For several years in my early thirties, I attended a dream group with the Jungian psychotherapist, Peter O'Connor. Peter, who is now retired, was a gifted therapist who for many years from the late 1970s held the torch in Melbourne for a humanistic and mythopoeic psychology against the rat-observers and statistical behaviouralists who were dominant… Continue reading Dream. Life. Recovery.
But more so than the moulted carapace of governing that lies at my feet, I connected to the adventurer of the spirit, weakened by age and misfortune, that Tennyson saw in Ulysses. It was this grey spirit that I turned to this morning for the courage to continue.
I have established several practices for the New Year to make it a more mindful, culturally enriched and satisfying year than the plague year of 2020, now buried in an urn of oblivion. I have begun a bullet journal to record habits, moods, and experiences, and in which to write the plans and dreams of… Continue reading Taking time with Szymborska
I plunged again into my white box of old handwritten index cards today, and pulled from the archive, laid down in my twenties and thirties, a fragment from Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975), the Russian literary critic and philosopher. The text comes from a late work of Bakhtin, Speech Genres, although I took the text from Clark… Continue reading Fragments from the Burning Archive: Mikhail Bakhtin
The freedom of internal exile So much of this year I have struggled with the moral crisis of how to endure and to live well through a corrupt, decaying, failing and abusive regime. I do not mean just the errant minor provincial government that I serve as lowly under-castellan. I mean the wider institutional regime… Continue reading The freedom of internal exile: 2020 in review
Throughout the year I have kept a diary in a an A5 black notebook of 200 pages or so. I have followed this practice for quite some years now, and when I write the first entry in the notebook will give it a title. This year's notebooks I titled , "The view from Thucydides Tower"… Continue reading Fragments from my diaries – the year in review
A tradition that I have embraced on this blog over the last few years has been to write year in review posts in December. In 2019 I reflected on walking through the desert, notes on my reading, the democratic rebuff to progressivism, and walking through the circles of hell. In 2018 I reflected on ambiguous… Continue reading The kaleidoscope of 2020: year in review
Today I am reposting this post from April 2, 2018 that reflected on some of the literary symbols that formed uncanny fascinators in my mind. *** When I was about fifteen, I found Edmund Wilson's Axel's Castle in a library. It was my introduction to literary modernism, and their progenitors, the French symbolists. Over time… Continue reading Axel’s Castle, a mirror and an encyclopaedia
I am reposting this reflection on the response to political decay in the midst of the constitutional crisis under way in America, which reveals dramatically the rot in America's institutions and elites. Over the next weeks I want to focus on some long-term writing projects outside the blog and so will mostly be reposting some… Continue reading A solution to political decay: the ordinary virtues of governing well
This poem is a dialogue about how we are to act in this moment of cultural decay, when we face a choice between living in lies or taking the path of Benedict. Two voices vie in my head Two voices vie in my head: You must fight and take arms Against the inquisitors of the… Continue reading Poem: Two voices vie in my head
The way out machine I enclose my breath in a maskIn the distance we keep for fearPump hope into my lungs And begin to dreamOf the way out machineThat will free us from The dictatorship of the physicians. Melbourne, July 2020
Thucydides, one of the rival brothers who founded the Western tradition of history, who lived in the period 460 to 400 BC, was a general in a series of wars over 27 years that he would later name the Pelopennesian War. He was a failed general ultimately, since after a fashion all human endeavour of… Continue reading Thucydides’ Tower
The mask I connect through the transparent maskTriggering autostart with the first breath The first gasp creates a suction cupA short panic of asphyxiation While expelled air learns to escapeThis prison I evaded for decades I enter the augmented worldWhere dream rejoins machine To return the night to silenceTo make morning the green dawn When… Continue reading Poem: The mask
It has been a barren year. My writing projects have not developed as I would like. I have made progress with Ivan's Singer, but I have not been finishing the sections according to schedule. I think it is still viable for me to finish next year this Sebald-like novel about Ivan the Terrible and my… Continue reading Reflections on 2019: walking through the desert
The year's reading has been among my least studious. The troubles of the year have robbed me of time and concentration to read deeply and widely, and there has been less discovery of new topics or rediscovery of old masters than in recent years. Yet still if I document my reading I may discover curiosities… Continue reading Reflections on 2019: notes on my reading
It has been a difficult and personally challenging year. Much of the year has been consumed by profound stressors. I have been stalked by the threat of redundancy. I have endured the daily reality of ostracism and being an outcast at work. I have stared into the frightening prospect of unemployment in my later 50s… Continue reading Reflections on 2019: walking through the circles of hell
"It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman Empire declined into the Dark Ages. Nonetheless certain parallels there are.… Continue reading Where is virtue in dark times?
During the week the High Court of Australia passed judgement on a case in which a public servant was sacked for an anonymous tweet, critical of government but made in her private life, that was said to breach a code of conduct for government employees. The lower courts had found that this action was an… Continue reading Free speech for public servants and Osip Mandelstam
I am returning today to my notes on my travels, and piecing together the literary and cultural associations prompted by my travels through Stockholm and Uppsala in June. I began to say that I knew little Swedish or Scandinavian writing or culture as I entered the country, but that was not really true. As we… Continue reading My descriptions of the Northern Peoples – travel in Stockholm and Uppsala
Earlier this week I got a message from WordPress that I had passed my 11th anniversary as a blogger on the platform. I began with an anonymous blog, The Happy Pessimist, which I began amidst a bout of doubts about my public service career, which led me to embrace the political essay in its new… Continue reading 11 years with WordPress – from the archive: Good Government Starts Today