Saturday, April 29, 2017

Solitude standing

I graduated from high-school 30 years ago.  The boys are on for a major reunion.  Facebook groups, comments, photo uploads..  Suddenly I'm drawn into this yesteryear world of peering over schoolboy headshots which appear in Facebook uploads and trying to recall long-forgotten faces.  Immersing myself in this group has been a curiously odd experience, a surreal journey where I find myself flipping between 1987 and the present and sometimes capturing the essence again of being that exact person I was when I was 17 years old and left wondering if anything in my life has actually moved on since then.  Songs or feelings I had in 1987 suddenly flash in my memory and consciousness, vivid and alive.  Suzanne Vega's Solitude Standing album.  The innocence of living quietly and studying.  But that sense of life coming full-circle is somewhat unsettling.  I may have left school, but I haven't really left university.  I work there, and by January 1988 I will have been there 30 years given 2 years and 8 months hiatus between 1992 and 1996.  The university is near the old school, too.  So I haven't really gone anywhere, I'm still here..

No, not much point in turning up and having to justify my non-material, non-trappings to guys who have either houses or families or both while I'm still living like a battler-boho.  And there are some people I really don't want to see.  Having said that, many of those men would like me to turn up and it may be a very friendly experience - they did join ('yank') me into the Facebook group after all.  My face looks the same: fresh-faced and green as a blade of grass though my hair has thinned and greyed around the edges, so I'm probably still better looking than the lot of 'em, the snot-faces they were. Ha!

My 1987 headshot is scowling and unhappy.  That same scowly surliness will be present in me if I attend the reunion although I will do my upmost to hide it.  Too many blokes, too much garrulousness, too many people asking the same questions to each other, and one which I've no answer to.  What have I been doing all these years?  I don't know.  I am here now, as I was thirty years ago.

I'm in two minds about going.  Thirty years is a long time.  The past is well and truly over.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Gav Fitzgerald: Another

Our illustrious editor and SSA stalwart Gavin Fitzgerald has come out with ‘Another’.  Another what?  Another album, named, ‘Another’!  ‘Another’ follows on from his debut solo album ‘Just’ of 2008, the album that broke away from many years of playing and recording with his band, Velvet Road.

‘Just’ and ‘Another’ are in many ways a complementary pair of albums, not unlike the two Syd Barrett solo albums recorded after Barrett’s absconsion from Pink Floyd in the late 1960s.  Compared to ‘Just’, ‘Another’ is stylistically more varied, and introduces to the mix a wider variety of guest musicians.  On ‘Another’, James Englund makes a special guest star appearance on saxophone for a couple of tracks.   Ross Bruzzese plays bass on most of the 16 tracks, with Marc Mittag playing bass on four songs and Gav on one.  Backing vocals were shared by Megan Albany and Ross, who also adds some ukulele to one track.  Peter Thompson adds djembe to many of the songs, which may account for this album’s distinctive percussiveness.  Stewart Havill of Dog Star Productions recorded, mixed, and co-produced the album from his studio, and recorded all the drums and some of the keyboard tracks.

I wouldn’t suggest that ‘Another’ is a better album than ‘Just’; from a songwriting perspective they are on a par, although ‘Just’ was recorded in a much shorter time-period than ‘Another’ and so appears to be, arguably, the more cohesive record of the two.  ‘Another’ follows through with tighter production and more inventive arrangements.  Gav’s singing has also improved.  What both albums do share is consistently good, to great, to excellent songwriting, and Gav’s trademark facility with words and music.  Here is a man who loves his songwriting and guitar playing, and it shows.
The sound quality on ‘Another’ is enhanced by better mixing and mastering: Gav’s vocals are now sitting more comfortably in the mix than ever before, and the sound is generally cleaner.  ‘Another’ was mastered by the legendary Don Bartley.  Don has mastered the lion’s share of iconic Australian albums over the past forty years, and the listener can hear his distinctive presence on ‘Another’.  Bartley’s trademark is his magic balance of crystallising the sound while retaining an elemental rock focus.  ‘Another’ is a rock album that delves into funk, boogie, country and reggae, and Don Bartley’s mastering instinctively captures the ethos of Gavin’s sound, albeit with the professionalism that is expected of good mastering.

