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Name: Ryan Paine
Bio: In 2001, Ryan's mum gave him a Go-Anywhere Weber for graduating from high school. In 2006, Ryan left Adelaide to edit Voiceworks in Melbourne, accidentally leaving his Weber behind. He has pined for it ever since. He thought his mate Damo had it, but Damo reckons it's at Trav's place. Ryan's worried about it. He's only seen it cook one salmon, one roast, and a couple of steaks with spuds. It's too young to be retired. He has until March 2009 to find it.
Photos: Ryan's photo libraries
Travelling Through Time ( 28th Nov, 2008 )
Satisfaction ( 24th Nov, 2008 )
I Cain’t Get NO ... ( 16th Nov, 2008 )
Three Weeks In ( 21st Oct, 2008 )
Not Sydney ( 17th Oct, 2008 )
The Journey to Here, the Distance to There ( 21st Sep, 2008 )
Maybe it’s because Delilah broke down and I’m stuck in Gladstone, with nothing better to do than dream up contrarian views. Maybe it’s because I’m having a quarter-life crisis – I broke up with my girlfriend, bought a campervan, took a break from my career and took off around the country. Either way, right now I feel like solving even one of the world’s problems is the furthest thing from my mind. Given that the vague notion of affecting positive social change has characterised all of my (short) adult life since I stopped nursing my bong at university, this is a pretty big shift for me.
Part of this change of heart comes after reading about the impact of global warming on the polar ice caps. This was not news to me. What differed in the article from most of the others I’ve read on the topic, is that the author decided to retain the detail that a similar rising of the seas occurred before the beginning of the most recent ice age.
I have read elsewhere that the long-term effects of global warming will be another ice age. As the world’s surface is increasingly covered by water, evaporation rates increase, dousing the stratosphere to the point where the suns rays can no longer penetrate the storm clouds. Snow forms, and humans go the way of the dinosaurs.
I didn’t watch the recent TV program about life on earth after humans, but the idea was enough to add further context to this, my ground-breaking theory, this growing realisation of mine that our times are entirely insignificant.
We live here, and we live here now, so it’s understandable that we feel like our stint is important. But even if we take into account the lives of our grandparents through to our grandchildren, we will only ever be in touch with 350 years of human life – that’s not even half a millennium, out of the possible one hundred millennia since fish crawled out of the sea.
We moan and complain a lot about the short-term (election) policies of our governments. We attribute these flaws to their obsession with power. Aside from the fact that we elect them and then sit back and complain at dinner parties about how they reneged, these aspersions are cast in blindness to our own form of power-starved arrogance that what’s most important is that our children have forests to play in and cool seas to swim in. It is only a matter of degrees when you compare this form of short-sighted arrogance with that of politicians’.
I’m not suggesting we put diesel engines on our pushbikes or start making little coal-fired necklaces to guide our way through the dark depths of society. Slowing down economic growth to prevent irrepairable damage seems like a good idea. (So did the industrial revolution, at the time.) It just seems rather hubristic to think that we could cause irrepairable damage. Like the boy who takes his ex-girlfriend’s word that he ruined her life. Or the other boy who felt so hard done by that he would be forever tormented by his speech impediment. All I'm saying is that we needn’t worry, this is just the apocalisp that’s coming. Once we’re gone, the next sentient life form will excavate our remains and marvel at the primitive electronic devices we toyed with.
Because mother nature is bigger and better than all of us combined – despite appearances suggesting that we have over-powered her to rape and pillage her loins. We are just one organism among millions, living at one time among many. We happen to be the one organism that developed opposable thumbs, the faculty of reason, and complex communication systems, but this was no more our doing than is the undoing of the environment over the last few centuries of plunder.
We are products of nature, and if she really doesn’t know what she’s doing, then at least she won’t have to worry about us in a couple of centuries (any more than she has to worry about dinosaurs pissing on the lawn and tearing up the vegie patch). If we have screwed things up so royally, it need only be a blip – or a brief and curable misplacement of the tongue in mother nature’s monologue. And if sentient life really did come from the seas, then the sooner we cryogenically freeze this water-logged rock into the future, the better.
So to those of you who are worried about being of the generation that sped up the downfall of humanity, I wouldn’t give yourself the credit.
I happen to be reading a lot of George Orwell lately, and it always strikes me how relevant many of his ideas still are. When I say ‘happen’ I mean I stumbled across Keep the Aspidistra Flying and then a friend posted me Books v. Cigarettes – essays collected in Penguin’s Great Ideas series. When randomness characterises my encounters with ideas, my mind’s ear usually pricks up.
The Penguin came with the inscription, ‘To smoke or to read? Do both’, so Felice must have known the book would resonate with me – I have a heavy habit in both pastimes. And I suspect she knew I would read too much into whatever I found therein – I have a habit of doing this also (see above). Well, in both of these books I found unwanted validation of my fears about the media and publishing industries.
Keep the Aspidistra Flying is ultimately an essay on the profound disappointment of a man who tried to escape from 1930s capitalism and at the same time sell his poetry manuscripts, before realising he couldn’t change the system from outside, in a ‘hole-and-corner way’. ‘The Prevention of Literature’, in particular, in Books v. Cigarettes, bemoans the cynical self-subjugation of journalists to the state and economy, and the consequent corruption of the free press. All sounds very familiar.
Well, on the one hand the longevity of Orwell’s ideas is scary. Have we not learnt, after all this time? Why have the intellectuals continued to work in their ‘hole-and-corner way’?
On the other hand it is both a validation of criticisms of modern media and literature and a call to resume or continue the fight for their conservation. It reminded me that fighting for a free press and an economy conducive to good literature is a noble fight.
Out here, between temporary accommodation, planning the next leg of my trip and repairing the van that was meant to take me there, I have little capacity to work toward implementing my ideas about that fight. I do have a lot of time to think though, and combined with the time capacity to read a lot – including those random books that normally go straight to the to-be-read shelf – this is a recipe for revelations.
So about halfway through the essay – before Orwell finally establishes some clarity in his tirade against the enemies of intellectual liberty – I sent the following text message to another friend:
You know what I just realised? For the first time in my life I’m foundering – faffing about trying to find direction and clear purpose. Funny how the cycles go eh? Now i know how it feels, and it’s kinda scary, like the world will slip away from underneath me before i get back.
I really am, for the first time, not clear on what the best path would be to a noble life. I was always so sure: get a job in publishing, learn about novels and then write one myself. No question. Now I’m all like, How bourgeois! and wondering if cleaning up our media might be a better idea.
It’s not as though Keep the Aspidistra Flying and ‘The Prevention of Literature’ are my only sources of inspiration for this understanding, but this book and essay most easily represent my slow and recent realisation that writing novels is far from a noble pursuit compared to working at the coal face of the fight for a free press – that is, a press free from crippling state and economic forces, a truly public press.
This is the nature of my life. One minute I don’t know what I’m doing, where I’m going or why I’m here. Then my car breaks down and again I have the time to think and to remember that I have a job to do, a calling that’s been there all along, just changing and morphing occasionally according to that minute’s experiences.
Current location 389.15 x 194.6
Location of Old Mate 375.65 x 211.55
Distance between us (as the crow flies 2250km
Distance travelled 2930km
Number of head casings cracked one