Owl and the Bull

Letters For My Sons

Ocean at sunset

In Which The Ocean Provides Her Infinite Wisdom

I love the beach.

I can sit on the sand for hours if left alone.  I run my hands through the grains, feel the ocean break.  I watch the gulls and sea eagles drift by.  

Silence comes and goes in rhythm with the waves.  The silence in my mind sometimes matches it.  Thoughts swim by, in and then out of my field of view.  At other times they will stick around while I turn them over and over like a seashell in my hands, running my fingers on every curlicue and ridge upon it.

I jump in the cool ocean.  No matter the weather, save for a scary stormy sea, I’m in there in the morning.  Sometimes I stand only knee deep after a quick soak.  Sometimes I drift with the current in a clear turquoise sea, looking towards the headlands and the secrets they enclose, then seawards towards the rising sun.  I squint from the salt and brightness, feeling the soothing bath of the elements relaxing and yet somehow energising me.

I look towards the house where my family is staying.  We come here a couple of times a year in various seasons.  My family is asleep still, rocked by the sound of the crashing surf.

We live the mountains a couple of hours away, but the beach is where I feel refreshed and reawakened.  I bring problems to the ocean for solutions.  The ocean brings perspective.  In some primal amniotic way the ocean either integrates or flushes the problem, leaving it for the scavengers in the deep.

I want to buy a beach house.  I want to have a place to bring my family whenever I want.  I spend some time each day looking in the real estate windows, dreaming.  My wife and I sit at the table with the ocean outside, and discuss the potential for buying, re-mortgaging, borrowing, finding an investor, buying and renting through Airbnb.  We lounge on the deck with champagne and measure the costs, imagining how we can pay the rates, the electricity, the water.  We muddle in the sand and dream our little dream of being at the beach with our family and each other, warm in each other’s embrace, cuddles on the couch and adventures by the sea.  We imagine our boys catching puffer fish in the rock pools and fishing off the headland, cooking their prizes in butter and lemon, flour and salt. 

I wake up and head to the beach.  I feel the sand between my toes, grainy and cool.  I walk straight into the water and she welcomes me, swirling between my legs, drawing me gently in to her cool enclosure while I take long breaths in and out, feeling the joy of my aliveness.

I look towards our house, where we stay each year.  It’s a beautiful mansion to us.  Our friends own it and we stay here for free, a week at a time.  We pay no rates, no bills, no maintenance fees.  We spend no time checking Airbnb to see if anyone is staying this week, if we can afford the mortgage.  We have no stress over having two properties miles apart.

And in the oceans embrace, I finally see.

We have our perfect beach house.

We just don’t own it.

Abundance Beyond Catastrophe

Our world is awash with cries of catastrophe.

The fires are burning.

The climate is changing.

Society is crumbling.

Fingers are pointing.

People are fighting.

Emotions are ragged.

Terrorism, socialism, communism, capitalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, phobiaphobia…

The government, the politicians, the greens, the liberals, the nazis, the bogans, the white trash, the muslims, the rich, the middle class, the welfare class, women’s rights, men’s rights, the vaccinations, the pesticides, the suicides, nobody doing enough, everybody taking too much…

So many things to be fearful of, to run from or take a stand against, to wage war on, to hate others about, to feel disconnected with.

But,

I see something else. Behind the fear, behind the hate, behind the social media and television fog, behind all the things we are told to emote about… I see a world of abundance.

This time will be looked upon not only as the gateway to a different world, but as an incredible Neo-Renaissance of thinkers, artists, technologists and inventors.  And those people are you and me.

I see our incredible world, with technology doing so much for so many.

I see fascinating art, its architecture, paintings, drawings and sculpture, song, poetry and prose, from every culture and people on earth, enough to view and hear and feel something amazing every day for the rest of my life.

I see the amazing generosity of millions of people, those people who post on blogs, who give away their energy, time and ideas so that you can find answers.  And those people who volunteer so people can eat, sleep, talk and be, without fear.  And those people who raise their children as best they can, creating peers for your children and mine.

