I spoke to him. He told me he was building a motel.
"Why a motel?" I asked, looking around and seeing nothing.
"In the motel business", he told me, "You can put up the 'NO VACANCY' sign whenever you want to lie down"
© Bog O’Mullet 2010
Once I met a man who was leaning up against his old car.
I spoke to him. He told me he was building a motel.
"Why a motel?" I asked, looking around and seeing nothing.
"In the motel business", he told me, "You can put up the 'NO VACANCY' sign whenever you want to lie down"
© Bog O’Mullet 2010
The relationship between the man and the woman was like the broad river that flowed in the land.
The land had begun undivided, millions of years ago. It was one.
Then the river formed as a trickle from a spilling pool. It slipped over an edge and began, unnoticed, to portion the land in twain.
And the river broadened and deepened as time passed.
The millenia passed, the land grew accustomed to its river frontages. On either bank it slowly changed; differently on each bank; but together; as a consequence of the river that flowed between it.
On both sides, springs welling up from deep under the land, and runoffs and sources were guided towards the great flow that now divided and joined the land. Thus each side nourished the river and made it broader and deeper.
And too, the river nourished the land on either side. When the great floods would come it would spill over the land on both sides, depositing new depths of fertile soil that was rich in new elements. The river would bring renewal across the land.
Blessed by these gifts, each side grew richer and more bountiful. Each year, each bloomed in new ways, because of the river between them.
And, in the river, smaller currents and eddies formed, eternally changing, influenced by the rocks, the shallow flats and the steep sides of the banks along both sides. These in turn nurtured life in a myriad of new forms; life that the land had not known before the river came. And this life produced more nutrients and these nourished the land on either side.
And as the river flowed and changed, so the land beyond each bank continued to change too. It changed in size, in shape and even the things upon the land changed and grew differently.
In time, the land beyond each bank began to be quite different to what it had been. And the land upon the left bank no longer exactly resembled the land upon the right bank. Nevertheless, each became what the river between them had enabled of them. The river became unimaginably important to each and to both. And neither could imagine what lay in the future before each and before both.
One day an idea began to form upon the land beyond one of the banks. “I have become so rich and so plentiful by the fruits of my soil, what if I could increase my bounty from the river?”
And the idea yielded a plan and the plan was to place a dam in the river.
On the other side of the river, beyond the bank, the idea was observed from afar. However, because the river had only brought harvest to the land and was only good, the land on this side did not foresee how the idea would bring sadness. And so the dam was built.
Behind the dam wall, the river slowed. Beyond it, the great river now trickled as a drain. The little currents and eddies had ceased to tumble. The nutrients did not arrive. The life in the river left. The great tides ceased and the rich generous floods no longer arrived.
Beyond the bank, on the side that witnessed, a great sadness began to be born but it did not know what to do. The river was not its own to protect and to make thrive. With the most pure desire it could not, by itself, make the river flow once more.
Slowly, behind the dam wall, the river silted up some more and some more. Beyond each bank the land separately began to adapt and change.
Where the idea had first gone up, new ideas began to scramble out of the drying land. The land began to imagine itself glorified eternally with grand buildings, great parks, broad avenues and marvellous machines. Those things that would remain in the parched wasteland after it had withered, would be remembered as wonders, inspired by the vision and the achievements of the land.
And on the other side, sorrowfully aware its river was now all but dead, alone and left upon itself, the land drew up its verdant river side pastures. It left them dry and sterile and unattractive. It gathered up its seeds and carried them to a tall mountain peak on its far side and there it called upon the High Wind.
And the High Wind rose up upon its broad wings and it came and it carried the seeds far, far, far, to a time after the memories of all those things had been forgotten.
© Bog O’Mullet 2010
A short play about men. Imperious, a serious man in his latter years, say 65 – 80, stands well dressed and proud behind an impressive large desk in the middle of an equally impressive office. In the background, wide windows
and distant panoramas suggest this is the top floor executive suite of a powerful man. A wig on a hanger suggests it might be chambers of a judge.
Incenzo, a much younger man, dressed as a “David” in a shepherd’s smock, clasping a rustic staff, faces him, standing, from across the desk. He stands straight, his small but athletic frame contrasts with the more bulbar shape of the older man.
Imperius: These are serious charges!
Incenzo: You believe so, Sir!
Imperius: Most serious. They foretell the most undesirous calamities
Incenzo: I see Sir
Imperius: I very much regret this news, Incenzo. It is well you have revealed it to me
and to no other
Incenzo: No Sir.
Imperius: You are a good lad, Incenzo. I will reward you well.
Incenzo: (without changing voice tone) Thank you Sir. How Sir?
Imperius: You will have my kind regard Incenzo. And the wisdom of the words of my
Incenzo: You are exceedingly gracious, Sir. Wisdom in such words is rarely given.
Imperius: (Stops, reads the innuendo. Adopts an assertive and correcting tone)
Wisdom is a precious thing, Incenzo. Truly it is rarely given. (Fixing Incenzo’s eyes) Yet it is even more scarcely received.
Incenzo: I have noticed both conditions, Sir. What reward of wisdom would you offer
Imperius: I would offer you Caution lad. Such gifts as you are promised are best
fulfilled in time. Were wisdom drained as from a tap, it would be less than precious.
Incenzo: (Unrelenting) Is it so, Sir? Is it wisdom which is hard to come upon? Or is it the tap which is so
little regarded and so little maintained that founts from which wisdom flows are far between. Here, amidst the seats of judgement there are many echoes sounding in the long corridors. I discern much of display. Were wisdom so easily found how would it display?
