Mental Health – an empty page

Now, that the hype of the festive season has faded off and left our brain and body cells ‘silently stressed’, we return to the bizarre ‘21st century normality’ of cut-throat competition at work, school, and even during our recreational and social activities, in the quest for status and wealth beyond reason. Reality TV shows have become little more than moral and ethical murder, promoting dirty, undermining and backstabbing tactics. We (society) live life on the edge, in fear of being sued, saying or doing the wrong thing, or making unpopular politically incorrect comments. An unhealthy stress generating urgency, is widely promoted through ‘high speed reading and learning’. We are no longer left to focus on anything on screen let alone to finish reading some text without the distraction of pop-up’s, often calling for an urgent, hurried response. No wonder anxiety and depression has reached epidemic proportions, even in children. In response I am glad to say that mental health awareness has greatly improved in recent years, though attention is mainly focused on treatment not prevention.
It helps to cultivate some balance, to pause and open an ‘Empty Page’, which is the most important component of both my books and of life supreme. Blessed be the day when businesses, the authorities and media promote the ‘Empty Page’ rather than hype and sensation.
For more on the prevention of mental agony, known as burn-out, download now and read ‘Journey of Life’, chapters 3 (Anxiety) & 20 (Competition & Success). Most of all, savour the ‘Empty page’.