I see communities of like minded people everywhere, whether they are on their phones or face to face.

I see people realising the need for true connection as religion and churches everywhere die of starvation.

I see people opening their own hearts slowly but surely and seeing the light of  a beautiful, personal spirituality within.

I see more businesses and companies looking to make the world better.

I see philanthropists of all fiscal footings giving and giving and giving.

I see men talking and feeling.

I see women achieving and succeeding.

I see children, incredible children, everywhere I look.  Children who perform, who create, who question, who speak and laugh and sing out.  Children full of joy and sadness and anger and euphoria and all the rest of those gigantic and amazing Feels.  Children who love each other, love their families and are loved themselves.

We worry for what we have given our children.  

I say, necessity is the mother of invention.  

Instead of another generation of middle-class couch sitters and wine-sippers, we have inadvertently helped create a world of challenge.  The most exciting thing to happen to anyone in the last eighty years.  The ultimate challenge: do or die.  

I’ve seen the children, I know what they are capable of.  This coming generation will crush the problems of this coming world, I know it.  They are far smarter, more intelligent and wiser than we were at their age. They are aware.  They have strength.  They have power.

We will work with them until we pass, and they, 

they will be ready.

If You Wanna Be My Friend

If you want to hang with me, if we are going to be friends, you’ll behave within certain parameters. Not like “you gotta do this”, but because you are like this. 

Its totally cool if you don’t behave in this way, but we are not going to hang out.  We are unlikely to be friends.  And that’s ok.  If you have respectable ideas, I will respect them.  If you voice your opinion, I will listen to it. But you will not be a part of my circle nor any of the advantages and disadvantages that come with that.

I used to be flexible.  That guy who continuously adjusts their behaviour until connection is found with the other person.   The one who flexes their boundaries ever so slightly so that others can be a little more comfortable.

I now have little need for flexibility in establishing connection.  If I’ve had to make more than a couple of flexibility adjustments to my character to connect with you, I probably won’t be talking to you again, not in any real, deep sense.  And, I’ll be making a quick exit. 

Flexibility is exhausting, and certainly inauthentic.  However some people armour themselves, and it can take them a little time to find that dialogue with me is a safe space.  They’ll armour with humour, or accent, or trivialities.  I’ll take a little time to see if there is something worth pursuing in the other person, to find a connection that is rewarding.  A connection that has you walking away with a feeling of joy, humour, warmth or lightness, and a desperate need to talk with them again.

These people I want to connect with again are usually recognised within the first 2 to 3 minutes of conversation.  They are the ones that dive deep straight away.  They are talking of their likes and dislikes, talking of their fears and loves, talking from the heart.  They are not parroting shit from TV.  They are not repeating the tripe of the social media day.  They are not outraged about anything. 

They are explorative. 

They are learning. 

They are unsatisfied with how little they know. 

They are feeling.

They want answers.

They are blackly humourous, you know?

They are probing.

They ask questions. 

They deftly reinsert conversational threads that we had barely unravelled ten minutes ago before being distracted by another fascinating turnabout. 

They disagree, healthily. 

They criticise, constructively. 

They bear the same from me with grace and good humour, without a trace of defensiveness. 

These people understand that it is ideas that are to be argued, discussed and disembowelled, not people.  They know that the idea and their Self are utterly seperate, thus an idea can be hung, drawn and quartered without the Self suffering in the least.  They are grateful for torture that teaches.  I know I am.

I want dialogue.  I want interaction. I seek connection above all else. 

And what a beautiful thing it is to connect with another fascinating human.

The Australian Fires and the Fresh Start

We’ve been burning here for months now.

The Blue Mountains, from the north of the Wollemi National Park to the deep south of Kanangra, has slowly but surely transformed from a stunning vista of eucalypt forests into a black moonscape, bereft of identifying features.

The fire has destroyed homes and threatened villages with new dangers appearing almost every week, fuelled by hot conditions, dry landscapes and wind.