Imperius: (Grinning momentarily in recognition of Incenzo’s boldness) You are a shiny lad, Incenzo.
Incenzo: As a lad is nearer to the paths trod beneath richer gowns, I perceive ceremonies more plentiful, and borne on soles remarkably common.
Imperius: (Noting – admiring – the boy’s courage) And a rascal too, young man. A man of station, Incenzo, learns to cast his eye from above, and not from below. As you cast your eye, so the world reveals itself.
Incenzo: And thus it seems all things are drawn, not down but toward the centre.
Imperius: Toward the centre?
Incenzo: In looking down, does not your glance simply follow the unquestioning path of all things that fall. Not with judgement, but in the random company of all things travelling with neither will nor wisdom? From my low station Imperius, I must drive both thought and sight against the path of relentless jetsam travelling downward. As it courses towards the unseen centre, so my questions travel out of the centre and arraign the world I find unfathomed in foaming endless breath of unattended questions.
Imperius: And to what ends, Incenzo?
Incenzo: To live, Imperius.
Imperius: It is living to fly against the currents of nature and the universe?
Incenzo: It is living to be as a stone falling, Imperius?
Imperius: Many a stone is placed securely at the corner of a fine building.
Incenzo: (Teasing Imperious) Many a stone, Imperius, is lodged unseen along these fine corridors as
Imperius: (Expansively) In this way our society is fortified. Myself, I choose to be the Mason, not the stone, Incenzo, for I value rightly the strength and structure wrought of these well cut stones. I am pleased to observe the beauty and the triumph worked in stone that itself lives beyond both the mason and the architect and reveals the power and endurance surely reflecting the nature of God Himself.
Incenzo: And thus both Mason and stone contrive together. As one is raised by the other so are both afterwards remembered for what they used to be. And here, Imperius, is the evidence that what you say is false. God is not reflected in monuments fated to collapse or be remembered for former glories. God is revealed in the new moment and the emerging sign. It is limitless when one looks out from the centre. As God is surely limitless.
Imperius: (Displaying irritation and affront – he may be tiring of the challenge from the youth) Your protest is to reduce our finery to a common garb. Why speak of the soles beneath our rich garments?
Incenzo: It is not so Imperius. When one looks out from nearer the centre one is struck by the extending view of so many things. It is the eye of the magistrate, the eye of the Lord, that works by reduction, reducing all things for ease and convenience of understanding. The mind which must make things small, Imperius, is hardly great.
Imperius: (Stoops his head. Looks over his glasses and fixes hard on Incenzo’s eyes) You trouble me with courage lad. But if we speak of former times and new then will you not concede that those things I represent have stood with
remarkable consistency. They are not things of former glory I applaud, but strengths and proofs as rich and real this day as any other. If God is not consistent then most assuredly our understanding is not possible, Incenzo.
Incenzo: Can God be both consistent and creative Imperius? Is power other than the freedom to do new things? Can God be as you say with power unexpressed?
Imperius: You speak of power, Incenzo. You have no understanding of power? (waves his arm out expansively again) These corridors have power Incenzo. They have the power to bring things about or the power to keep things in place, as you can scarcely imagine.
Incenzo: Is that so Imperius? Surely it is not. For what these corridors can merely do is to comply. As the stone complies with the mason. There is no power in the stone. Its character is simply the character of Without Power To Change. And these dark and echoing corridors are merely the ratchet wheels, the machinery of office. But which
office? What is that office? Is it not simply a link in a closed chain? Is not the logic of this institution a completely circular argument in logic? Is it not merely a corner stone of a building whose year to fall waits unguessed in the shadow of tomorrow?
Imperius: Alas young man, can you see no future?
Incenzo: I shall tell you of the futures (for there are so many) I can see, Imperius. But first tell me of the future you can see.
Imperius: My futures? I am more modest than that, Boy.
Incenzo: It is not modesty, Imperius.
Incenzo: It is the duty of the cornerstone to ensure the future is foretold and unchangeable. Your station pre-empts the future and attempts to deny its limitless possibility for change or improvement. And since your task is fanciful, Imperius, it is without power. It supplies only comfort and consolation to those who shelter from their want of courage. But it is without power. In truth these fine symbols can do nothing to contain the force and movement of the new day. As they can hold back neither the rising of the new sun, nor the setting of the old day, they can merely hope
to make believe that each day can be within the limits of the established practices, hopes and beliefs of of ancient times. I regret Imperius that these corridors do not contain eminent and powerful minds and beings. Their darkened and closed off chambers contain merely the alters and practises of witchcraft and illusion.
Imperius: And yet they contain also the machinery of order and decency. And order and decency are - if nothing else- the blue prints of civilised nations. Even so, there is more. Except for order and decency, there can be no future within the breasts of those among you, Young Incenzo, who yearn - as you do not – for the things of a technological age and the fruits of our mastery of nature. Though you would have your brothers and sisters take up prayerful positions and invoke the unseen futures, the truth is this is not what they want for themselves.
Incenzo: And what do my brothers and sisters want, Imperius?
Imperius: They want homes and fine things. They want to bring their children into a world both comfortable and safe. They want to buy and take into their homes the products of innovation and convenience. They want to partake in the
pleasures of good living. These are the futures they nurture.
Incenzo: It is true that when you take a dog and train it from infancy to lead a blind man it will be content to spend its life leading a blind man.