Gavin is also an illustrator and artist (and photographer –the photos on the sleeve and cover are his).  He has an instinctive flair for evocation and “feels”.   The album’s opening track is one such example, ‘West wind’.  Written sometime in the late nineties, it evokes wide fields, wind swept fields, looking onto the setting sun.  Gavin overlays some fine rhythm and lead guitars with a discernable build up as the song progresses into the second verse.  The Major 7th “jazzy” chordal pattern, Pete Thompson’s djembe and Marc Mittag’s funky bass all contribute to an excellent piece of music and song.

Just as the Church’s ‘Starfish’ (1988) started with ‘Destination’ leading into ‘Under the Milky Way’, so does one of Gav’s most enduring songs come in at track two on ‘Another’.  The River’ is a crowd favourite and is performed extensively by Gav and formerly by Velvet Road.  It’s a classic country-rock track, featuring a gritty cod-funk bassline in the verses, underlying Gav’s blues riff in E.  The boogie-esque changes into the choruses are particularly enthralling “…but I won’t cry…” ; Gav’s dominant 7th chords are particularly swampy.  The arrangement allows more space for Gav’s delicious lead work compared to Velvet Road’s more muscular 3-piece arrangement.  Megan Albany’s backing vocal appears to conjure up the ghost of the girl whose life got taken away.  And for those who know the Australian countryside well, you can almost taste the dust of the dirt roads and the whiff of irrigation canals as you hear this track.  Every turn of phrase and chord change is emotionally and musically excellent.  Turn it up loud.

I don’t know’ is a standout track, and one of Gavin’s most intriguing songs to date.  It’s one of these songs where the lyrical ambiguities convey much more than is reflected on paper.  The music here complements the dreamy sentiments, starting with a soft chromatic guitar refrain redolent of Syd Barrett before going into a gutsier verse, and moving again into the softer sub-psychedelic ‘I don’t know’ chorus.   The questioning, poetic, albeit inscrutable verse lyrics are juxtaposed by the middle eight where Gav bares his feelings quite candidly (“…how can you blame someone where emotions are involved…”).  Like automated writing, or free-form painting, ‘I don’t know’ is starkly revealing in its ambiguity; uncertainty, apprehension, attraction, conflict, and perhaps a passionate neediness are some of the feelings that waft like the song’s pulsating coda.   Gav’s creepy background lead guitar and Megan Albany’s backing vocal enhance this mood.  I don’t know’ is a great song that captures the essence of what creativity, or art, is all about. 

Take me as I am (Everyday Man)’ follows on a theme taken from Gav’s iconic ‘Imperfections’.  The themes are straightforward, and with a healthy dose of “Gav” humour and double entrende in the middle section: “…I might be ordinary, but when I’m holding you I feel a lot bigger…”, along with Gav’s talent with writing and rhyming where he quotes a list of famous people before coming onto the aforementioned line.  It’s the sort of song that appeals to the ‘everyday man’, to quote from the song, and accounts for why Gav was so popular with the blokey crowd when he used to perform with Velvet Road.

Practicality’ is an appealing and excellently recorded song with a Police influence.  It’s distinctly reggae influenced, featuring stylishly layered guitars, a vibrant bassline, and a smattering of keyboard.   The song is about the difficulties of mixing a ‘straight’ versus a ‘creative’ in a relationship setting; the singer here is definitely the ‘creative’ while the other is the “practical” one.  Gav’s howling towards the ends of each of the choruses enhances the track’s liveliness, and there’s also a pleasing move into a jazzy middle-eight.

 Just like that’ is another live favourite from Gav’s solo and Velvet Road sets.  This is a song about losing your loved one(s) suddenly.  The song has an overall country flavour to it, and the poignancy of the delivery is balanced by the sharp chorus “…just like that…” and the swinging bassline and drums.  There’s a good balance of major and minor chords here reminiscent of Neil Finn, again showcasing Gavin’s craft as a very good songwriter.

