Mars Beat

I don’t know whether an “Our” music, that Mikel is speaking about in his last blog, is possible for a culture or a country anymore. For that to happen there would have to be a kind of musical isolation in which there was a limited amount of outside input. Same as with the evolution of species. And because modern Australia is a young country I suspect the chance for a uniquely Australian form of music (outside of the ancient Aboriginal music mentioned) probably passed by with the advent of the radio. Radio introduced crossover on a big, international scale. Television and the Internet have only increased that crossover. Hybridisation is, I suspect, with us for good. In every context, not just music. At least until the first, brave human pioneers  colonise another planet far from home.  In fact based on the fact that Australia is quite other worldly (in a lot of the photos I’ve seen anyway) Mars Beat may yet prove to be the first truly Australian genre.

But aside from all of that, I don’t personally think that the creation of new, unique genres matters that much. If they happen they happen by accident anyway. What really matters is that people continue to create new things. Because we have to. That means that great creative new music can and will still be made.  And if the person making that music is Australian, it will always have an Australian taste, if the art is coming from an honest place.

Mikel’s blog reminded me of a song I used to love by Midnight Oil called Beds Are Burning. I just listened to it, and it moved me even more than when I first heard it. Partly because it is a fantastic song, partly because it speaks some powerful truth,  and partly because it took me back to a different time in my life. It was also a sad reminder of how slowly change comes. It takes more than simply the desire for it to happen, or the recognition that it needs to happen. It requires us (in my case, me!) to do something.

So I’m greatful for those Aussie boys for putting passionate, convicting words to a sweet pop/rock melody and a primal beat. A force of nature emerging from the outback like a giant, diesel truck from a heat haze . Top of the Rocks plugged into Alice Springs. It connected with me.



“Our” Music

Does your country have something you all call “our” music?

Australia does not.

Aboriginal tribes have their own forms of song and rhythm tools and the magical didgeridoo.  White Australia has often borrowed the digeridoo and some successful bands have been of Aboriginal origin and driven by a desire to share an Aboriginal experience of being Australian via their music and performance.

However, White Australia, us later comers who have lived here only two hundred years, after stealing the land the Aboriginal tribes and clans had been custodians of for forty, fifty, sixty THOUSAND years, have not yet created our own music form.

We generally have a lot of live music venues, pubs and the like, so emerging artists of the popular ilk can find places to practice their craft with the immediate feedback of a positive or negative audience.

We borrow other forms of music,  blues, pop, rock and do them really well, but they are not OURS.  We also do a lot of classical music really superbly, but again, not OURS.

Every now and then an artist will come along who writes songs about our experience that makes our cities and our streets sound as cool and important as the songs we love from the UK or the US make their cities sound.   I’m thinking of Paul Kelly or Richard Clapton as examples, or Midnight Oil or Skyhooks or ………..    more and more as I think about it.

As wonderful as these artists are, we still have not created OUR music, there is no form that originated with us.  Not yet.

How about your country?

Do you have a music that you all say is “our music”?



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The Scale of Your World?

I was stunned the first time I discovered that there were teenagers living in Australian cities who had never seen a living sheep or a living cow.

I grew up being taken on touring country holidays by my parents and just assumed that ‘everyone’ had travelled outside the city limits.

I was equally astonished to discover that you could be elected President of the USA (George Bush Jnr) without ever having left the United States.  Astonishing to consider someone with that kind of power in the world, never having visited that world before acquiring that power.  More than a bit scary frankly.

See, I assumed that the wider world was INTERESTING to everyone and that if you had the money to visit the world, you would absolutely want to do that.  I was wrong.

I know the first time I visited the UK as an adult, it opened my world UP hugely.

That “opening” continues to do this day.  Indeed this blog is hoped to be part of that ‘opening to the world’ process – conversing with people from around the world to learn from them and share with them.

That first adult overseas trip not only opened me up to the World – I came home with an entirely deeper and richer sense of my home country and new eyes to see it and appreciate it.

One country I visited quite a bit in the past astonished me when I met a number of people there who felt comfortable saying to me, as a visitor from another country, that they did not care what happened to my country as long as their country did as it pleased.   I was mildly astonished at the attitude but mostly astonished at the fact that people felt comfortable SAYING that to me – telling me how unimportant my country was to them in comparison to their country.

That was the point at which I started to understand the old statement “patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings” (I heard that first in a Bob Dylan song but it pre-dates his usage of it.).

Some of us are comfortable living in a very local world.

Some of us are comfortable living in a totally global world.

I suspect most of us are somewhere in between those extremes.

My own path has been that the more I have experienced the world which is NOT “mine” – the richer I feel as a human being, the deeper I grasp my connection to others and to the planet and the more powerful and nuanced my experience of “my” local world becomes.  Your mileage may differ.