A Christmas Story

Trying to untangle a strand of Christmas lights which seems to be as impossible as folding a fitted bed sheet, I endeavour to escape frustration and drift off into a mental numbness, leaving a vacuum for the mind to travel back in time, carried by the Christmas spirit, to Christmas eve anno 1979, landing softly in ‘Moshav Netiv Hagdud’, Israel. As the curtain of time defeats gravity, vivid images appear of this farming community, beautifully nestled between the Jordan river and biblical mountains that are not real mountains, for the valley lies well below sea level. A group of about twenty of us foreign workers enjoy some pre-journey drinks in anticipation of our planned pilgrimage to Bethlehem tonight. Silhouetted by the descending sun we sway down to the bus stop which is littered with ‘live’ machine gun cartridges, as all bus stops (in Israel) normally are. The law requires that the magazine is removed from the gun when boarding a bus, and frequently a bullet falls out whilst doing so. After loitering under and on top of the roof of the bus shelter for a while, our moment has come, and we board the bus to Jerusalem. Past Jericho and up the slopes, the beer makes its calling, so we ask the driver for a toilet stop. He agrees, for a modest fee of one beer and pulls over to the side, where we relieve ourselves in a civilised manner, girls squatting, and boys standing up in line next to them as gentlemen do. Soon we find ourselves on another bus for the short trip from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, where large crowds of people from around the globe portray an image of what it would have felt like for Mary and Joseph. The Roman soldiers with their swords have now been replaced by Israeli soldiers with their ever present Uzi and M16 machine guns, trying to keep us safe from terrorist attack while we disperse, wander around and join the queue to visit the birthplace of Jesus, elevated by the angelic tunes of various international choirs. A few hours later a small group of us find ourselves back in Jerusalem, ready to share a maxi taxi back to the Moshav. Sitting on the footpath, my inner voice tells me to stay on, against the persuasion of my well-meaning friends. So, I walk the streets of this holy city, to nowhere in particular, on this chilly winter’s night. Overcome by tiredness I soon lay down to rest on a park bench. After an hour or so, my well-worn ‘American army fighting jacket’ from the army surplus store proves to be no match for tonight’s temperatures, causing me to rise and keep moving, through the fortified walls of the ‘New Gate’ when I feel invited by the beautiful sound of Christmas carols in the distance. Guided by this heavenly music I soon wander into the foyer of a crowded church, where midnight mass is being celebrated in German, my mother tongue. As I enjoy the comforting warmth, the priest delivers his sermon: Blessed are the hungry. Blessed are the lonely. Blessed are the homeless, and I realize that for tonight I am all of this by choice, yet I found my spiritual home at this mass in the foyer of this church. I am not lonely, but one with all the people in this congregation and the world. I am not hungry, for my spiritual hunger has now been stilled. I stay until the end of the service and while the parishioners make their way home, I continue my journey with divine reassurance, through the streets of the old city, feeling carried by angels. A passer-by calls my name and I recognise Sheila, a girl and two of her friends I know from ‘Kibbutz Manara’ where I had worked a few months earlier. She asks where I was going, I reply “don’t know”. When angels call it’s wise to follow, so we join forces, finally landing up in an Arab tea house across the road from the Damascus gate. As time goes by, we form a merry crowd of backpackers from all corners of the earth. We drink tea whilst savouring some delicious Arabic sweets. An Austrian keeps the audience entertained, pointing out that Hitler was an Austrian, to the amusement of the local Palestinians. To my surprise, ‘Ulli’, a German friend whom we lost earlier in Bethlehem, stumbles in showing acute signs of intoxication. The teahouse breaks out in laughter and the party goes on until dawn, when we take to the road and everyone continues to travel their journey of life. Ulli and I decide to go back to the Moshav when we spot and get side-tracked by the entrance of a cave in the rocks under the northern city wall. For a modest entrance-fee we are allowed in and find a large cavern extending far beneath the old city. We learn of exciting biblical stories and events relating to this cave, right back to the time of Abraham. Back in daylight, a few market stalls have opened, where I treat myself, after a hard bargain, to a Christmas present, a ‘keffiyeh’ Palestinian head scarf. We proceed to the Arab bus station, the very place where, according to some archaeologists, the crucifixion took place. The seventy-plus looking Palestinian bus driver greets us warmly like he always does. We commence our journey to Jericho, mostly downhill, he puts the gears of his converted WW2 truck into neutral, as he always does, praying loud for the brakes not to fail. His prayers are answered when we stop at a checkpoint, where all the men must disembark and stand in line to be searched for weapons and explosives, by Israeli soldiers. Once in Jericho, we try our luck hitchhiking home to the Moshav, when another angel answers the call. It is Wahid, who manages the Palestinian workers whom we share our days with working in the fields, and he is heading for Moshav Netiv Hagdud. But first, after we help him unload some cargo from his van, in typical middle eastern fashion, we are invited to his house, privileged to meet his family for a round of traditional Arab tea. The sun is high when we reach home and find that we are the last ones to return. We all hang out and loose, booze flowing. I hit a few strings on the guitar wearing an old, rusty British army helmet that someone had picked up from amongst all the exploded mortar shells which were littered around the local area. Peacefully I doze off sitting in a chair this Christmas day 1979, and I time travel forty years forward. The lights are still only 70% untangled, nevertheless, I lay them onto a large bush and wait for the night. Later, holding a glass of red wine, I admire a mini universe consisting of a strand of stars with a cluster resembling a galaxy.

Common Sense Movement

I feel part of a growing number of publicly silent, non-activist yet fast growing, politically non-organised global group of vigilant people who are conscious, though weary of all the crap we are being served as well as the ridicule of operations from the individual level all the way to the political and religious plain. It is a metaphorical body of people who have respect and consideration for others, the environment, all living creatures and morally sound law & order. It doesn’t value political correctness, popular opinion, or mob rule. We are people who have more compassion for the victims of crime, including those who act in self-defence, than for the offenders. People who believe in honesty, decency and core values. We distinguish and teach our children right from wrong without political spin or agenda driven perversion. We know that ‘reality TV’ is real only in the context of a mostly scripted play. We know that the perversion of the human mind is the greatest threat to our survival on earth. We perceive reality using our natural senses, not some gadgetry controlled by others. We refrain from using hype to convey our views and opinions, instead we ride the wave of passive activity through conversation. This is closely related to ‘Guerrilla goodness’, in other words, non-organised ‘doing good’ without expectation of an outcome or reward. Whatever walk of life we call our own, in essence we are ordinary people who find agreement in seeing things the way they are. We are not pushing any agenda or some world view. We create no following, instead we just grow. We simply find common ground based on common sense.

