finishes his song…

I really like Christmas/It’s sentimental I know, but I just really like it

I trust you all had a merry and safe day yesterday. You’ll notice there were no religious undertones throughout this piece. It’s Christmas, can’t we all just get on?

Monday, 1 December 2014

Why I cried over Phil Hughes.

I saw a wonderful tweet yesterday. It summed up what I myself couldn't verbalise when I stopped, like almost every other person - cricket-lover or not - in my tracks at around 4pm on Thursday afternoon.

The tweet read: "(I've) never been so overcome with sadness about someone dying that I didn't know."

To me, that's just it.

I wasn't a friend or family member of Phil Hughes. I never met Phil Hughes. Truth be told, I didn't really know Phil Hughes at all.

So as I wallow in a wave of despair, I can't but help wonder why it is I do feel this way. Why am I sad? Why am I crying? Why am I casting aside the expected solemn, strong 21-year-old male stereotype over a man I had no (immediate or otherwise) connection?

In my instant surroundings, I don't have a cricket bat or cricket cap to lay against and pay tribute to the marvellous #putoutyourbats campaign. I can’t attend his funeral on Wednesday, and, in light of writing this, I just don’t feel a social media post justifies the weight of emotion that has struck a cord with so many people.

I want to more than acknowledge Phillip's death. I appreciate I can't understand his death, but I want to understand my emotions. OUR emotions.

Since Thursday afternoon, I set aside my aforementioned stereotype and have openly wept Phillip’s death. Different triggers have set me off.

Taking the news in just an hour after a mate had delivered me the reality.

Then there were the video tributes. Then the kids being taught the significance of the happening as they bowed their heads in respect.

The photos of Hughes: his unbalanced cut shot, his bashful technique.

The young boy who retired himself on 37 on the weekend, saying that he’d “finished Phil’s innings for him”.

And then of course; Michael Clarke’s press conference.

On Thursday night, the sport of cricket lost one of its own. Teammates had lost a colleage. Opposition had lost a fighter. His family lost a brother, cousin, and son. Young cricketers lost a hero they barely knew existed.

There are many adjectives to describe what happened on Tuesday. Freak accident, tragic, devastating, sad.

I've got one word for it that I've plucked from the vernacular - fucked. The fact that Phillip Hughes is dead is fucked.

As I sat at work on Tuesday one eye on my laptop and the other on my iPhone that streamed the NSW versus South Australia Sheffield Shield match, I witnessed an incident we are likely to never encounter again in our lifetime.

The incident is one in a trillion. The incident was one devoid of blame. The incident was exclusive to the fault of bowler, batsman, protective equipment or sport. The incident was an exposé into the dangers of the game of cricket.

Cricket – a sport so synonymous with this country and this time of year. Is this why we are grieving so?

A young man’s livelihood cut short on the brink of opportunity, as days get warmer, nights get longer and the pot glasses have to be cold when served.

Driveways, beaches, parks and backyards, once bare during winter, are engulfed by brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and grandparents.

The cricket bat remains a constant; a tennis ball is swathed in electrical tape to induce swing while stumps range from a dustbin, a tree, a board or set of sticks.

Love or loathe the sport, cricket is just synonymous with an Australian summer. A gloom will hang over this particular season as the Hughes family struggles to come to grips with such a tragedy, and I, like many, try to uncover why it has affected me so.

In a previous life, I played cricket.

I was a fast bowler. I bowled bouncers. I hit batsmen. I hit batsmen in the head. I knocked one batsmen unconscious.

As much idolisation as I had for Ricky Ponting hooking balls from in front of his nose with such a ‘bring-it-on’ attitude, I had the same admiration for Brett Lee, who was always the first on the scene whenever he felled an opposing willow-wielder.

I can visualize the terror felt by Sean Abbott in that moment shortly after delivering that fatal ball, but I cannot, and will not ever be able to emphasize the longevity of his torment.

Rarely does sport accommodate romance and success, for in every one emotion, the opposite is its neighbor. Is it the cricketer in me that has made me cry?

Or is it the Australian in me?

And before 360 jumps on my back, I do not see nationalism as forming an opinion of racial and religious bias, and my tolerance being concerned by the colour of my fellow man’s skin.

My sense of nationalism has laid a foundation for my upbringing and the basis of my interests.

On Thursday, one of my fellow Australians died. I did not know him, yet I wept for the sudden conclusion of his cricketing and life innings. People die everyday. People I do not know – should I not be crying for them too?

But if not the cricketer, and not the Australian; does my empathy stem from perhaps the fact that I did journey along the realms of professional sport?

That I – like Phillip – sacrificed, worked hard, absorbed criticism, acknowledged praise and realised (albeit briefly) my passion as a profession.

One of the more peculiar things I heard shortly after Phillip’s passing was Craig Hutchison’s commentary on the New Zealand Cricket team and their refusal to celebrate wickets.

Hutchison said the game should’ve been abandoned, for it lacked emotion.

Take another look, sir; numbness is an emotion. Emotion is a feeling. The Blackcaps on that Friday, like the rest of us, felt nothing. Like the complexities that surround the value of the number ‘zero’, this was an example of ‘nothing’ being ‘something’.

I’ve sat on this piece of writing all weekend, and have come to the conclusion to my inner question of why I have bawled over Phillip Hughes’ death.

At the days’ end, it was the humanity in me that caused me to weep.

Michael Clarke was at his most vulnerable on Saturday morning as he read words that only he could possibly write. Raw, individual, numbing words.

Days earlier, he was vulnerable, but in a different way – quite irrelevant, looking back on it now.

Many have said they pulled their car over listening to the press conference on the radio. Others let their tears caress their cheeks watching their television screens of a full-grown man, burdened by the loss of his friend.

Clarke’s address ruined the productivity of my Saturday morning. Voting in a state election attached itself to more meaningless, than an existential prison occupant.

Clarke’s and many others’ tributes to Phillip Joel Hughes, have given us many insights to a man we didn’t know enough of.

What we knew was what we saw. Enigmatic, unorthodox, but nonetheless talented.

What we didn’t see, we now realise.

Possessive of values that could be in a textbox of successful living. Unassuming, non-complaining, empathetic to the plights of others, hard-working, family-oriented, a man who never forgot where he came from and counted himself blessed as to where he was going next.

And that, my friends, is why I cried over Phillip Hughes’. In five days of his death, he has reaffirmed so much that can be good if you maintain the virtues of patience, empathy and hard work.

Life is too short for complaint, negativity and self-deprecation.

Phillip Hughes was an excellent cricketer, but no longer will we see what we so desperately wanted to see him accomplish on the cricket field.

But Phillip Hughes was an exceptional human being and, although he may not know it, an exemplary philosopher. Not one for words, only actions. That much, is eternal.

Like the official scorecard from that abandoned Shield match, Phillip’s memory will never be dismissed.

Well played, sweet boy.