Imperius: (Pauses. Looks intently at Incenzo. His expression gives nothing away. Chooses his words) Yet your vision of a limitless God does not appease these more grounded aspirations Incenzo. Take away these corridors, Incenzo; take away the hopes and aspirations of the multitudes who people our suburbs, commute across our concrete bridges and who call upon my colleagues of these corridors to provide more of the facilities you and they take for granted. And you will return men to their hunting dogs and hand weapons. You will turn them out onto the hostile plains and into the winter gales. Mankind has worked 10,000 years for better than that.
Incenzo: (Unrelenting. Challenging Imperious) It is hard for you, Imperius, to bite upon the flesh of my knowing. Except you also walk the hostile plain in the winter gale you are not acquainted with yourself. You cannot believe that your experience of yourself is exactly the same. You cannot know that central heating and the concrete bridge make not the merest jot of difference to personal experience. To cross a river by car and bridge to pass a day in these corridors is scarcely better than to clamber over rocks to pass a day in a meadow pasture.
Imperius: (Smiling. Enjoying the challenge) Ah, Incenzo your youth is freshing.
Incenzo: (Ernestly) You believe it is my youth that is freshing, Imperius. You are wrong. It is my experience which is freshing. I have clambered the rocks, I have lain in the meadow, I have carried fear in my heart trudging blind in the snowy gale, I have passed days with neither food nor drink. Imperius, it is not the fine garbed peacocks hidden upon
the alters of the shut chambers of your corridors who are experienced and tried. They are the lambs, Imperius. Soft, sheltered from sun and thorn; naive and neither adapted nor adaptable. They are the sad creatures poised and vulnerable in the cells of your making. It is these whom your fine stones contain. It is amusing that upon their rare showings they strut and exhibit themselves to one another in whose lonely and perceived admirations they cradle and contain to the limits the poverty of their lives. It is to these plumed fowls of the yard you would have me surrender my
fortunes, my judgements, my destinies.
Imperius: (Quietly. Taunts Incenzo) I say again, Incenzo, yours is the song of innocence.
Incenzo: (Unintimidated) And I say to you, Imperius, well may I be innocent in the grand canvas of the natural world. And yet have I proven my capacity to change and survive. And have I also proven - and learned to love - the world and its capacity to surprise and reveal new things. It is not I who is tethered to ancient fears and bound by the ropes of medieval ritual. The gleam in my eye is not the reflected admiration of a kennelled dog. The hairs on my neck do not bristle with the praise of men who cannot see they walk upon the ground.
Imperius: (Paternalisticly) You will see, Incenzo. In twenty years you will change. In forty you will be glad of both your kennel and your chain. You might even be glad to set your books upon the shelves of one of my chambers.
Incenzo: And then, Imperius, you will consider me fit to have office? Like dried prunes would you have the dark corridors full of withered and dying men? By these, you would orchestrate the future? Do you perceive the character of your fear Imperius? For these old fruits have no long futures for which to live. Their preoccupation should carefully be to consume the pleasures that remain for them in their available days. Would wisdom truly be found among men fearing death? Indeed, I would surely expect paranoia and grasping lusts where courage and wisdom would better be found.
Imperius: (sits down behind the desk and gazes first at Incenzo and then beyond the windows in
silence for a few moments. Turning back to face Incenzo...) You do experienced men little justice.
Incenzo: (voice tone rises. Coming in for the kill) I read the signs of decadence more clearly than signs of distinguished and relevant experiences. When men take up your offer, Imperius, they ought to expose themselves to more rigorous scrutiny. Imperius, how can you scrutinise the worth of experience for tomorrow's world, when you stand buried in ritual and costume validated only by an era of Dukes and Earls long since past?
Imperius: (At first quietly, reflectively, then his voice and the power in his eyes growing strongly) I was not always a peacock, Incenzo. I was also a warrior and fought my battles with courage in my heart and strength in my limbs. And I recall how ready I was then to die, Incenzo. I cared nothing for my final moment. I sought out my dragons and vainly (emphasis, staring at Incenzo to see if he flinches at the moral innuendo in the word) looked them in the eyes. And I survived the terrors of youth, Incenzo, because I was not merely lustful for conquests, but talented also and skilled. There were many among my comrades who did not travel the full distance with me but were cut down or lost their ways. From my vantage point as a survivor of the fickle fortunes of destiny, I see perhaps more than you allow me.
Incenzo: Then it is to prouder moments and hidden memories that I address myself, Imperius.
Imperius: And you do well Incenzo. But for these, before this I might well have thrown you out, along with your impertinences. (Changes tone. Now speaks to Incenzo as if to a brother) Incenzo, what future really lies before the path of the heroic man your speeches call upon? Is a day on the plain so very different to a day in a chamber? Does the morrow that awaits greatly care where a man stands or whether he is cold or has eaten? I think not. As you well discern the days of my glory are passed. And the ritual rags an old man wears gratify a hungry ego his limbs can no longer fortify. Is his knowledge to be spurned because his limbs have become frail?
Incenzo: (Changing his tone, testing Imperious) Imperius, are all the creatures inhabiting these corridors like you?
Imperius: (Strongly. Stands) I am the greatest. I am always the greatest.
Incenzo: Are not many of them youthful in years but aged and weary of mind?
Imperius: (Turns away, saying nothing. Turns back to face Incenzo) Many of us have not gained experience on life's field of battle but have studied well in institutions of knowledge.
Incenzo: Aye. And grown old in youth. Heads full of knowledge prepared by dying men in times gone by is scarcely adequate preparation for tomorrow's men.