Danny McCrocker’ is, yet again, another live Gav and Velvet Road favourite.  This is Gav’s one song that blatantly expounds his Irish roots.  It captures the feel of Irish jig and town hall jive, all the way through to the Celtic style lead backed by marching drum beat and the bars being counted down in the background.  The double choruses at the end are wild and rollicking.  This is celebratory, party music, and you can virtually taste the Guiness that you hear Gavin call for at the beginning of the song.  Danny McCrocker’ is great and quite original – no-one else in the local songwriting scene writes songs like this, and very few songwriters capture this much joie de vivre in their work.  They’d love this at Irish pubs!

Been so long’ is a danceable track, starting off with an 80’s style drum refrain not too dissimilar from Prince’s style.  Gav sings the verses in tandem with Megan Albany, being a song about coming back home to his lover, and both deliver a passionate and inspired performance, particularly as the song reaches its coda.  The song maintains a contemporary sound while being quite influenced by 80s rock, in particular INXS, (note the saxophone) and even Go Betweens.   The middle-eight here is inspired; the move into “…life can make decisions…” lyric is musically quite stirring, similar to many early Crowded House songs.

Acting funny’ is another great pop/rock song with a classic Australian rock influence.   There is a vague country flavour to it, again, similar to the Go Betweens or Gang Gajang, and those repeating 12-string (or double-tracked) lead motifs that are heard throughout the song are also reminiscent of bands like The Church.  Those dreamy refrains at the end of the each verse, too, are also somewhat Church-like.  Acting funny’ is also infused with stylish and expert guitar lines, and is possibly the only song ever recorded with the word “petulant” in its lyric!

In ‘I don’t want you’, Gav tells the object of the song that he doesn’t want them, but paradoxically “…wish[es] that telephone would ring…”.  Lyrically, ‘I don’t want you’ suggests an occasionally recurring theme recurring in Gav’s songs, where the woman or object of his desire appears to be kept at a distance.  But the music is so boppy and upbeat, you come away feeling that Gavin is possibly being tongue-in-cheek and humorous about it all.  There’s plenty of walking bass, and ukulele in the old-time music-hall style middle section.  An excellent song, and very Gavin!

Mr Elevator Music Man’ is another reggae track, this time underpinned by a prominent walking jazz bass, tasty lead licks, and a decidedly impassioned lyric.  This is something of a ‘message’ song, with Gav using his lyric to tell an unnamed second person what constitutes good music “…it’s the passion that makes the music come alive…” – passion that Gav has in spades.

Baker’s town’ is one of the album’s more rock-influenced tracks in the style of Hunters & Collectors or Midnight Oil.  This is a song about the need to escape from a country town.  Gav creates a soundscape complementary to the lyric, and his own experience growing up in the country is what probably gives this song its unquestionable authenticity – a city-slicker could not have written this.  And somehow, the female backing vocal appears to enhance the sense of desolation and desperation; perhaps this is what Gavin (or Stewart) had intended.

Penitentiary’ leaves Australians shores and plants itself firmly in America’s southern hybrid of white country and zydeco.   It’s a wonderful track, one where the saxophone really shines, and which captures these musical influences so evocatively; you really feel you’re in Louisiana, or Mississippi.  Gav records the keyboards himself here, probably to ensure that the musical flavour remains true to his intentions.  The middle-eight goes off into ¾ time before coming back into the dance grooves and a saxophone solo.  This is a great dance track in the vintage musical style of southern-USA.

Sweet Little Angel’ similarly has its roots planted in southern USA.  This is classic 50s style rock with that mix of rockabilly and blues within a rock’n’roll setting.  “…I believe in my sweet little angel…” is a memorable lyrical refrain and hook – this song would’ve fit well back in the late-1950s, and yet sounds vital and fresh today.  A fantastic final song to a fine record.

Gav includes two fine bonus tracks here (with no extra lead-time into them), ‘My alarm clock’, and ‘My fair game’.  These are both excellent rock tracks that fit in nicely at the end of the CD, which overall representing great listening value to the listener. 

