On life and living

My adventures through the wonderful world of audiobooks have led me to some strange and wonderous lands (some more strange than others). I’ve travelled 19th century Russia in War and Peace – though never left because wow is that a long book which I do not have the enthusiasm nor commitment for – lived through the World Tai Chi Push-Hands Championship in The Art of Learning – spurring on a brief but intense few weeks of chess obsession – and learnt the Critical Business Skills for Success, in a series of lectures entitled “Critical Business Skills for Success”.

Today, a step back in time. Though perhaps a few steps up from a step – a leap, a full lunge extension. Travelling with me on my daily drives is the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca, and his letters to his dear Lucilius. Entitled, “The Moral Epistles”, 124 letters penned by Seneca expound the Stoic way of life and living, among other things. A fuller treatise on the work will have to wait, though suffice to say that much ink is spent by Seneca, in his advanced age, on mortality, on living, and on accepting death.

In earlier years of my own, I was scared of dying. “Not dying”, I remember saying to myself, “but never having lived”. To die before having ever lived is a tragic fate. Yet it seems, not altogether uncommon.

I’m not so scared anymore. I am content with what I have accomplished so far, little as it may be. I make plans for the future, yet each day is itself a contentment. I try to live each day in accordance with my guiding principles, so that there is no regret in my actions.

Is the alleviation of my fears based on something external – what I have seen, created and accomplished? Or is it an internal change – becoming more at peace with mortality and accepting the present as all that one possesses?

In any case, the influence of Stoic teachings is showing. If nowhere else than in the unabated (unashamed?) self-reflection of this post. I’m working on it.

Farewell.

The Olympic Dream

Ever since a week ago, I wanted to be an Olympian. Growing up these past 7 days, I kept thoughts of the dream close to my heart and at the forefront of my mind. The thrill of competition, the stories to pass down generations, the international lifestyle of a high-level athlete.

At first, I considered the Winter Olympics. Though it may come as a surprise, Australia is not known for its prowess upon the snow. Around these parts, the snow doesn’t come to you – you have to come to it. As such, one would imagine the national competition to be somewhat lacking. You may be right. Joining the national ice hockey team, I thought, seemed an achievable goal. The Mighty Roos, destined for glory. However, while I may have been destined for the Mighty Roos, the Mighty Roos were far from destined for Olympic qualification. The stats, they don’t look good. The qualification record is conspicuously empty of AUS, many years running. Dreams of ice hockey, I barely knew you.

Slalom, moguls, skiing and snowboarding – I’ll know my limits and leave that to the Nords and the Canadians. Not sure I can afford the 3 hour drives up to the snow every weekend to work on my cross country, so sadly Australia loses another hopeful.

Curling seemed an option. The Commonwealth Games plays host to lawn bowls, which holds a special place in my heart. Curling, for the most part, seems like lawn bowls without the lawn. A game of strategy, which assumedly does not age-gate the sport as harshly as, say, gymnastics. I may be 15 years too late to start that one. For these positives however, it was not a sport which spoke to me. I admire athleticism, yet it may be a quality less prevalent in the sport of the curl. Curling champions and aficionados, your rebuttals appreciated.

This leaves us with the gamut of Summer sports. Track and field, we cross them off the list. Fiercely competitive, but moreover universally popular. I need something with less footing in the public consciousness, where a plucky, committed upstart can rise through the ranks on grit and determination alone.

Investigation into team sports was also less than promising, for the same and different reasons. Understandably, basketball, volleyball and other bread-and-butter team sports have no shortage of talent, yet a shortage of places on the national team. However, even one such as water polo, with a notable absence of social water polo teams amongst Australian’s young adult population, presents difficulties. The road to the top spot is slow and gradual. Joining a local team, performing well in a season, being scouting for a state team, completing yet another astounding season and being picked up for the national team… Many years of playing, with no clear route to the Olympics. Not mentioning, again, the lack of a consistent appearance by Australia in Olympic level water polo.

A few others, researched then abandoned, be it from age limitations or other barriers to entry (even badminton, while more forgiving than gymnastics, has a retirement age of which I am fast approaching). Yet all is not lost. Or rather – all was lost, but for one. Having done the research, seen the stats on height, age, handedness, and saw that I could lie along its distribution of World Champions (admittedly, not on the peak but the tails), I chose my sport.