Imperius: (Turning to gaze through the windows again. Silent for a moment in reflection. Then
turning back to Incenzo. Speaks softly) Alas, Incenzo, its all we have. The plains have gone. Concrete bridges span the rivers, the rocks you would clamber upon have been cut to build new corridors, hunger has been addressed by legislation and the gale winds now blow along emptied streets. Such knowledge as can be recalled is to be found
in library archives and fashions sweep the preparation of new minds. The future is here, Incenzo, and once again I demonstrate my skills of adaptation and survival.
Incenzo: (Encouragingly) You are adapting to the death you now fear and resist, Imperius, because it is drawing in on you. It surrounds you in the places and people that have lost all purpose and meaning. You busily DO because you have lost your sense of true becoming and being is filled with despair and the shortening of days. The institution of these corridors, built on fine cut corner stones, is indeed but a monument to the misty memories of heroic times that its very building has helped to close.
Imperius: (Reassertively. Stands up. Draws himself up. Faces Incenzo) Incenzo. You fire my youth. Be there no future. Be it too late. You are nevertheless right Incenzo. Let us put fire to this box. Let it flame like houses of parliament. Let us light the sky and turn fear inside out. No more the insidious corruption of fear to die, fear to lose. Let us wear it on the outside as our visible adversary, look it in the eye and leave it to perish of its own futility. Where are my glasses Incenzo? (Begins looking for his glasses) Where did I put them now? I have my matches somewhere here.
Yes, somewhere here .............
Now where did I leave my matches?
© Bog O’Mullet 2010
Some years ago, one of my cousins posed this question:
"OK So you know everything ... Why are we so unlucky then?"
Thinking on this for a time, I replied:
Your question has stayed with me. Tonight, over dinner, Paddy observed to me that all his life he has been upsetting everyone and he doesn't know why.
Today he got yet another suspension from school. He explained to me, it's not because he does bad things, it's because he breaks the rules. If the rules made sense, he conceded, he could understand. But mostly they don't. They're made up - he says - by monkeys who live under the quadrangle!!!
I didn't say so but, of course, I agree.
The car dominates our lives these days, so an example from driving serves to demonstrate:
I remember staying for a few days in Adelaide some years ago and being amazed at all the lines painted on the roads. They seemed to be screaming at the people who use the roads, "Don't think! Just do what you're TOLD".
In the few days I was there I saw more road accidents than in the years since. Isn't that what you would expect to happen when people stop thinking?
On the other hand, after being trained to be stupid here, I was appalled when I first went to live in Paris and found I had to drive there. Can you believe it?.. NO road markings!!
Beyond belief too, people drive very fast in Paris; and so close together you can't post a letter between the cars. I remember going around the Peripherique (a circular motorway around the city) in an aged Peugeot taxi at 150kph, in the rush hour, with little cars and big vans diving on and off the motorway, by picking tiny gaps in the fast nose to tail procession.
Now THAT'S INTELLIGENT STUFF. YOU CAN'T DO THAT SORT OF THING BY BEING STUPID!
After a few days there I was still in real difficulty. I knew I was a nuisance to my fellow man. I told a client about this and said "Sam, please tell me how to drive here."
Sam listened to my anxieties about people who passed me on the right to turn left immediately in front of me and others who passed me on the left at the same time to turn right and so on.
Sam said, "Chris you make it too complicated. No one can drive the way you're trying to. Just remember this: "there are only TWO RULES that matter:
1) Number One is: Don't hit anyone in front of you and
2) Number Two is: Don't hit anyone on your right.
everything else is down to someone else. Turn your mirrors away until you get used to it."
That worked for me! I got to be able to cut my way through log jams like a hot knife in butter. In all that time in France I never saw a single major accident. Isn't that what you would expect to happen when people start thinking?
I know. This doesn't seem to be about bad luck yet ... but it is.
My brother has been a lot of things, but among them he studied family therapy. I was having a discussion with him one night about something and I said, "ok! my dog's a German Shepherd and he pulls strangers to the ground by their sleeve just like Rin Tin Tin did - but he was never taught to do that and he has never watched television. Before that, we had a retriever and he used to carry the shopping from the car. He'd never stick his nose inside a bag even though it might be fresh meat inside - he was never taught either. Behaviour must be inherited, so are ideas therefore. Just like physical appearance too"
My brother said, "Its true, when you study extended families you see the same cycles happening in each branch even though they might have no contact with each other. You even see it over generations - just like behaviours in dogs".
My point is, I think I know the answers to Paddy's conundrum (Why do I keep screwing up?) and yours ("Why are we so unlucky"). I think the answer is also the same to the question "Where do we get our anger?"
We might be 3rd or 4th generation Australians but our DNA is Irish. And the Irish just are different ... like the Australian Aborigines are different, to the English who created the State we live in.
As Irish people, our heads work in a different space. We have different values. We are imprinted with the code of Brehon Law, not Westminster Law. Brehon Law was the essence of Irish civilisation until it was finally put down by the English just a few hundred years ago. It is an extremely sophisticated system of Law and it is a strategy for maintaining cohesive, culturally rich society. Brehon Law covers every aspect of life and relationship. But it is the complete opposite of English law. Intuitively the Irish consciousness that is printed onto our DNA is coded with Brehon Law. Our values are still set in Brehon Law.
You have three dining tables joined together (my cousin has 12 children) because of Brehon Law. In Brehon Law the supreme seat of authority is not the king. Not even the high king. It is the head of the family. Under Brehon law we enjoy all good fortune I'd say. When I see you at home, or I talk with old Joe, it is the same. All the talk is about the generations of the family. Joe's lot mostly lived in very humble circumstances and often with great difficulty, but his stories are all full of laughter and humour. Whatever the external circumstances, good fortune is found in the family life.