Making a Contribution

We are frequently asked to make contributions towards various causes, organisations and society. Most commonly, those are obvious, direct contributions, such as visible charity or fees paid and services rendered to a club. But what about all those, often inconspicuous contributions we make, like raising kids, or earning and spending money to keep the economy ‘ticking over’? In the same context we make a contribution to society simply through our presence and participation, in that we consume and produce goods and provide and receive services, thus we create jobs for ourselves and others. Not to forget all the lessons we subconsciously teach by example, on how to, or how not to live. We make a contribution to society every time we stand up to unfair governance, oppression, injustice or tyranny, in fact every time we question the establishment and hold them accountable. In the cartoon ‘The Wizard of Id’, long term prisoner ‘the spook’, on being paroled, was asked by the king if he was now ready to make a useful contribution to society, he replied: “I already have, I spat on your portrait on the way in.” Of course, in typical medieval fashion this landed him back in the dungeon. Quality art and literature are a contribution to the mental and spiritual wellbeing of humanity. It all works well, as long as a balance is maintained i.e. not an excessive number of people are making only a spiritual contribution while the rest of society does all the ‘hard yakka’ for them. Every time I drink Whisky I make a ‘spiritually financial’ contribution to the liquor industry as well as a generous contribution to the nation in form of a substantial alcohol tax!


By the sound of the word ‘hijacked’ the first thing that comes to mind is terrorists hijacking planes, ships, buses, trains, or criminals car-jacking. Of course, it doesn’t stop here. Let our minds flow on and notice how TV programs covering current affairs, or harmless conversations are frequently hijacked by personal motives or group interests, pushing religion, a political agenda, business, or ‘anti’ and ‘boycott’ campaigns. The same often happens at events, meetings and social gatherings such as parties, when one hijacks the ‘talking stick’ with his or her never ending stories. Some go to the extreme of shouting down anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Gate crashers hijack from the outside, others from within. Many demonstrations, uprisings and revolutions have been hijacked by parasite groups. I recall a peace demonstration I attended in 1978 that was infiltrated by the Communists calling for an armed revolt. The world’s health industry shows alarming symptoms of hijacking by ‘quacks’ and in-effective wonder products. Education is not spared, with a flourishing market in inferior and fake Certification. It is old news that Sport and the Arts have been hijacked by commercialism in all its extremities, where marketability triumphs over talent and quality. Then there is Christmas, Easter, and Good Friday hijacked by commercialism, where Christ has been replaced with Disney characters and soap opera stars. Suffering a spiritual famine, we live in an era where hijacked spirituality has become the global norm, exercised by con-artists, self-anointed gurus and false messiahs. Thought and religious teachings have been hijacked by individual and group interest driven doctrines. Not to be forgotten, the ultimate hijacking tool, ‘corruption’, a parasite that has infiltrated all levels of society and its institutions. Misfortune and tragedy are increasingly hijacked by instant calls for financial donations, no matter whether the affected are needy or just wishful. Genuine cases permitting, most are usually insured and require only temporary support such as food, shelter, medical and moral assistance. Many years ago, when wages were paid by way of ‘cash in an envelope’, one of my work mates went to the pub after work, got drunk and lost his pay packet on the way home. Next day without hesitation, the shop steward launched a ‘go fund me campaign’ to help this poor man. More recently, a call for donations to save the life of a fifteen year-old severely injured dog was answered with thousands of dollars. In perspective, in a flood ravaged Indian village, one of the survivors was asked by a journalist what they needed he replied: “we need your prayers”.