Gavin Fitzgerald has always maintained a very high standard of songwriting both as a performer and as a recording artist.  But on ‘Another’, his standards are lifted even higher, with very noticeable improvements in his singing, producing, mixing, musical adventurism, and - not least of all - his deft guitar playing.   Thus far, Gavin, either as a solo act or in Velvet Road, has attracted a small but loyal following often comprising of other songwriters, friends, and friends-of-friends.  He doesn’t quite have the gravitas or “pulling-power” of other songwriters local to the scene, and neither does he have the “cred” so easily attributed to many of those other writers or performers.  In my opinion though, Gavin is quite unique; his is a fruitful talent which often exudes – for his humour, his wit, his radiant liveliness - a twinkle of definable genius.   Gavin must be considered as one of the most gifted unsigned songwriters in the local or national scene today, and we can only hope that ‘Another’ brings this “everyday hardworking man” the notice and recognition he actually deserves.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The 2 Caesars

Malcolm Turnbull is the re-Constituted Andrew Peacock of our generation of asper-ant Aussies.  Malcolm's a hell of a lot smarter than Andrew.  He's quick-witted, illumined, and not at all unlikable.  But he shares that same insouciant smarmy Liberal-ness of Peacock, albeit in a Sydney Point Piper kind of way, compared with Andrew's Melbourne Toorak-ness.  Malcolm is also monumentally narcissistic.  His narcissism is better-contained than Andrew's because he's so much more intelligent and channels his emperor tendencies into work and occupational achievement.  Peacock was a fop by comparison who could never rise above the criticisms foisted on him by the Labor opposition and by his own party (including his biggest enemy, little johnny howard).

Turnbull the name is a somewhat imperious one.  Even his head is shaped like some post-AD Roman emperor.  His brand of narcissism is shared with Bob Hawke's, who Paul Keating compared himself to as a "shrinking violet".  The two Caesars, Turnbull and Hawke.  Powerful, smart and capable, until their narcissism eventually parades them through the streets of political triumph as mere shells, rather than as collaborative and purposeful on-the-up politicians.  Time will tell how Turnbull develops as a Prime Minister if he is to be re-elected on 2 July, but chances are he will be the shell of Narcissus until broken down, suddenly, in one brittle blow.

The Liberals are pricks.  Best thing is for them to be voted, RIGHT OUT.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Huon Pine

I walked into a guitar shop today which stocked wall-to-wall specimens of a local brand of acoustic guitar.  It was almost as hot inside as out, and was dismayed to think that these guitars would have to live in the swanky heat and wondered of any damage caused to the delicate bracings and woods.

I played a lot of the guitars and conversed with the nice sales guy who brought them down for me.  I was too scared to handle all these thousand dollar plus guitars from their wall-hangings, fearing breakage and banging that often happens when taking a guitar from a wall in the shop.  I didn't want to let on I already knew a lot about the product and was happy anyway to try a few woods to see how they sounded.

Californian Redwood on Rosewood sounded quite magnificent.  This Californian Redwood is locally grown and apparently makes this particular model quite a drawcard in the US where Redwood is a prohibited wood for harvesting.  It looked amazing too, with a spectacular leaf-like pattern of a cream-centre surrounded by that lustrous, deep red.

The real cream of the crop was the Blackwood back and sides topped with Tasmanian Huon Pine.  This Huon Pine was 10,000 years old and was harvested from an already felled tree residing within the bottom of a Tasmanian lake.  This particular set of Blackwood was highly-figured in "fiddleback" style, giving off a brilliant 3D effect; it was difficult to take one's eyes off.  Me and the sales rep were standing there for a while, he holding up the guitar, and us just staring silently for a few seconds.  The Huon Pine was clean, a gorgeous faint yellow, and it produced that unmistakable, everlasting smell of Huon Pine that seems to possess some sort of ethereal power beyond the sensory realm.

The Huon Pine guitar may not be the finest-sounding acoustic guitar - but it arguably comes fairly close.  No, instead, something else came through, something almost shocking.  This guitar throbbed with 'soul', some kind of timeless intensity.  It sang a song of its own language.  It was alive.  It felt like a masterpiece of the earth, with woods that could spin a wordless story which transcend all times and ages, and yet remains tied to the place and region from whence it sprang, and was built.