But our intuitive sense of how things go together has become contorted and distorted trying to fit into the shell of English law and English values. English Law is all about what is forbidden and how transgressions must be punished by the English crown. In English Law we are chattels of the king - or the monarchy of the day. We haven't any intrinsic rights or moral authority or moral duty. Only rules and punishments. These Laws do not encourage anyone to think. They demand instead that we lay down our minds and comply. They encourage stupidity. This probably accounts for the ease with which England has always been able to arouse the necessary mindless fervor to recruit armies to wage wars of aggression.
And, as victims of English aggression (that’s why our ancestors had to leave home to come here) we are still angry inside.
Where Brehon Law operated there was no need for armies or police. The law informed the society. The society accepted the law because it was fair and just . Its process for being determined, written and judged was earthy, common and above corruption. Brehon Law made moral decision a personal and proper way to live. Moral decision making is only possible when people think. It necessitates individuals' use of Reason. It does not demand mindless compliance. Under Brehon Law, transgressions were dealt with appropriately within the families by the family head, who was responsible for safeguarding the family's honour in the eyes of his community. Honour was not only the key to stable community it was also the currency that produced better rates of exchange. Honour was safeguarded by Brehon codes of common principles. Ireland was four stable, independent, collaborating kingdoms operating honourably under the same Law until the English era. Brehon Law was bigger than king or kingdoms.
But there was weakness in Brehon Law. It gave no protection against foreign invasion ...... It depended on good will and personal intelligence: enlightened self interest.
Some time ago I began to read Irish history. Until then, I had no idea of the scale or horror of the atrocities committed by the Anglicans in Ireland. I simply never learned. I know now why I didn't learn. I didn't learn because subjects of Her Majesty are only told what is useful to have them know. Since 1866 our schools have been largely funded by the Britannic State and kids have been taught ONLY from the texts authorised by the State. Under New South Wales Westminster Law, those text books and curriculums had first to be approved by the British Colonial Office as suitable for use in Ireland. That is, as children we only received education intended to make us compliant tools of the Britannic State. Even as England has collapsed as a world power, our Westminster government has continued to pursue the same policy direction. Our knowledge has always been heavily censored and education has always been the primary tool of Brittanic propaganda.
But to get angry, or feel alienated, we don't have to "know" our kin and kind were reduced from 8 million to less than half a million over a few years, by the unrestrained torture and murder of our families, perpetrated rightously and brutally under Westminster Law. That memory is programmed into us. Like untrained dogs we just know how we have to conduct ourselves when we are in front of other Law systems - our way is often rebellious - its nearly always independent. We think for ourselves. We flout the rules. We run guerrilla wars of our own. There is a Jungian archetype of this character. His name is Jack Doolan - the boy from Castlemaine.
A few years ago, in an absurd demonstration of spinelessness, the leader of HM government in Australia - an Anglican - an officer of her Britannic Majesty's Court - referred to “Irish larrikinism” as the foundation stone of the Australian character. He told the world this when he paid Ireland a majestic and self aggrandising State visit. This is the sort of tomfoolery that happens when you carefully cultivate ignorance but you forget to invent devices to prevent it from directing the nation. In any case the Irish had done their homework and they stayed away in droves when he went to their parliament to deliver his speech.
So of course we are angry. And rebellious. And larrikins. But unlucky?
In other words, being rebellious, we take our chances. It is not necessarily that we are more unlucky. It is that we expose ourselves to getting caught by the chances we take. Australian gaols have always been full of aboriginal Australians and Irish Australians. But if you asked Darcy Duggan if he thought he was unlucky do you think he would have agreed? Or do you think he would have angrily told you to get f....!
Today, as we try to pretend we belong to the middle classes in a British social system, we encounter all manner of loss. Many of us break our hearts early and over and over again. Despair still comes easily to us.
We also torpedo our opportunities to win the rewards for compliance. We should instead be striving to retain our culture and influence this English system we live under. Instead, we observe our sons and daughters wandering about without direction. They have lots of toys ... but they are zones of spiritual emptiness. They will have more and more years of anxiety to occupy their shrinking consciousnesses because more is considered to be better in this English system. But this is not bad luck.
We think we are unlucky only because we are operating on a phoney plane of consciousness. That's all. But that's not bad luck ... that's stupid. As well it’s hard. And if it's not hard enough, Luck is a funny thing... .
The English word "Luck" derives from the Norman French "lac" (Lake). Remember the Lady of the Lake? Well, whenever we speak of Lady Luck ... that's her.
Luck isn't random like we are taught to believe. In one of the King Arthur stories, Merlin and King Arthur are by the lake when a woman's arm comes out of the water brandishing in the air the magic sword Excaliber. The Lady of the Lake promises King Arthur that while he wears Excaliber, the magic in the sword will protect him (he will be "lucky") - at least while he is setting up his utopian kingdom based on just Brehon type law. (King Arthur was a celtic folk hero.)
In other words, in the old wisdom, luck was given to an individual. It wasn't random. It wasn't something that could be taken - like gamblers hope to do.
There is a similar legend from Ireland about Kerriwidden - the Goddess of Wisdom. She also lived on an island under the lake, where she forged wisdom (luck) and dispensed it to individuals to perform some task or other and ensure success.
So in our ancient understanding, luck is purposeful. It is given to an individual to win a right result. In modern psychoanalysis, the lake is our consciousness. Luck, that comes out from under the lake, is inspiration directed to a right purpose from the depths of our unconscious knowing of what is Right and True.
Luck is spiritual power and spiritual wisdom. It shields the True warrior.
