CHAOS by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

Like the Greek myths of old, storms are reminiscent of the orderless jumble of energy, growth and destruction that was said to have been present directly after the birth of the Universe. Whilst I don’t agree with the nitty gritty of this myth, I do think the nature of chaos is something significant that we can consider.

In the past year Australia has seen some weather that rivals any I’ve witnessed in my life so far: beaches gutted like dead fish by the wind; waves literally bursting with force and intent, charging the harbours, bays and inlets that make up much of the coast; people and animals drowned.

In line with the thoughts of the presocratic philosophers, namely Heraclitus, everything is constantly in flux. Harmony in this process of flux comes from the meeting and binding of opposites. In other words, calm and peace are the products of balance. In the same way that having a balanced diet and sleep cycle keeps you functioning well, having balance in the environment allows for peaceful days and smooth processes of growth and decay.

When a storm with such destructive power hits, it must be a sign of discord. Surely the growing imbalances in the cosmos (as a result of our personal and wide spread action) will only create more discord around us. If this continues, it logically follows that more destructive events will follow. No matter how small we think our impact is, we are in flux and we are flux, so let’s try to bring in a bit of balance!

VALENTINE'S DAY FOR EVERYONE by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

 illustration by John Lennon (Randolf's Party)

illustration by John Lennon (Randolf's Party)

My name is Olivia Pirie-Griffiths and I’m the new member of the team who brings you the Not What You Think podcast. I’m stoked to be involved. We’ve got a few odd n’ interesting things to jump into in the coming season, but first up this week we’re talking getting older as a lesbian in Australia. How who you love affects how you get to age.

If you’ve listened to us before, you might know we’ve covered everything, from pirates to bacteria to living with your hair. But three of our episodes have been about love: Viv McGregor (ACON & the (NSFW) Claude Initiative) talking about the ethics of loving more than one person, Emma Daniels (Dear Pluto) talking about getting gentle while you date and, this weekend, Teresa Savage (55 Uppitty) telling you about being a lesbian over 55, and being happy about it.

So today I’m going to drop some love talk.

What is love… actually?

On a day like Feb 14, you’ve got to wonder: is there a difference between what love is and how we treat it?

It’s a trickster of a thing, this kind of chat, as everyone views love from their own avenues of perception. It might be a smell, a warmth, it might be a feeling in your big toe for all anyone knows.

Alain de Botton in The Book of Life talks about love as an adaptation of social and cultural perspectives that have changed dramatically over time. Marriage has changed from just being this means to stability, to something that got romanticised — a rash act done for reasons of the heart.

For me, though, I’m looking at this love palaver from another angle.

Love, at its essence, is surely not just marriage. It’s the other way around: marriage comes from love. But there are so many different kinds of love. It’s not necessarily between you and another person and it’s not necessarily romantic.

Arrgh! Well then, what is it?

The great American author John Steinbeck wrote a letter to his son on the topic, and it’s a goodie:

“There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance… The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect … The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had. … If it is right, it happens — the main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.”

Here we bloody go, you’re thinking, the last thing I feel like having a yarn about on a Sunday is philosophy, and that’s probably fair enough. But on Valentine’s Day, I think it’s kind of important to point out that love is literally available to any of us, whenever we want and wherever we go.

You can love yourself, your family, the water you dive into every afternoon, your dog, your best friend and life partner. Love is connection. Love is connecting. The more we open ourselves up to interactions around us the more of that connection we’ll gain.

So there you have it, one random producer’s opinion of love and Valentine’s day. This day should be a day to recognise love itself, as one of the basic currents of life, as something in yourself when you want it, and as something all around you if you breathe out, breathe in, and let it be.

 

*This article was originally posted on (and written for) FBI Radio – https://fbiradio.com/valentines-not-what-you-think/

WRINKLES & WISDOM by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

Have you ever noticed the points where gum tree trunks become the trees’ arms? I’ve been looking at them recently. They form in the same way our own skin does. Wrinkled, care-worn and characterful. In a funny way recognising that similarity has made me consider our connection to trees as a whole.

A great friend of mine has spent time in China in the past few years, writing for The China Daily. On her return she spoke of how many of the Chinese regard trees with reverence. They literally hug them when they spend their lunch times in the city parks.

I have begun letting my hands brush the limbs of trees as I walk by them and I often find myself pausing to look more closely. Many are stoic, giants of our world and their impact is solely good. What a thing to exist, what a thing to be humbled by!

LITTLE WORLDS by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

I dawdled down to the oyster shed around 7am the other day and found myself looking at dew drops that had formed on leaves in the early morning tingle. The droplets were sturdy and fragile, transparent and colourful. After a decent gawk I realised I could even catch glimpses of my face staring back at me. It made me think – those tiny worlds form and dissipate in the morning light, only present for what we perceive to be a pretty fleeting instant in time. But that’s just the thing, that’s how we perceive it. Would an ant or a butterfly, alive for just a matter of weeks, have a another concept (in our understanding) of time and movement? Of growth, decay and all that is flux? These little droplets are transient existences, just like our own and just like all things. They are still, however, existences, that surely affect other lives too. Think of an ant moving along a leaf to find food and water – holy smokes – this droplet is an oasis! Packed full of organic molecules, food and hydration, this bead of liquid could be the holy grail for our little ant friend.

I suppose the point is this: consideration. All animals (including us) perceive the world in different ways. There are even differences between humans, when has the way you see the world been exactly and completely in line with someone elses view? It is partly because of these differences that we have so much beauty and variation around us – variation in thought, action, growth and decay. Awareness of these different perspectives is so very important, as they contribute to the change and flux that is us and is all around us. What we perceive as the important parts of our world are not always the focus of someone or something else’s. I dare say I’ll consider this when I’m next walking through any environment. Our understanding is not the only understanding and is certainly not always the most important. It is a part of a changing whole.