This guitar had a $5999 tag attributed to it.  It's worth the money.  You can't put a price-tag on a totemic guitar like this.   I'd only procure such a piece if it somehow came my way to purchase.  That I was able to handle it and sniff the pine and play it was enough to be impacted by something that was quite vast.  It's just so amazing that this kind of potency can be built into one acoustic guitar.

Monday, December 29, 2014


I went to my first AA meeting the other night.  It was Christmas Eve.  I personally had no need to attend an AA meeting other than I was guided along into the melee of old and young alcos speaking of their pathos and determination to stay off the bottle for just one-more-day now.  Alcohol pervades my life.  It pervades the lives of those closest to me, particularly since 2008, and it pervaded my life most directly from birth up to the age of 22, when my father passed away.

All I could think about during the meeting was my dad.  I'd be listening to the speakers and couldn't cease to reflect off my own memories and experience with good old dad, comparing my experiences with the stories I was listening to, here, now.

'Alcoholic' never passed through anyone's lips when dad was alive.  After all, he worked hard, and kept his jobs all the way into his final terminal illness.  He 'only' drank beer, and that not what alkies drink, is it?  No, he didn't do wine or spirits, so he couldn't be an alco, could he?  I bristle with a twisted smile now to think of dad hating drugs and drug dealers while all the while he was making the local drug dealer in the form of the publican(s) filthy rich through his own debilitating habit.  Mum was passive.  She didn't interfere.  It was only beer, after all.   Except that throughout my life up the age of 22, and as far back as I could remember, dad was up the pub every night.  He'd always come back stone cold like a wet sloppy dead fish.  And that drinking increased incrementally so that in the last couple of years in his life he'd be at the pub all day on the Sunday.  Ostensibly, he'd be up early to play lawn bowls.  He'd take a biscuit from the tin and go off with his bag of heavy balls.  He'd be back sometime in the afternoon so utterly and elegantly plastered I had to wonder how many beers it would take to achieve such a state.  But I didn't wonder so much.  When you're immersed in it, you live it, you get on with it, and you take it for granted.

Everyone loved Ralph, good ol' Ralph.  Sure, he was incredibly likeable and had a true social nous, so he had loads of friends.  So much so that he overfilled the large church at this funeral.  He was loved in the way others may have loved Keith Moon and Oliver Reed, y'know, meeting your best friends in pubs and all that bullshit.  Still, there must be some virtue in that.  I don't have the same social nous as my dad and tend to be way more aloof.  My dad truly had a lot going for him in many ways and therein lies the tragedy.  Magnificent build, good looking, great hair.  By the end of his life he was enfeebled, wracked by pain, emotional and otherwise.  I'm pleased to say he never lost all his strength despite the rivers of booze and the pack-a-day habit - right down to the butt.

I could attend an A-Anon meeting and speak there.  Financial insecurity, lack of love, all that fucking drinking as I remember it.  But there's an overriding part of me that's a stoic and a believer in bettering the situation.  Bettering the situation does not entail naval gazing into the events of decades passed.  It involves loving the being for who they are, were, what they did for you (for they do much amidst incredible emotional pain that is constantly balmed by the alcohol), and to give now, be of service to your late father and life within and without, for that's where the service to life lies.

I feel that alcohol and its effect on me is something I could talk about forever and ever.  Sure, I will have a glass of red here and there, or a beer, but I'm not really a drinker.  Thank God.  I can't stand hangovers, and the vile stuff has caused more than enough pain for me already in this lifetime.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


I was huddled together with two architects in a small meeting-room going over plans for a total refurbishment of the library space.  I'm no architect, but when spot-pinned for suggestions by these two architects I was apt enough to proffer some idea or other that seemed to go down well.  There were moments where I noticed my hand brushing into my hair as I gulped with the pressure of knowing that a lot of changes were underfoot that I had no control over.  It's all going to be different; less space, new colours, and if I have it my way, a new software management system.  One year's time from now - a totally new space, probably a totally new everything.