We hear of "the luck of the Irish". I used to be puzzled by that expression. What's lucky about massacres, starvation, slavery? Well I think the answer is that we not only survived, we kept our culture intact and made big happy families wherever we rested. Despite the passage of many hundreds of years we did not give up the fight for what is right and best. Ireland may be one of the world's smallest nations and was one of Britain's smallest colonies but it was the first nation to bring military and political defeat to the British empire. The Irish found sufficient resolve and method, from among the tiny remnant of their people, to force the armies of the world's greatest power back across the water. Almost, .. and the battle for the 6 provinces of Northern Ireland will continue to be waged while ever there are larrikins who are impelled by distant memories to rid their people of English ways.
We might have gotten mad, but we never got beaten down or lost sight of the funny side. Our people carried the luck of Excaliber in their rebellious hearts.
Do we Australian Irish think are we UNlucky today? If we are, then where should we look to change that? What voices should we be listening to hear? How should we be teaching our children? Will we get a better more meaningful society through luck if we do not take luck as a coating blessed of right purpose and unrelenting courage?
So here is the reason people say, “Ah, the luck of the Irish”! And what a marvelous, mysterious and jolly thing it is too when it is worn brightly and rightly ....
Compare my notes:
I never won anything in my life by buying a ticket. I've had more financial worries and disappointments than most people could live with. But I can always find a parking place! Every time I've run out of petrol its been beside the bowser! Anytime I've gotten to the black bottom of a really deep crisis there has been a miracle waiting there!
In my family we all used to laugh at dad whose encounters with life were a report card that transparently tallied his fidelity to Lady Luck. He was devoted to his wide family and his friends and I never knew him to want for compassion. His generosity exceeded his means and his humour was a mirror that captured his frailties. Dad also used to run out of petrol at fuel stations, have punctures pulling into garages, would lose his wallet only to have it returned within hours. But, as relentless as he was in his defense of whatever he thought to be most right, Luck always abandoned him whenever his acquired middle class aspirations tempted him towards a calling that was alien to his culture.
Dad loved money and growing wealth. He loved playing the sharemarket as much as others love surfing or playing golf. He studied to be an accountant and then an economist winning international awards along the way, but he spent his life teaching the subjects he loved. His knowledge never made him a penny despite that he predicted the market movements with exact accuracy again and again. EVERY time he found himself on the brink of a windfall, Lady Luck stepped up to take possession of the moment.
Poor dad. Many would believe him to have been unlucky but there was never a man more open hearted and generous, willing to laugh at what befell him with a most curious mix of fun and frustration. I do not remember him as unlucky. I think he knew he was on a winning side and I always remember him as having extra-ordinarily good luck. I am indescribably grateful to have inherited his sword and scabbard.
© Bog O’Mullet 2007
Editor: A gardener?
Linus: Yes Sir, I am a gardener. Well metaphorically speakin', I'm a gardener. My job is to get things bloomin' in due season an' weeded out when they're finished bloomin'. Makin' sure there's always a new display about to roll into colour. An' everything that goes with that, y'know. I mean design'n for the result we want an' layin' out to the design, gettin the soil mix right, keepin the growth happenin where its wanted. Gardner’s the job.
Editor: Cutting the poppies before they grow too tall, eh?
Linus: We don't ‘av tall poppies 'ere. We have roses, Sir. I tend the roses.
Editor: How do you grow your roses Linus?
Linus: There are many ways Sir. As many as there are roses I expect.
Linus: Then what matters is to know yer rose and ter know the job yer want it to do. Also to know the other roses that are goin' to grow, aroun’ it. Well take this one ‘ere Sir. This' a new hybrid species.
You can tell straightway by some’o’the features: the soft pretty appearance, rather feminine colour, fer instance.
Linus: Yes Sir. This kind of yellow's not a natural colour in roses and Sir, you see the fullness of the bloom, the absence o’ many thorns, and softer thorns too, Sir. This is a rose produced for certain effect, especially for cuttin’ and handlin’. Its not a romantic rose, its far too pretty. But its popular too in new gardens.
Editor: Not so likely to do damage eh?
Linus: Not at all Sir. This is not a true rose, Sir. Not in the historical sense. Its what gardeners call a modern hybrid. Modern because its a relatively new sort of rose, and hybrid because its not really this an’ not really that.
Editor: Are they popular, Linus. these new roses?
Linus: Well, mostly Sir; But its a look good rose. A feel good rose. Its a rose for people who don't really know or value their roses. Its a sort of show pony rose I suppose. Here today, all fresh new, bright, different, claiming to have everything people want and then ..... suddenly its gone and no one will really even notice.
Editor: Where do they go then Linus, these showpony roses?
Linus: Well that's a bit of a mystery, Sir. Nobody really knows. Its just like, well, a major change happens, the garden's rearranged or somethin’ and well .. poof! Suddenly they're gone. Never see em again. Nobody even mentions them. Its like they never happened?
Editor: Then where do they come from Linus. I mean how does a new rose suddenly turn up.
Linus: There's a strange thing Sir. We're all, that's us as has been round ere for a bit y'know Sir, we're always a bit puzzled ‘bout that too Sir. Its science y'know. They all come outta the universities. All bright n shiny an’ looking, like god's only gift to the garden. All the colours an’ shapes y' like: Orange, candy, magenta, mustard, bless me: ... even blue! A blue rose, can you believe it? But ya know? An ‘ere's a funny thing, every year we get a new crop of these things an’ I never seen a crop yet that just fitted natural like into the garden. Its always crossed my mind as strange ya know Sir. Every year its the same thing, an after all these years, there all gone, I'm still ‘ere, an’ bless me Sir, the garden's still the same too Sir.