Mikel Azure.


Are curtains universal?

Strange question?   Not really, I just looked up at the windows in the room I am sitting in, saw the curtains and then immediately noticed that I was assuming that everyone who looked up at the window in their room would be looking up at curtains.

Just an assumption.  A simple assumption that everyone else on the planet has the same experience as me.

That assumption, about curtains, illustrates something we all do without noticing.   Something that when the assumptions are about other things than curtains is a real problem.

This unconscious assumption, that people everywhere have the same experience as me, see the world the same way, even live in the same world as me, is groundless and easily demonstrated to be fundamentally wrong.

This blog is an experiment in noticing the ways we DO share a reality across cultures and the ways we DON’T share the same reality.

So curtains –  I’m looking at two sets of curtains over the windows.   There is a light, white, mostly sheer set of curtains that hang in front of the windows, during the day those sheer curtains allow me to look out, but anyone outside cannot see IN thru the window because the sunlight reflects of the outside of the white curtains and the light from inside the room is dark and cannot compete with the reflected light outside.    The second set of curtains are “blockout” curtains, thick and heavy, normally they are pulled to each side of the windows, but when you pull them across the windows they block out the heat from a hot summer day, or block in the heat of a warm room on a cold winter’s day.

Normal for me, might seem strange to you.

So, what covers or does not cover the windows you are looking at right now?



A Little Story

It’s an odd thing perspective. I just walked into a room and saw two boys sitting in front of a TV and chatting. An innocuous thing really. A modern picture. Not a particularly interesting one. Normal. Dull even.  Except that in this instant it made me very upset. I turned the TV off. Spoke some words. And the boys left the room.

And that’s the story.

Of course there is a whole other, big story behind that short sequence of events. A story of people living with other people. But to be honest, that big story is pretty much irrelevant. No, scratch that. It should be pretty irrelevant to my reaction in the little story. In the little story nothing bad was happening. Nobody had died. Nobody was being hurt. Two boys were watching TV. And the only person getting upset was me.

If I told you the  big story you might well have some sympathy with my reaction. But I don’t think that is the point.

The point is that I’m an adult, and like every human being ever born I have a finite length of time left on this earth. I owe it to myself to not get upset about two boys watching TV. I owe it to them too.


Being Connected – Cannot Be Anything Else.

One of the key tenants of the school of philosophy to which I vaguely give allegiance (Existentialism) argues effectively that there is no such thing as the “autonomous individual” – that all Being is intrinsically  “Being-In-Relation”.

At the heart of every one of our cells is that truth – our dna is half the code of one human that is “in relation” with half the code from another human.  At our chemical core we are a community of two but also the expression of a community of survivors stretching back roughly three billion years.

Being-In-Relation.   That is our Being.  Intrinsically connected.  Our development from newborn to adult requires connection – the quality of the connection we are given has a powerful impact on how we develop and how much of our genetic potential is undermined or supported and released.

In strange ways we are also in relationships with our self.

We are “self aware” – we are aware that we are thinking, we even “watch” or “listen” to our self think.   Have you ever thought about how wonderful and strange that is?   If I am listening to my self think,  who is the “I” who is listening?  Of course some argue that this is just a verbal trick and that the grammar we use to construct such sentences mislead us into thinking some actual reality is being expressed, when it is not.  Huh,  personally I am not convinced by that argument, but I can’t disprove it either. 🙂

If we are lucky we get to share connection with awesome people who inspire us, feed us, enrich us and empower us.

It is a nice moment when someone experiences ME as the person who inspires, feeds, enriches or empowers THEM.  It is never expected but it is truly sweet and wonderful when it happens.

Being-in-Relation  is not a one way flow – we are all part of an astonishingly complex web of relationships, we are putting our gold out into the web, where it flows far out of our sight, and the gifts that others have released into relationships far from us come to us humble, nameless and no less enriching for that anonymity.

Our different cultures will probably have many similar but different and different but similar  models and concepts of how to relate together.   When I travel, this is one of the areas I am always curious about – so much to learn about what is possible for me as a human by watching those who are not like me.



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thank you, friend.

Last Friday night, the world lost a truly beautiful soul to a particularly deadly form a breast cancer that kills younger women.  My friend wasn’t even 40.  She was one of those really good people who just want to live and never waste a minute of their lives.  She had cancer for two years, but she lived a lot more in those two years than most.  Including, probably, me.

When she got sick, she started a secret Facebook group–that she deemed her fan club.  It was a place for her to share her wins and her losses–to ask for what she needed and to receive love.  Every single day, I was greeted to updates from her other friends and family.  Every day, it inspired me.  Since her death, it’s continued.  Every day, all day long.  Only now–instead of encouraging words–it’s memories of our fearless friend who loved to dance and drink margaritas.  It’s been this warm comforting blanket to hold on to and a place to love people we barely know.