Last December I walked into the university's bookshop and went straight up to the sci-fi section.  I haven't read sci-fi since my early teens and my was, for whatever reason, longing to read some sci-fi again.  A book called 'Dust' which had a "Staff Recommended" tag at shelf's edge caught my attention.  I glanced at the blurb and thought this'll do.  Then my contact/supplier from the bookshop, Emily, walked up to say hello.  I immediately solicited her opinion about this 'Dust' book.  Emily told me that 'Wool' was the first in the trilogy, that it was a massive hit, and had something to do with a futuristic scenario where people were forced to live underground in a massive silo.  There was something about Emily's explanation that caught my interest and excitement.  Taking a risk, I bought Hugh Howey's 'Wool', and walked out of the shop into the languid early-summer haze of the pre-Christmas out-of-session campus.

I loved 'Wool'.  And I loved its prequel, 'Shift', too.  I related to Donald, a central character who was intimately and intricately swept along with a terrible movement of events beyond his control.  I want my project to go well.  I know from my own experience in this job I've been with for 18 years that big changes or movements at work are invariably reflected in full in my personal life.  I wonder what's going to happen?  I wonder if that halfway through the beginning bit of the project, when the roof is blown off before the uppers levels are constructed that some event will occur that will delay or blow off the project.  I'll be anxious.  I'll want the refurbishment to be over, to walk into a safe place and reset my digs, if that's to be.  It might not be meant to be.  What is certain, everything will be different.

I loved the Juliette character in the 'silo' series, Howey's heroine.  She was brave, clever, sharp, and she was compassionate, human.  A true leader with a discernible charisma, or as Howey described her, "...she had a fierce intelligence that could be measured from a distance."

Sometimes as I'm gliding around on soft shoes inside the facility or when I shift my gaze in different directions as I'm walking stealthily ahead I think of the place a silo of sorts.  Sometimes I feel as tactile as a Juliette, as furtive as Donald, and sometimes as much a slayer-type as Thurman, someone who knows too much and holds secrets.

And when I walk outside and look up at the clear blue sky I feel so consciously thankful for the air I'm breathing, moreso since I read 'Wool'.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Barry Long's autobiography

A decade after Barry Long's death, his posthumous autobiography has finally been published.  The manuscript had purportedly been sitting for years in unpublished limbo.  I know that the foundation had asked for donations in recent years to keep its activities alive, and the publishing project would have been one of the key initiatives.  Barry himself never sought or asked for bequests or donations so it's a case of whenever is to be, is to be.  Ultimately, it's about 'I' in this body.  I bought the autobiography when made available, and read it at right time in my life to do so.

For all of Barry's profundity of knowledge, Barry doesn't come across as a spiritual "type".  As the spirit started to enter his body around the age of thirty-something, Barry was climbing his way up the boozy, blokey, beery world of tabloid journalism.  He was talented enough, intelligent enough, and gifted enough, to become editor of a Sunday newspaper by his mid-thirties.  These same gifts would serve him (and those who came to him) so well in later years, that ability to write and to speak with amazing directness, truth, and conviction.

Despite his involvement with India during his late thirties, Barry didn't fall into living as an Eastern aesthetic.  After a major shift in consciousness, circumstances brought him over to London and he started over by picking up sub-editing work for a daily newspaper.  In a similar vein to Krishnamurti, Barry dispensed with the need to use Eastern words to convey his teaching.  The word 'Karma' was one notable exception for, as Barry once said, "we [in the west] don't have a word for it".  Barry's experience also differed to the perceived Eastern notion of enlightenment.  Barry always lived in the world, bringing the truth of his perception to his immediate living life, influencing all those who were involved with his life, and attracting the appropriate circumstances at any given time to reflect or challenge his level of truth, just as we all do, whether we know it or not.

Barry was a Leo - a double-Leo I'd been told by another teacher up near Byron Bay - and he projected all the traits of a Leo.  He had strong eyes.  He was a driven communicator.  He was not superficially "nice".  He never gave up meat-eating except for brief interludes as described in his book.  He only gave up cigarettes (34) and alcohol (very surprisingly, much later in 1980) when these were "taken from him"; he lost the taste and simply stopped.  As Clive Tempest noted in his introduction to 'Wisdom and where to find it' - a transcript of early teachings of Barry dating back to 1968 - "...Barry's was a new voice, Australian, brash, and unencumbered by the politeness of the European intellectual ..."