Return of the Books

The second coming of the Messiah hasn’t happened yet, neither has the Jedi returned, but my two books have been resurrected, one year after the last distributer went broke and left over a thousand authors in limbo, owing us royalty statements and payment. Both books are self-published, were first distributed by Palmer Higgs, then by Dennis Jones, and sold through Amazon, Kobo, Books a Million, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble and numerous other on-line retailers. On par with many other authors, my seven years of experience with the publishing industry has led to disillusion and frustration with an incompetent industry, most of which deserves to be shut down. Trying to find a new distributer I was met with the traditional ‘total silence’ that facilitates the notoriety of the publishing industry. There comes a time when your patience wears thin, so I made the executive decision to take things into my own hands and take control of the marketing of my books. With the help of a couple of trustworthy experts, both English language e-books, ‘Journey of Life’ & ‘Real, Bold, & Simple’ are now available for download from my website, for the modest price of $8.21 incl. GST each. The German translation of the first book, ‘Die Reise des Lebens’ will follow soon. You’d be lucky to get a pint of beer or a coffee & cake for $8.21, here is some potentially life changing philosophy at your disposal.

On Writing

When I read expert advice on writing books I frequently hear about setting targets to the extreme such as ‘write ten books a year’, closely followed by guidelines on grammar, being conscious of politically correct sensitivity and market trends, encouragement to participate in writer’s competitions etc. Much advice is given on how to appease potential publishers, most of whom couldn’t care less about authors. A pretty rigid stress packet I say, ‘how could anyone possibly enjoy one’s work and be creative’? What I have learned from one author’s advice and more so my seven years of authorship is this: ‘Don’t follow any rules’. Invent a new word, phrase or concept. Push the boundaries, then go as far as intuition will take you. ‘You know you are wise and enlightened when intuition has replaced the script’. Technology and political processes require regulation, but art doesn’t, if it is ethical and practiced within the framework of morality. Listen to your inner voice and be true to your conscience. Don’t write under stress. Avoid deadlines. Relax, let your mind flow. When the mind clogs up, have a break, savour a coffee or something, do some exercise or gardening etc. Write out of passion, not for reward. Liberate yourself from expectations such as honour, money, fame, prizes and awards to be won. As I always say: “Travel the way, don’t worry about the goal”. In the art of welding you make yourself as comfortable as possible, this helps to enjoy your work and ensures a steady hand producing a sound, high quality weld. Any tension is counterproductive. Study and creativity are no different. A stressed painter with a shaky hand produces a messy portrait. A relaxed mind is perceptive, open to creative thought and inspiration, logically most of what I write reveals itself during my breaks, away from the narrow, tense world of the screen.

Idiots in no man’s land

The sun is shining, blue skies smile at us with a comforting touch of heaven. The remaining birds that haven’t dropped out of the sky poisoned by pesticides, play a delightful symphony. Sounds like the beginning of a novel? Well, not quite, just a true short story. Suddenly we hear machinegun fire in the distance, no need to take shelter it’s too far away by the sound of it. Is the army practising or is it a skirmish with the PLO? We are unable to distinguish this over the distance. Should it approach we would reach for the M16s and Uzis kept on the tractor. Soon the guns fall silent and we feel blessed with the perfect day, picking apples in the fields of Kibbutz Manara in northern Israel in September 1979. Manara and its plantations lie directly adjacent to Lebanon, fenced by wire mesh, topped with razor and electric wire paralleled by a strip of sand, raked daily to reveal footprints, (if an attempted crossing was made) then a few metres of no man’s land followed by another fence on the Lebanese side. Quite regularly some of us volunteers (guest workers) would grab a bottle of cheap wine (all we could afford), and share it with the border post soldiers on guard duty, sitting at the sand bag wall, machine gun positioned on top, overlooking southern Lebanon at sunset, effortlessly transcending into a surrealistic realm words cannot describe. Occasionally, a biblically clothed shepherd of advanced years would herd his sheep up the slopes of Lebanon, right up to the fence, for a casual chat. We exchange “As-Salaam- Alaikum”, “Wa-Alaikum- Salaam”. The soldiers converse with him in Arabic and act as interpreters for us, in total absence of any vibe of conflict. Here I should mention: I have experienced this sort of thing and more on numerous occasions, it happens at ‘people level’ all over the Middle East and I believe this would become the norm if the world’s power mongers and war profiteers kept their noses out of Middle Eastern affairs. Back to the beautiful day in the apple plantations, where the terrain is hilly and ‘no man’s land’ wider, thirty metres at a guess. Nature has decorated this part of the neutral zone with a growth of low vegetation. From the strategic view point atop an apple tree I spot some delicious looking berries on a small bush about halfway between Israel and Lebanon. Appled out and unable to resist temptation for a change in diet, I tell ‘John the American’ of my discovery, who enthusiastically agrees to join me in the harvest. Practicing an old technique we were competent in, where one lifts the bottom of the fence enough for the other one to crawl underneath and then returns the favour, we transgress into no man’s land, ‘picking berries’. Harvest over, we return. This time I slide on my back trying not to lose or squash the precious produce wrapped in my pulled up t-shirt, resting safely on my stomach. Later at dusk, back in the Kibbutz and after dinner, a group of us hangs around outside a house for the usual evening session of music and cheap booze, when John and I, proud of our accomplished mission, decide to share the berries with the others. Curiosity overcomes one of the Israelis, who inquires where we got them from, so we humorously tell him: “the other side, in no man’s land”. “You bloody idiots” comes his reply along with a disbelieving head shake” don’t you know there are land mines in there?”