As sad as I am about her death–this community of souls who all loved her–who all rooted for her–gives me hope.  I’ll admit I’ve had my moments of writing off humanity in recent years.  The shootings in South Carolina surely would have sent me spiraling.  But, instead, this week–I held on to that core belief of mine that people are essentially good and that life is worth living.

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Yours sincerely, Mr Angry!

A big welcome to Alma who has just written her first blog for It’s A Small Word. A very honest and personal introduction. So much easier to get to know each other when we make ourselves a little bit vulnerable I think.

I personally GET Alma’s confession regarding the way in which she reads too much into all the signals (or lack of signals) that other people give off. I have to say that pattern of thinking has governed far too much of my life too. It can, and has been, truly debilitating. And it still does affect me sometimes, but thankfully that mostly only happens now at moments when I’m run down and over tired. These days there are times when I positively relish being misunderstood, and maybe even making a point of not explaining myself. It’s a kind of tactic. Looking those fears in the face and saying “Do your worst!” Usually the worst is a tiny fraction of what I imagined.

Just recently I wrote an “angry old man” style letter to the local newspaper here in Campbeltown. There is a hill near us called Ben Gullion, and some friends of mine are in a band called Gullion.  On the walk up Ben Gullion there is an information board and it mentions a dance, a lemonade and a boat that were named after the hill. But not the band! In my letter I complained that my friends’ band weren’t mentioned on the board. It was  written totally tongue in cheek.  As a joke. But of course some people (including my wife initially) thought it was a serious letter. In the past this would have sent me into total recluse mode. Actually in the past I would have never written the letter, I would have only thought it. Now, although it felt slightly uncomfortable for a short while to be “misunderstood” I can actually laugh about it. Also their ARE benefits to people believing that you will fire off an angry letter if push comes to shove. Don’t mess with Moi!

I  tell that story not to say “get over yourself” Alma, but just to encourage you with the thought that thought patterns, which can seem to be an inherent part to our personalities, can be overcome. I’m sure you believe that too. As always with this kind of thing, it’s all about taking baby steps.

So it’s fantastic that you faced up to the fear and got back in touch with your friends. It was no doubt a case of “why did I leave it so long?” Ha! We human beans are funny creatures.

one day at a time…still

Hi, everyone. This is my very first posting here. Thanks to Mikel & David for allowing me to enter the fold, so to speak. I suppose I should introduce myself. My name is Alma. I’m a 36 year old, single woman living in Denver, Colorado (soon to be the Bay Area). I’m an INFP and HSP as well. I wanted to chat with you guys about my weekend. I had planned on writing about something else, but I guess this relates–so I’m going to start here and meander into my original idea next time. As an introvert, I relish being alone. I mean–to me–there are few better things. My mother used to brag about how I always kept myself entertained. I was always off in my inner world. But I am also a person of extremes. When I do something, I don’t do it halfway. I do it to excess. I’ve joked a lot about how I’m a hermit. If given an opportunity, I can go long stretches of time without speaking to a single soul–and be quite happy about it. Over the last month or so, I’ve had that opportunity. My roommate is living between here in Denver and in the Bay Area while he finds us an apartment out there. So, I’ve been here alone, mostly–herding cats. It’s actually been really good for me. It’s been years since I’ve been able to let it all hang out. Living with another person, I’ve had to modify my behavior a lot, and it’s been nice to just be by myself once I’m done with work. Around the same time all of this happened, I quit my job that I hated and took on a new job with a great company in my industry. It’s the same kind of work, but different in its expectations. My job is kind of an introvert’s nightmare. While I work from home (win!), I also have to talk on the phone ALL DAY LONG. I’m in an industry of extroverts, and I’m expected to perform all day long. Part of my job–a big part–is getting people to talk to me. I make a lot of outbound calls. And I have to bug people all day. To say it’s exhausting is putting it mildly. I enjoy it, but–when people are being…well…people, it can be the most thankless job in the world. In any case, this past week was rough. I had volunteered to help on a nightmare project. No one was calling me back. People were piling on the pressure, and I was just getting fed up. I like being left alone, but I hate being ignored. And it seemed like I was getting it from everywhere. Work, people helping me with personal things, and friends not responding to me. Now, I don’t really react well to such situations. It’s childish, really. My response is usually to get really angry and basically to mentally make a note to ignore the person ignoring me–ad infinitum. Of course, I can’t do that with work. But I can do it with everyone else. Ignore me–I’ll ignore you so much, you’ll be erased from my memory altogether! Or so, the self-talk goes. It doesn’t last long. But it does produce massive hurt feelings in me. People usually aren’t even ignoring me. In my crazy brain, I’ve somehow made myself the center of the Universe. And–surprise–I’m not! Ha. People are just living their lives. Or they can’t respond for whatever totally valid reason. Or there’s noise in the channel we’re swimming in. Or no one got the damn text. It all gets explained, and I forgive. Easily. The problem, of course, is that I jump to conclusions about people and their care for me. I make it about my worth to them. It fails my expectation for our relationship–and instead of them just being busy or held up–it’s about how much I mean to them. So, a lot of times, when my needs aren’t met–I find that I’m really angry. And it’s all based in my own lack of self-worth. I know–this is heavy for a Sunday. But it gets better, I promise. I learned this stuff in childhood. These toxic coping mechanisms that allow me to push people away while also wallowing in rage. These things that reinforce the idea I have–if only sub-consciously–that I am not good enough to deserve basic respect or love. That my needs don’t matter, fundamentally. It’s an insidious, sick dance I do. And I mostly don’t even know it’s there. Recently, I started to notice it. A lot. Mostly because I noticed I’ve been depressed for a little while now–since having emergency surgery. I’ve been hermitting ever since–tricking myself into the too busy for social stuff lie–while keeping most of my friends at a distance. Getting mad at people for pressuring me to hang out when they never said happy birthday. Finding ways to isolate and control relationships by withdrawing emotionally. I didn’t even know I was doing it. But this stuff also goes hand-in-hand with my perfectionism and anxiety. All of a sudden, I was having crises of confidence about things I am so secure with. It’s been going on for months. But this week, I suddenly became aware of all of it. And it was because I started telling myself, “I’m never speaking to him again.” I’ve been in therapy for about a year now–working on these things. I recognized this avoidant behavior. When everything in my body tells me to run away and not let people in, I know that’s the time when I most need the people who love me. And I realized that I missed people. Like soul-achingly missed them. And I was the reason we hadn’t talked. So, I started reaching out to the people who love me–to the ones who never write me off–to the people who see all the goodness in me, in spite of myself. And I told them I sucked, and I missed them. And we talked. I’ve done it all weekend, and it felt so good to not keep my distance. I talked so much that I almost legit lost my voice. I feel like–little by little–I’m finding my way to the life I need. It means reprogramming my brain, in many ways–doing the opposite of what my life has taught me to do. I have to remember to keep reaching out, no matter how hard it is. It matters.