Editor: Don't they ever survive more than one summer, so to speak, Linus.
Linus: Well, yes, Sir. But its work y' know. Not like real roses. These new ones, they take a lotta helpin’ along. Every autumn, they've got to be heavily pruned and shaped. The soil round their roots ‘as got to be turned over and laid up with nutrients. You're constantly working on ‘em to make ‘em perform.
Editor: You don't like the new ones, Linus.
Linus: Well, they're not natural Sir, not real. I always think that if somets takin’ so much to keep goin’ then, yer have to ask what it is that its tryin' to do. Do yer see?
Editor: So what is a new rose trying to do, Linus?
Linus: Well ‘er's another problem Sir. I know what it's tryin' to do? Its tryin’ to cut out a life for itself. Its easy eh? But what I wonder is if its worth doin’. I mean, if it can't survive on its own, should it?
Editor: But Linus, if you ask that question, can you stop at roses? If men must fly to do business, are they in the right business?
Linus: Well take a look at this specimen, Sir. This ere's an old rose? One o’ nature's beauties. Started life high in the Himalayas, thousands o’ years ago. This beauty grows anywhere you like to stick it in the ground an’ she'll flower season in an’ out, with or without care an’ fussin’. What it takes out of the planet, it surely puts back many times, or nature wouldna held its hand so long. Long after all these show ponies have passed from memory, long after gardeners ‘av been forgotten, there'll still be this old rose and her family. Some things just work an’ you can't take it away from ‘em. You can fiddle an’ try to make it into someat else, but chances are yer goin’ to have to keep on holdin’ its ‘and an’ its goin’ t’ be damn hard work an’ no let up. Do yer see what I mean?
Editor: Are you saying, Linus, that we shouldn't change things?
Linus: Why would you change a rose Sir?
Editor: Perhaps, as you've said, a new market arrives, tastes change, fashions change?
Linus: Depends, I suppose Sir, on what is right. Yer see, this yellow face ere: she's not a rose in the same sense as that old beauty there. She's like the tree that's growed t’ be felled. She's alive so long as she's useful , but only so long as she's useful for makin a living fer old gardeners like me. An’ she's only useful t’ me when there's goin’ t’ be someone out there, an’ enough of em, to buy a piece ter take 'ome or ter buy a grafting t’ stick in their own plot. In other words, 'er life is tied to a really slender chain o’ demand; her future's as fickle as next years fashion colours. Question is not
whether its right t’ change a rose, but is it a rose yer changing the rose into?
Editor: I suppose you could argue the same thing about modern people?
Linus: A real rose don't need to be called a rose to be a rose. It don't need to prove its usefulness t’anybody. Its a rose because its a rose. Why would you want t change it I asks? It don't need to be pruned an shaped. It don't need to be given a flash name. It dont need to have its colours in Marie Claire. Its just beautiful, an its place in nature is fixed and its just right that its so.
Editor: What do you say about modern hybrid people Linus?
Linus: My talks about roses Sir. But I guess its all the same thing. Sometimes I wonder why there seems to be so much trouble to make things different. I wonder ow long fer. 'ow long will it be before women remember they could be mothers? 'ow long it'll be before men remember there was no trouble gettin jobs when the women were avin babies? ow long'll it be before boys start t climb trees again and little girls begin to push their dollies in toy prams.
Editor: You're nostalgic for the old ways Linus?
Linus: Not a bit of it Sir. Pruning this yellow rose is what I'm doing. I'm doin it because there's people out there who want it. An doin that I'm not nostalgic for the wild old brambler. No Sir, Why should I be, that old brambler's going to keep on coming back. Long after I'm in the ground. It'll be nostalgic fer me afore the other way round.
Editor: So you think all these modern changes in society will not last?
Linus: Last? What do you think Sir? How long as any of them lasted so far?
Editor: So you think there are some eternal natural truths, and people just can't change them?
Linus: I ask you Sir? What do you think. How long is it since we were being told we were fighting in a life and death struggle with communism? What happened to it Sir? Went out like a summer breeze. Not so long ago we all ad to do science at school because science was the answer to the meaning of life. What happened to it Sir, just sort of rolled over when everyone was sleepin, an disappeared. What happened to the yellow peril Sir? It seems to me fashions come an go. There's always someone stirrin everybody up to believe they're on death row or someat, an then no one
remembers. An all the time, somewhere the natural stuff is quietly goin on with keepin everythin together.
Editor: You realise you're a heretic Linus?
Linus: Not much Sir. I always say to myself when somethings up, "Listen, old fella," I says, "A year from now you won't even remember you was worried." Besides, everything sorts itself out proper soon enough. You can't stop whats natural, though you can hold it up fer abit. But here's wot I notice Sir. The more yer hold things up, the harder they come back again.
Editor: So you think, Linus that we're in a make believe world of change right now?
Linus: Listen Sir, you mark my words, what ever changes one way can change back the other or off in another direction y'never dreamed to put a stop to..
Editor: But surely, Linus there are things you would want to change.
Linus: Not much of it Sir, except maybe ter get back a bit o' common sense into the world, y'know. But then, I says t' m'self y'know. Y' dont have t' get it back. It never went anywhere. That's why its called common sense. Its just plain what works. Y' dont have t' get it back. That's not the hard work. What's hard is t' be always tryin' t' invent uncommon sense and makin' that work. It won't of course Sir, which is why most of the world's always changin' things. Changin' what they changed yesterday and after t', ... why this afternoon they'll be workin' on changin' what they changed this
mornin'. Y'know Sir, if they was right this mornin' they'd be takin' the time a day this afternnon. I can figure all that. What I can't figure is why they can't ; why they can't learn that just changin' stuff all the time doen't make anything better. Just tenser and more and more unreal. Y'know, I'm what yer'd call old fashioned, I s'pose Sir. Bein' old fashioned is bein' in touch with the truth I say.
