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spreading time

December 2, 2012

Yesterday I finished reading a novel from cover-to-close in an almost unbroken flow forgotten since the beginning of the year (our last summer holiday) upon starting uni on January 23 and becoming enmired in the land of PDFs and research.

William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition was an absorbing mind-montage while I walked London’s streets with the heroine, trawled emails and internet posts, flew first class to Tokyo, then Moscow, slept in unfamiliar beds, noted cultural contrasts within what Gibson describes as a “mirror world” of otherness – oddly familiar to me as a first generation migrant now used to this ill-fit in a warm-weather Christmas climate – solved the mystery, wished I could start over without knowing, and batoned the paperback to first daughter, who has her own bedroom book pile teetering now that exams are over, and she also works out what to do with this luxurious spread of time.

Following two weeks of bronchitis, these pleasures are heady.


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Daughter 2 has plans of the dramatic variety, and creeps home past midnight from Wednesday-on after performing in The Ash Girl. Opening-night-flowers fill our house with perfume. She’s a Cinderella stepsister, but forbids ugly. Matinee today (now), and her bronchial struggles hopefully suppressed with cough medicine. We all succumbed to the domino illness.

So this reading-of-choice and ability to focus feels like rest.

Enough was my first pick, even before the Gibson novel which I rescued for $3 from an op shop in Subiaco. Naish urges readers to break free from our hardwired state of wanting more to self-limit through a means nutshelled as enoughism. This coinage rasps for me like a cough. Here’s an elaboration:

Enoughism asks us to shift from self-esteem to us-esteem. Learning to see beyond ourselves also offers a way of viewing the Earth’s bounty in a sustainable way: accepting that it’s not ours, but it belongs to the universe, and so do we. We’re not lords of the Earth, we are stewards, at best. So we need to lose the illusion that we truly ‘own’ the stuff we possess and consume – that’s a legal construct rather than a cosmic freehold (Naish, 2008, p. 88).

Any parent, teacher or gardener understands stewardship and caretaking. According to Naish, capitalism running roughshod with our psychology fires unsettling urgencies to hoard, obesify, consume, to glut and stow. Drawing on Keynes’s theories, also E.F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful, and novelist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s call for cultivating “unselfish spirituality” (Naish, 2008, p. 88), the challenge is defined as living

with the growing awareness that the ecosystem is fragile, that perpetual economic growth is impossible and that every time we earn or consume, we may make the world potentially worse for our children… So why hasn’t anything changed? (Naish, 2008, p. 207).

Great question. Sustainability. Same one we grapple with in education reform. My friend, an actor/creative director living-in-Sydney phoned to share that it’s a similar paradigm in the arts industry when her funding dries and the accountant takes leave, then she is faced with working fewer hours. Fiscal straitening as good management; how to sustain?

morning glory

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New month, start of our summer season, and simpler pleasures like picnics, swimming and reading lie ahead. Next week, I’m collaborating to plan courses we’re offering in 2013. There’s much to look forward to; next Sunday, we’ll join an audience to review our daughter’s matinee performance at Harbour Theatre.

I reassure myself that ordinary fragments are enough. Only one reality – the syrupy spread of time.

Selected references

Gibson, W. (2003). Pattern recognition. London: Penguin.

Naish, J. (2008). Enough: Breaking free from the world of more. Great Britain: Hodder & Stroughton.

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