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Sick and Hiding.

Glad to see David has been keeping the flag flying while I have been sick and in hiding.

So that is my tendency – when I get sick I like to withdraw from the world,  do less, think less, connect less, huddle down in my little space, conserve energy, sleep a lot, kind of spiral down into a semi-hibernation kind of state while my body fights off whatever is the problem.

That is where I have been for about three weeks – hiding from the world, from “effort”, while my body, and some modern medicines, fight a particularly potent wee germ that wanted to take up residence in my respiratory system.

Fortunately, now, my body is winning and I am returning to some inclination to make an effort.

The mythology in my neck of the woods is that “men” tend to fit into one of two modes when it comes to being sick – either we refuse to notice any sickness until it almost kills us and puts us in hospital  OR we are complete babies when we get sick and make a huge fuss about even small physical illnesses.

Both these myths are ways to draw attention to that nonsense idea that is built into the equally nonsense idea of “masculinity” – that it is “manly” to “tough it out”.

Even a cursory analysis will make it clear that all humans “tough it out” – that quality, behaviour or ability is not associated with testicles or testosterone – it is not a “masculine” trait.   I put “masculine” in inverted commas because I don’t believe that it is a real thing – it’s a constructed filter/frame we use to distort what we actually see so that what we see fits into the myth of  gender binary with inbuilt gender power imbalance.

So on one hand, in my neck of the woods, we notice that men “tough it out” when sick – ignoring it and denying it until catastrophe strikes.  On the other hand we notice that men don’t “tough it out” but instead do the opposite – over dramatizing their sickness and demanding inappropriate amounts of care and attention in relation to their actual sickness or weakness.   Both myths highlight the other myth – that toughing it out is a “masculine” quality.   Interestingly the second myth – sick man as drama baby – penalizes men for NOT “toughing it out” – a good illustration of how men are trained to have an unhealthy attitude to their own bodies – which stretches all the way to how, in most societies, men are expected to waste their bodies in state sanctioned violence (Soldiering) and that is considered “normal”.

I’m training myself out of that kind of behaviour –  I am my body is me –  Iamybodyisme    as good a summary of my understanding of “identity” and “self”.      So I am happy to hide my body away when I get sick, to nurture it, protect it, shield it, preserve it, coddle it – in doing that I am nurturing, protecting, shielding, preserving and coddling ME.   Which is an approach I would be happy for every person on the planet to adopt.

I’m back,