This is going to be a short blog, about an ordinary everyday encounter. One morning last week I went down to the pharmacy to buy some band aids. I’d cut my thumb the night before in an absent-minded moment. With great care, the pharmacist, in a white jacket, took me around to a seat behind the counter and asked me to put my thumb on a bed of cottonwool so that she could look it. When I was going on about how stupid I’d been, she said, with understanding, ‘it happens’. We laughed about the state of ‘being in a hurry’. Continue reading The Pharmacist in Anghiari
We belong to the world and are of the world because our formative experience was one of relation and involvement – with the maternal body, and through it, with the world. It is from that primary relation that we derive our ability to love, to feel loved and to be with. But we don’t remember it. We don’t remember the oneness of the womb or our infantile intertwinning with our mother’s bodies because memories belong to subjects and this foundational love was laid down before we became identifiable subjects [bounded subjects before an objective world].
Memory is about parts, separated and put back together. Member, dismember, remember. It is the job of the subject to undertake that ‘recollection’ of discrete events and experiences and forge them into a coherent narrative. But the primary experience I am describing happens to a self that doesn’t have parts, in a world that is without separations. Continue reading unremembered love
Gardeners often talk of their state of mind. Gardening relaxes them. It changes their mood or perspective. It makes them feel differently about their lives. Although we often imagine that moods and states of mind are attributes of an individual, these experiences of gardening suggest that states of mind are a matter of ecology or sociology rather than individual psychology. The changed state of mind befalls the gardener; it emerges from their relation with the garden.
Indeed, just to take this thought a step further, maybe this is what is important about gardens. They are special places where people learn that what is innermost is also outside them. This is how they learn how they fit in a broader world that includes them but doesn’t belong to them. Continue reading A gardening state of mind
In our garden there are seven plantation pink sasanqua camellias along the back fence, five dark pink hiryu camellias down the side fences, and there is one prostrate hiryu which will eventually reach across the pond. We planted most of the plantation pinks over 25 years ago, telling ourselves that we’d prune them every year. These trees are now up to ten metres high, taller than the peppercorn tree, the Chinese pistache and the jacaranda which complete the canopy. Each has a trunk circumference of 60 centimetres. Continue reading Camellias
Last Friday I took my Aunty Sheila to L’Arche for Spiritual Soup. Spiritual Soup is a gathering that takes place once a month at one of three L’Arche Houses in Sydney. Core members, assistants, coordinators, family and friends come together to share a simple dinner of soup and bread before adjoining to a quiet place in the house to celebrate the community’s solidarity through prayer, song and educational activities that core members are able to participate in. Continue reading A Visit to L’Arche
Earlier this year, I was invited to speak at a humanities postgraduate symposium held at Macquarie University. The organiser, who used to be a student of mine, asked if I would share some of my experiences of the PhD. Thinking back to my time as a student, I realised that among the most formative and character-building moments of the dissertation process were those that involved some form of failure. The periods when the research and writing progressed smoothly didn’t stand out. Instead, the most memorable points were when things weren’t going to plan and the process felt out of my control. Continue reading Sitting with Failure
When my father-in-law died, after many years of sickness and many months in hospital, his wallet was in the drawer of the bedside cabinet. And in this wallet was a photo of his two daughters. Aged around 5 and 3, their hair in ribbons and pigtails, Anita and Ina are sitting side by side on a bench in a Sydney park, their feet unable to reach the ground. Continue reading A Photo in a Wallet
The Ethics of Prenatal Screening
Prenatal testing has become a standard part of antenatal care in Australia. At about 12 weeks pregnant women are offered a relatively simple, elective scan which, combined with a blood test, can screen for common chromosomal disorders such as Down Syndrome. Although this screening test is elective few women choose not to have the nuchal translucency ultrasound. Even fewer decide to continue a pregnancy after chromosomal abnormalities have been detected. Recent Victorian studies suggest that the abortion rate for Down Syndrome is something like 95%.
I came across this information whilst doing research for a course I was teaching on human rights, gender and justice. Continue reading Prenatal Screening – who we are
My father has recently died; and my mother died 10 years ago. So, my siblings and I are now engaged in the process of ‘going through’, ‘sorting out’ our parents’ belongings. I have trouble finding the right way to describe this activity, emotionally complex as it is, for we are now having to make decisions about things that have had significance in our parents’ and our past shared lives. It is a difficult and painful process, but one that brings with it moments too of lightness, surprise and joy. One way or another, this experience feels meaningful. Continue reading Belongings, Adelaide, June 2015