Barry's autobiography ends in 1982 at around the time when Barry had just turned 56.  This was the year of the passing of his beloved partner Julie, and demarcates the period when his teaching passed into the public domain from beyond his smaller teaching groups.  The value of such a biography is that it allows us as readers to find mirrors in our own lives.  How every circumstance has shaped us to this moment, where we are now.  And how the process of cause and effect (karma) may or may not have manifested in our lives, that everything seems to happen for a reason...but we need to perceive these subjective manifestations within ourselves.

Barry himself hasn't used those words in his autobiography, that "everything happens for a reason".  But it becomes clear that one can see demonstrations of this through historical events - one coming to mind is the forming of the Beatles.  From the moment John met Paul through to the cover shot of Abbey Road - a twelve-year span - every event and circumstance that brought them to that incredible level of fame and prodigy was favourable, was meant to be.  And on a smaller scale, this could apply within our own lives, too.

From a spiritual or "conscious awareness" point of view, life is Now.  But I think there is value in looking back and reflecting on the past, for it's in examining the past that we discern definite patterns of circumstance, those cause and effect frameworks of periods of events, people, circumstances and so forth.   For myself, I can look to the 16-year span of 1996-2012 in its entirety now, and I can see all the patterns, the circumstances, every person who came into my life, and when, as being my life, my karma, my circumstances, I come to accept the reasons behind all within this context.

I see my noughties years as resembling a graph similar to a southern hemisphere yearly climate averages map.  Hot at the beginning and end, with a cooler middle.  I was in a very cool space around 2003-2005, but circumstances were to come to my life to blow these out of me, to grow me up, which has brought me to the place I am now.  By late-2007 my life started to speed up.  By 2009, circumstances blew up in all different directions.  I realise now I had to go through everything I went through.  The finer awareness (although awareness never ceases - it's an endless stellar universe) in me I've worked for, and have earned it through trevailling difficult circumstances.  Sometimes one needs to go through hell to advance to a higher plateau, and I've found this to be the case in my experience.

Barry's book is full of amazing coincidences and 'chance' encounters - each one moving him along bit-by-bit through his life journey.  Some of the psychic stuff he and Julie went through was actually downright freaky - the sort of happenstances which he eschewed from discussing in meetings, endeavoring to keep his listeners firmly grounded in 'truth' and not in their imaginations.  For myself, I can say I've experienced amazing coincidences (often good, some bad) and freak, chance encounters.   I can definitely see the patterns of people coming into my life as signifying something and giving me to the opportunity to learn from - they are mirrors of I.  We are taught too, either by books or most particularly in ourselves, to maintain conscious awareness as much as possible, and to allow life to happen.  One example I can give is in purchasing my apartment: I was in the market to buy but only bought where the apartment and circumstances just came to me - it was all right, and meant to be.  And funnily enough the number 3 follows me around everywhere, but that's another story..

The greatest value of Barry's teaching is that he made it his primary premise to tell those who were with him to never believe him, and to always test the truth in their own experience at all times.  Barry never had disciples, students or any of the like.  He held meetings world-wide and where large groups would come and sit with him.  But everyone in the group was an individual, in direct communication with Barry.  There were no subsets or cults or other teachers speaking for Barry - there was only ever 'I', the individual, and the teacher and mirror, Barry.

Barry had an extraordinary gift of answering any question relating to emotion and the spirit, to get to the heart of the matter with directness and clarity.  That Barry didn't reflect off his "self" - ie, the conditioned 'self' of past pains and hurts that is endemic in almost everyone and of which Barry was teaching his listeners to overcome by focussing on 'Life', or "me" in that body - was proven to me one day when a man in the audience was quite ofay with him, quite rude.  It amazed me that Barry did not react in any way, not one bit; not only was there no reaction but there was no flipside reaction either, ie, being obsequiously nice to placate the rude person.  I'd never encountered that before, and it was nice to know that the teacher was demonstrating right response that negated the need to react from a position, a "self"...all that matters in this instance anyway is "I", not Barry, for Barry is only a reflection, as he always strove to tell the audience.