 

DAPPLED DREAMING by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

A while ago I went to my aunt’s place on the least populated stretch of the eastern coastline of Australia. First, because it’s my favourite place on the planet and second, because I was keen to help her and her partner out with some oyster farming. Boom! 

We took the boat out onto the lake one day to fetch some oyster slats and decided to pop around to paradise for a swim. After a dip in the channel I lay under the coastal mahogany trees and gazed upwards as the sunlight tiptoed through the branches and onto my skin. There is only natural sound there and it engulfs you: lapping water; the breeze in trees; cicadas; soldier crabs marching; crickets; frogs; birds; even the creaks of old wooden branches that have seen too much salt and sun.

My eyes were fixed on nothing. I was staring upwards in a daze, the sounds around me swirling in my head. A tangible thought did cross my mind, however, and it was one that I am glad for. I realised that the more I ‘stared’ – the more my eyes weren’t focused on a particular locus – the more I was aware of the flowing movement of everything around me.

I was aware of the tide running outwards in the very bottom corners of my vision, I could see the pattern the breeze made in the leaves above, I saw the light gently hitting my prickling skin, I knew that the sunlight bouncing off the water was reflecting the soft, moving patterns on the branches of the trees above.

As we took the boat home I tried this thought of mine out again and stared across the water, focusing on nothing. Again it worked. I could see the different patterns of the tides and eddies on the lake, all moving together. I could see the lively movement of the wind on the water’s surface, I knew how strong the breeze was and where it was coming from, I could see a bird flying low across the water, I knew when a fish jumped up ahead.

It was hard, my eyes aren’t used to that and I kept falling back into focusing on one point and had to try and make myself revert back into this staring state once again. It made me think – our understanding of ourselves, of the world and of our part in it is so singular, so self-oriented – to the point where we see things (anything outside what we consider to be ourselves) as singular, individual things too, rather than seeing a flowing whole.

My aunt once talked to me about fishing with some of the Aboriginal people she knew, she spoke of how they could see things she couldn’t, how they knew when an octopus or fish was under the water because they truly knew how to look. Their understanding of the self is that they are truly part of the cosmos, not just selves on a planet within it. It is this understanding that enables them to see things differently. When they look out at a forest they don’t look at each tree and bird singly, they see a whole, moving world. Of course they can focus on things when they want or need to, however, their natural state is to see flux, and be part of that.

I have decided to keep trying my little staring trick. People always remark when they see a friend staring…as if it were a useless, unengaged thing to be doing. I think that it's the opposite of that. Maybe viewing things in this way is a far more raw and beneficial way to see the world and in turn feel ones position as a part of it.

What a sparkling little day!

FLUX by Olivia Pirie-Griffiths

The place pictured is as untouched as they come and every time I go there it’s a reminder of what true harmony feels like.

‘The unity of opposites’ is the ancient concept that everything is in harmony as a result of opposing forces that meet in balance. Similar to the concept of Yin and Yang in the eastern tradition. The Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, illustrates this: ‘The cosmos works by harmony of tensions, like the lyre and bow’ (Fr. 56). Whilst a bow is in harmony with its own form, this harmony is created by the pull of the string against the wood and the pull of the wood against the string. If the string were to break, the bow would snap back, indicating the constant tension that was not obvious when the bow was in harmony. 

Philosophically, we can view all things in the universe and life as being made up of the unity of opposites. Whether it be the structure of atoms, the formation of a cloud or even the feeling you are having right now. These opposites are also always in flux. Constantly part of a process of flow and transfer. Nothing can ever be static and nothing can not be a part of this process.

Think about what you're doing right now. Your thoughts are changing as you read and as you think, the temperature of the air around you is hitting your skin and your skin is reacting as a result. Your blood is moving nutrients and oxygen around your body. Your tum is digesting something, hopefully something tasty. You're mood is whatever it is, but it has been made up of all the components that have come beforehand and it's changing slightly now too (either to annoyance at me or to a consideration of itself). The light coming through the window is changing the temperature of the room and the little specs of dust and air floating around you are moving, in what had before seemed to be stillness. The light from outside is filtered by some tree leaves which are having their own internal processes as a result of the air, light and flow around them. Those processes are moving all the way down the branches, trunks and roots and into the soil...there's a little fella down there (I'm thinking a worm) who's having a delectable meal I'm sure...the roots are bringing nutrients up through the trunk and out into the branches and leaves until oxygen hits the air. There's a bird singing while he waits for that worm to surface, his little feathered body is warmed by the sun and his blood is moving around too as his breast rises and falls. The air around and above him moves in fluid pockets of temperature, carrying pollen, moisture, dryness, insects, birds, the person in the garden next door's breath. The clouds out there are gathering and dispersing, with infinite processes of movement and flow that are just as much a part of the air, the bird, the tree, the leaves, the light, the temperature, the dust...and you. There is no blank space. No nothingness. Everything is in flux and everything is what makes up life, and that means you too. 

When nature is not in harmony, it means that there is an underlying imbalance. Everything genuinely affects everything. It really does. Even though it may not be personally apparent. That's not to say that a polar bear's disagreement with a penguin in the Arctic is going to put me in a bad mood in Australia, but it is to say, once again, that there is no blank space. We are all part of the planet, a flowing motion of atoms, energy and thought. When the world and the movement of flux is in harmony and balance, we don’t need Disney magic, we live it.