Editor: I expect these people your talking about would say what you said to me about the yellow rose. That what they're doing is trying to give people what they want and so they're working harder because what people want is hard to do?
Linus: An' Sir? ain't that the problem, just like me kneeling my tight old joints to prune shape into a thing that's got no right to be here, so most of the world's turning itself inside out to make things that a got no right to be here too. On my test of what's real an' right, that takes account of just about everything that most people are doing in this country this afternoon. Eh, Course that's true. Damned inconvenient to be sure, but its right anyway. Listen Sir, since the beginnin' of time peoples 'ave been runnin' up a war or so every generation. Its as natural as anything. Like a heavy snowfall in the wrong season, sorts things out and nature decides whose got the best chance to make a go of it. Not any more they say. Instead everyone out there's oldin' on, crossin' their legs, workin' longer hours to make things that'll fall over if they don't keep at it, breathin' faster an' faster, gettin' tighter an' tighter in their stomach muscles, an' tryin' harder an' 'arder to keep the lid on an' 'eld down tight. An' if they get their mouths open through their tight jaw muscles fer long enough they'll tell you that everything's OK cause they know it is because they can go out an' buy more an' more stuff. Badges of courage I call it. Badges o' courage.
Editor: Well, I think most people would agree with you that life is too stressful, but I'm not sure many people would be ready to trade their badges of courage for less stress?
Linus: I reckon that yellow rose wouldn't want to go without the hard pruning I give it too, Sir. If your fashioned into something that makes no sense, yer pleased to have to put up with pain, an' hopelessness. Thats the proof of what I'm sayin' Sir. If its yer preference to be doin' stuff that makes no sense, then I says, yer must be crazy. Its OK to be crazy, mind, but its not what I want fer myself or my roses. An' I ask you, yer gotta make yer own choice on this, when the next big snowfall comes ... do you want a be a modern hybrid or an old beauty?
Editor: But surely Linus, you don't really believe people can turn their backs on all the wonders of our modern age? Surely you don't believe they should repudiate the sacrifices made to create these wonders?
Linus: Wonders, Sir?
Editor: Yes Linus. The wonders of motor cars and aeroplanes; the wonders of television and computers, the wonders of photographing Venus or curing polio?
Linus: There's no wonder in it Sir. When you do the things that people do today, and you make the sacrifices you talked about, there's no wonder in it at all. People ''av not created energy, Sir; or flight; Venus in all her wonder's got nout to do with photographs. These are not wonders Sir. These are badges of courage an' self importance. If you want to see a wonder Sir, I'll show you 'ow a little stick can become a new thing of remarkable beauty, I'll show 'ow the things that will most touch your inner truth Sir, don't need to go anywhere, but can smile into the sun, an quiver in the gentlest breeze, send little bees into a frenzy of desire, an' drop a beautiful woman in admiration an appreciation of you Sir. I'll teach you 'ow a perfect rose in this corner can seem to change ideas with another over there Sir, outta sight an outta human earshot. Indeed Sir, there's none among the fine things o' people you can describe that'll fill me - or anyone with the sense or their own beauty an perfection - as this little bud is goin' to do, Sir. An' there's the greatest wonder of all.
Editor: Then Linus, taking your proposition, if I think I understand it, - that what most of us are doing is like rolling a boulder uphill, and then claiming it for an achievement, - where is our future?
Linus: There's only one future I can see for it Sir. Yer better keep that boulder chocked. An the higher yer get it, the more time yer better spend watching them chocks. Indeed Sir, there's only two ways out: sooner or later that boulder's goin' to do what boulders do from high up, or you're goin to get to the point of tension that keepin' the boulder from gettin' away from you an' destroyin' everything, is going to be more important than gettin' it up any higher.
Editor: You're worse than a heretic Linus. You're a pessimist.
Linus: Not at all Sir, I'm a gardener. I garden. In my garden I make arrangements with nature an' I get a good result when I let nature call the lead. I also have to make arrangements in spite a nature sometimes an' when I do that, it makes me to understand 'ow much power is in it an 'ow little is in me. To be a gardener, Sir, yer learn to work out where is the big truth, not just the little bits. An' as a gardener, Sir, y' learn to love it with yer whole mind an soul, Sir.
That's why I garden Sir. Fer it makes sense. It makes sense of everything. An that's 'ow I know what's right Sir.
Editor: Well then, Linus, I write for company managers. Men and women who, for the most, part wrestle honestly for the best way forward for humanity and for the people they have responsibility for. These are men and women charged with the duty to make hard decisions that often affect all of us; and to make them in ways that produce the greatest good. As you've said, much of what our business and government society are trying to do is fast changing and uncertain. They're searching for better ways always to benefit our lives and secure our futures. What would you say to my company managers Linus?
Linus: Just one thing Sir. I'd tell em, to get to know their roses. Once you know your roses, Sir, the hard work's out of it
© Chris Moloney 1998
About the Author
I guess getting older is a bit like making bread the traditional way. No one has really found a modern way for aging. Lively grains full of possibility are reaped, thrashed, ground down and then the soft finely textured powder is sifted to remove any remaining qualities of earlier times. At length it is put into a tray and fired until it rises.