En garde. Pret. Allez. Every great Olympic fencer was, once, not a fencer at all. Soon, I’ll take those first steps.

See you in Paris, 2024.

Importance

I’ve been trying to meet new people as of late. Part of growing up. Part of getting older. Part of the quarter-life crisis of thinking one will die lonely and alone and never find true love [note: dramatisation. Actually quarter-life crisis pending].

I met a new person recently. We talked, as newly-met people do, those basic things people talk about when they’re first getting to know each other. A few days of conversation here, some lines there. It’s nice, discovering a whole other world in another person, as unique as one’s own yet completely disparate. To think, that everyone has such a rich personal narrative that spans decades of life, is to make a point grander than the ones I’m going for here.

Eventually, picked apart from some threads of conversation, I was accused of believing nothing was important: a fairly scathing accusation. Blatantly untrue. Perhaps I don’t grant importance to everything conventionally important, like what people do for work, or their age, (or timely responses to messages), but there are still things for which I do.

We don’t talk anymore. Not important.

What do I consider important?

The things which show you are alive. Goals, dreams and aspirations. The buried treasures one spends their life searching for.

The habits one forces onto themselves. What one becomes by repeatedly doing.

One’s future, not one’s past.

What do I consider important?

Writing this blog post past bed time on a Sunday night, writing less than I would like, writing more than I would otherwise, imagining, creating, producing, keeping a promise to myself. Importance is whatever we ascribe it to be, as long as we ascribe. What one considers important defines them; what one is defines what they find important.

I’ll keep on with my little importances. And you keep on with yours.

(Southern Cross) Station

Melbourne Central is hopeful, youthful. A gateway, when you’re not quite sure where you’re going but you’re pretty well set up to get there. It is the entry point to university and all it represents, one tram away from 5 years and 2 degrees. Shops and shoppers, high schoolers and university students, an ever-smiling elderly man plays the erhu.

Flinders Street is an adolescence never experienced, but not ungratefully. Beneath the clocks sit angsty teens, still finding themselves. At least they know where to meet. By daylight it leads to adventure and event. Alongside flows the river. By night it marks romances gone by – the old shop of a former partner, conflicted farewells to a tumultuous lover.

Parliament is the passage of the sun. 10-year-old visits to the museum to see the universe on IMAX. Unremembered journeys to government buildings in the name of high school education. Steps upon steps, the long upward march to an exam. The morning commute, the 9-5. The sun moves slowly through the sky. Yet it moves, edging closer to the horizon.

Southern Cross is the dark of the night. A confrontation of mistakes, a solemn seat, monolithic, impersonal. A journey to its platforms marks an admission of failure. Yet, itself is not unfriendly. A seat however solemn is still a seat offered. A darkness outside is obscured by the bright within. Trains still run along the same tracks, and you’ll be home soon.

Goals

Like most fallible humans, I have goals. Goals which I will, on occasion, let fall by the wayside and (occasionally) feel somewhat guilty about. Here’s a list of some failures.

  • Write a letter every day for a year
  • Complete the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award (strictly speaking, I’ve still got 8 months)
  • Mediate for 10 minutes each day
  • Learn to do a human flag (it looked cool on YouTube, okay?)
  • Pass my Classical Guitar Grade 7 exam

I’ve just returned from what I hazard to call a life-changing journey. One component of my life that has been changed is that I’ve got a few more goals. Perhaps it’s just new-year optimism, but I’m feeling optimistic.

(always been dubious of the term ‘life-changing’, especially when preceding journey/trip/adventure/going-to-places-and-looking-at-things. But now I think, maybe it’s one of those things you’ve just got to know to know, you know?)

Some goals are continuations, extensions, of former ones. Others are more concrete realisations of vague personal philosophies. More, serendipitous passing thoughts. Here’s a list of some future successes (or failures – but around these parts, we try to keep a positive outlook).

  • Pass my Piano Grade 2 exam
  • Run a marathon
  • Mediate for 10 minutes each day
  • Make a blog post once a week
  • Buy an apartment

One would imagine that last one took a bit of thought. For better or worse, I decided it on a whim last Monday. Everything will work out fine in the end.

Talk to you soon.