Hangover Blues

Hangover Blues
As the curtain falls on another election, the lying games, showmanship and slander of the previous weeks has fallen almost silent. The band plays the ‘hangover blues’ on post mortem instruments, throwing blame, public ‘Mea culpa’ and the ‘I am great, I have won’ version, as the music finally and thankfully begins to flatten out. Having left behind the usual expert engineered, agenda driven forward estimates turned false predictions, we slowly return to normality. What is normality? It means ‘conforming to a standard’, ‘regular’, ‘the usual’. It doesn’t determine right from wrong, good from bad, useful from wasteful etc. In doing what we usually do, being normal, doing what we are familiar with and confident in and with anxiety levels low, logically we should feel comfortable as a society. But in normality it is prudent to pay attention to what’s behind the smoke screen, for normality may harbour sinister intentions. Let’s cultivate awareness of the reality that the political theatre is heavily dominated and dictated by big business and other interest groups, the media, and heavily infiltrated by self-gratifying religious cults. Let’s judge those who govern us by merit, not by promises, policies and arguments without substance. Don’t fall for the hype they create but stand up for truth. Let not popularity deceive us. Henry Lawson wrote about the popular guy in town: “were he intelligent he wouldn’t be popular”.

On Greatness

Greatness has been largely defined throughout history as superiority based on communal or personal achievements in areas such as politics and military conquests, and/or the acquisition of material, literal or spiritual wealth, and it is often coupled with economical and spiritual control and the exploitation of the masses.
Many of the so called ‘great’ were nothing but egotistical, war mongering psychopaths, who have murdered and looted their way to greatness, such as Alexander the great, Karl the great, King Herod the great etc., who would have been more deserving of the title the ‘horrible’ or ‘terrible’. “Attach a cause to your crimes and you will become a hero”. Your name will make it into the history books as one of ‘the great’. There is no shortage of imposters who cheat their way to greatness. Others are born into or inherit greatness. There is truth in the phrase: “some are more equal than others” (George Orwell, ‘The Animal Farm’). The crocodile has evolved to be great in its own territory.

Some refer to the first world war as ‘The Great War’. What could be so great about millions being slaughtered, sent into senseless battles for nothing more but cannon fodder, by commanders in headquarters far from the front and weapons of mass destruction (poison gas) being used, following broken treaties? Trump wants to make America great again. The Brexit supporters want to make Britain great again. I wonder what sort of greatness they have in mind. Recently I have heard a politician say he wants to make Australia great again. How can Australia be great in its own right, when it is still under the crown of ‘Great Britain’?
True political greatness lies in sovereignty and to live in peace with one’s neighbours. True personal greatness lies in self-dominance coupled with modesty, and to wear one’s achievements with dignity rather than arrogance and to share the fruits of greatness with those who have contributed to it.