Barry was a great genius.  He brought to the West a comprehensive spiritual teaching that was at once profound and deep, and yet absolutely bone-dry straight and direct, and spoken and written with an amazing freshness and candour.  His was a powerful, life-changing teaching.  He brought his meditation, his cosmic insights, his teaching on physical love-making, his imperatives to listeners to be practical and to get their external lives right, and to remind listeners to give up their right to be unhappy.

But perhaps the greatest value of Barry's teaching remains in reminding his listeners that his teaching must not be believed in.  Barry did not want believers.  He wanted all who came to him or listened to him to discover the truth in their own experience.  This of course, empowered "I" who am in every body.  As Barry said in an introduction to his book 'Meditation: a foundation course', the truth can be taught or presented to you by a spiritual teacher, but life, Life, remains our greatest teacher.  For that somewhat freeing insight I am forever grateful, and I do find that indeed, in my very own experience of my life so far, yes, 'life' is my greatest teacher.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

the One purpose: freedom from unhappiness

It seems to me the only real virtue of life or living or existence is to learn to be free from unhappiness.

This does not imply learning to be happy, or becoming happy, but rather to be free of energetic, or substantive unhappiness.

In the first instance, this 'substantive' unhappiness is the unpleasant, energetic entity that can be sensated within the body.  For me, this sensation sits around the stomach or solar plexus area.   Sometimes it's there, sometimes not.

The energy seems to want to come up into the mind and think about past notions and happenings that reflect its own sense of pain.  That's where all the trouble starts; here comes the whirlpool of yucky stomach energy and the mind-fucking that goes with it, related to past hurts or disappointments, to current resentments or jealousies.

It's all horrid and stupid, really.  Life is too short to be carrying around psycho-yuk baggage in the gut.  I realise that it's important to live my life, but to maintain ongoing awareness of the substantive ball of yuk in my gut, and accordingly, to diminish it as a life-long activity.

This is probably the most important activity of my life, regardless of whatever my happen with the climate, or energy depletion, economic dislocations or H2S pluming.

It's about learning to love more, to give and to serve, and to learn to give up more and more the selfish "self" that wants to hold in to its notions of past pain, manifesting as victim mentality, "what about me", and envying people with who inherit property.  Subtle, yes (thankfully), but stupid.

Shining the light of conscious awareness onto this inner yuk-ball is a simple, yet difficult process.  It puts up a fight.  It becomes the snarling dog and gets apparently larger as soon as you focus your inner attention - consciousness - onto it.  It wants to throw you off the cliff and pounce on top of you and will  cannibalise you by using its vicious jaws to bite through your face and the rest of you.  You scream in agony but you secretly want the dog to bite your yuk-centre off - bite it off and be rid of it forever.

Unfortunately, mind-fucking and emotion only add to the ball and won't help to heal it.

Meditation, gratitude, being present and responsive to current circumstance (rather that coming from a past emotion and being reactive), and cultivating more love and compassion with all those around you, including nature and animals atop of the human variety are all fine ways to ease or diminish this energetic ball of yuck.  And from another perspective, getting your life right and being true to yourself and the situation helps to free us from the binds of acute or obvious unhappiness.

Observation helps immensely.  By observation we can see how this energy manipulates us in overt and highly subtle or slivery ways.  And we have constant waking hour access to this, too.

The ongoing circular notion about all this is that there is really no mission or journey to it - it is all done "now".  And yet it takes time to achieve the goal of freedom from the yuk-centre - but it can only ever be done 'now'.

It's about love, and to learn to love more.  True, energetic loving that will blaze through the crap.  To turn away from that moment where you want to lash, either now in a 'challenging' circumstance or at any other time where the focus is in the yuk-centre and mind is indulging painfully on some imagined retribution or other such similar silliness.

Living life, yes, and learning to love more, and learning to give up attachment to petty unhappiness.

It can, and shall, be done.   Now to smile!