Monday, March 16, 2009

impenetrable ego-persona

Swiftly arose and spread around me the peace and knowledge that pass
all the argument of the earth,
And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers,
and the women my sisters and lovers,
And that a kelson of the creation is love,
And limitless are leaves stiff or drooping in the fields,
And brown ants in the little wells beneath them,
And mossy scabs of the worm fence, heap'd stones, elder, mullein and
(Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself" #5)

17 march, 09

I’ve been staying in Adelaide, Australia now since last week Wednesday. I am a guest of the Marist brothers here, in a very comfortable house on the campus of Sacred Heart College. I have had fine accommodations all along the way, but for some reason I have felt especially comfortable in my room-cell here, quiet and dark, wireless internet and enough room for my yoga mat and guitar. The brothers have been so friendly and hospitable, even kind of anticipating my needs. There has been regular work, not a grueling schedule but at least a little something to do every day. Thursday I did an hour and a half session with about 150 Year 11 students at a prestigious Jesuit secondary school outside of town, which went very well. That same night I did a concert for a small crowd at the local Uniting Church, and the next day another for a nice sized audience in the hall of the cathedral downtown Adelaide. Then Saturday two long sessions for the Meditation Community of South Australia (WCCM).

Barbara O’Hallaran and her team from that group have been the ones to set all this up and Barbara was also the one who made contacts with other WCCM folks around Australia as well, enabling me to work my way across the country. She, her husband Justin, and her committee have been great. They had planned to take me on a jaunt out to a park to see koalas and kangaroos Sunday, but on Saturday morning Barbara offered me instead the possibility of just having a day to myself, which I opted for and so had a lazy day, Mass with the brothers here, off to the gym, big festal lunch with the brothers, who were celebrating some birthdays, then a walk down the coast to the touristy hang out about a mile away, and another quiet evening at home working on my upcoming talks.

I did a presentation at a girls’ high school yesterday. It was the most beautiful chapel I had been in yet this trip, reminded me of the upstairs chapel with choir stalls at Camaldoli that I love so much, with a wonderful acoustic. I was pretty up for the girls’; they were attentive enough but participation was an absolute minimum. The teacher was embarrassed by it, but by now I am used to it. I have talked with so many people about this phenomenon here in Australia––I think that it is worse than in the states. What is it? Have we bred engagement out of young people? Is it I-pods and computers and television and absolute passivity? Many folks say that it is such a sense of self-consciousness, a highly developed impenetrable ego-persona that simply cannot come down. I think that last bit with the addition of the others is the closest to the truth. Why is it so different at a place like Mount Madonna, where they are typical middle class western kids?

I have one more performance today here at Sacred Heart College this morning, for three hundred Year 12s. Bro Patrick here at the house took me up there last night to “have a bit of a gossip” with the Year twelve male boarders, mainly because he wanted me to play guitar for them and them for me. It was a nice enough visit and I was glad that I knew a few Jack Johnson songs.

Here are some things I have learned or realized about Australia and Australians:
• It is and really feels like it is a newer place than America.
• The cities that weren’t founded as penal colonies but by free settlers are very proud of that fact.
• The country is almost as big as America but there are less people in it than in Delhi.
• Aussies themselves have told me on several occasions, with what seems to me to be a mixture of dismay with a wee bit of pride, that Australia is “secular,” “godless” and even “hedonistic.”
• Aussies seem to like us Americans and certainly know our music and films as well as our history and politics well.
• They on the other hand do not think we know how to make either tea or coffee.
• They seem to have gone from instant coffee to espresso without much intervening automatic drip––a standard coffee here is a “long black” which is what we would call a caffe Americano.
• When you are pouring properly steeped tea out of a pot you should put the milk in your cup first.
• There are internet cafes, but they is no food in them;
• there are regular cafes but there is no internet in them.
• There is also no cable television here yet, but they don’t seem to be clamoring for it.
• American football, soccer and Football Aussie rules are three distinct games. The latter is a combination of Irish hurling and an Aboriginal game, and is very fast and so far confusing to me, and the Aussies are wild for it.
• The double “s” in “Aussie” is pronounced like a “z.”
• Australians are fiercely proud of their history and have struck me so far as very open, friendly people.

On to Tasmania.