The anxiety comes and goes, wondering whether this will be the week it’s our turn to lose our house, our belongings, our lives.

What surprises me is how many people secretly wish since the beginning of this fire season, to lose everything they own and start again.  How many have longed for a fresh slate?  I have talked with many people and been surprised at the sentiment of “the fire can take it all… I’m insured”.

It seems we don’t really want our stuff, but we don’t want to get rid of it ourselves.  We want an external force to remove it from our lives.  We want to be free of the weight of our belongings, those “things” that tie us to earth, to our past, to our background, to our fears of loss and our anxieties of the future.

The Screen-Free-Week, or, How To Grow Your Childs Brain in One Easy Step

Minecraft, you will find if it happens to you, swallows kid’s brains.  Since Minecraft entered our household ten days ago, we’ve heard about little else from our six year old.  Withers, Creepers, Spiders and the Netherworld are all conversational topics in our house at the moment.

We are strict about screen time in our house.   We have a Screen-Free-Week for the kids every second week, which means no shows, no games, no YouTube, no laptop, no iPad, no phones.

We’ve done it this way for two or three years now.   We noticed early on with our first child that screens seem to supercharge frustration.  We strongly limited the amount of screen time our kids had from the first moments they watched them, but as any parent will know, scope creep happens easily.  We noticed that play was becoming less imaginative and more structured around shows.  That was ok with us, because kids will get inspiration from the whole world around them.  Then “I’m bored!” became a common catch-cry while they waited for their screen time.  Arguments became more commonplace, and team work became almost non-existent.

So after the usual banning of screens as punishment we tried regular Screen-Free-Days.  That didn’t give the kids enough time to get used to having no screens, and they would ask repeatedly all of that day.  We then tried whole weeks occasionally, and immediately noticed the behavioural difference.

After a year or so of doing a week off screens every month or more, we committed to every second week.  The boys now know it’s coming, and they emotionally prepare themselves.

The hardest part of Screen-Free-Week is the lack of babysitting.  It’s harder for me and my wife than the kids.  We have to be much more available to coach and provide options if they need it.  This is absolutely a good thing, but its harder than plopping the two of them down with an iPad.

We find that the boys play much better together during these weeks off, however they need more coaching around learning to relax after a big day or understanding when they are tired.  Screens provide much needed chill-out time, and finding alternatives has been challenging.  Getting an eight-year-old and a six-year-old to just sit around when they are exhausted is surprisingly difficult!  Drawing and colouring has been an effective replacement, but it depends on the level of fatigue.

Screen-Free-Weeks make an effective consequence.  As much as I dislike consequences and punishments in general (I would prefer my kids to behave themselves because its the right thing to do rather than being coerced through bribes or threats), when one is required, the SFW cuts to the quick.  Bad behaviour is sorted out rapidly.

What has been remarkable is the behavioural change we’ve seen in our boys.  They are almost like different people in the SFW.  The change was most noticeable when they were younger and more emotionally charged.

In a screen week we often see arguments during play, and the boys tend to organise play around the times they get screens.  They are often bored and listless while waiting to watch (we usually set hard times around screen consumption).  They are sometimes so emotionally caught up in their shows and games that they can barely play.  The six-year-old often argues with us about screen times and almost everything else that doesn’t go his way.

During a SFW all that changes.  Their play is super-imaginative, dynamic and exciting.  The boundaries they set around games are broader and more inclusive.  They work together as a team and help each other much more.  They tend to be more empathetic.  They are more receptive to their own body signs like hunger, thirst and toileting.

My wife and I enjoy those weeks too, because we interact much more with the boys.  They help us with cooking, or we play card games.  We watch them read or colour or draw, and we listen to their conversations, which are invariably bright and beautiful.

During a Screen-Free-Week we don’t have to fight with media for attention.  With my long-term view towards loving and communicative relationships with my sons, this is a major hurdle that we have overcome.

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