Saturday, January 02, 2010

Saturday Morning Musings - past, present and future

A spam comment caused me to revisit Australia's sad moral decline, a post written back in October 2007. Intended to be ironic, I had to amend the post to make the this clearer.

The point in that post - the ever increasing restrictions designed to affect behaviour and to overcome perceived behavioural problems - remains as true today as it was then. Despite the apparent failures in the approach - the almost collapse of the NSW child welfare system under the load of mandatory reporting is an example - we cannot help ourselves.

I have found that many, not all, people will accept my general argument, but as soon as it gets to specific cases yes but enters. Yes, it may not work very well, but we must do something. Since every existing or proposed restriction or control is supported by some, it becomes impossible to break the pattern.

No doubt I will continue to pick away at this issue because I think it important, but life is too short to allow it complete domination when there are so many other things of interest.

Myrtle, Harrison, Lane In The fun of blogging! I referred to the way blogging renewed old links, leading down old and new byways.    

As part of the exchange behind that post, John Myrtle kindly sent me this photo. Just a backyard snap, but one with many memories.

From left to right, we have John, Brian Harrison and Ross Lane. All three of us were in the same Leaving Certificate class at TAS (The Armidale School).

The photo was taken at Ross's house in Newcastle. Brian, now  a priest domiciled in St Louis, MO, was visiting Australia for the wedding of the daughter of brother Frank. Brian and I were also in the same class at primary school, something that I referred to in Armidale Demonstration School Year 5 1955

I suppose as we grow older nostalgia increases. Still, and speaking as a sometimes historian as well as social analyst, I find that nostalgia is an important aid in documenting the past. I spoke a little on this in a December 2006 post, The Importance of Family History, with a later 2009 follow up The importance of family history - revisited.

The past can be a burden.

At personal level, we all have demons that need exorcising. Too strong a focus on the past can keep them alive. At national and international level, a fair bit of my train reading this year has been concerned in one way or another with the fact that the living past continues to affect the present in sometimes un-seen and often difficult ways. Here I remember the way in which I found the sense of history almost over-whelming when I visited England for the first time. I felt that Australia was lucky in some ways to have such a short history. We had a cleaner sheet!

While the past can be a burden, an understanding of the past is also helpful.

At a purely personal level, it gives us a sense of continuity and linkage. This often becomes more important as we grow older because of the way death removes connections, especially family and friendship connections, that have been built into our view of the world in ways beyond our own comprehension. We only realise it once loss occurs.

It's not just the direct personal loss. It's also the feeling of loss of relevance. Suddenly, there is an aching gap.  The creation and re-creation of links can ease this. It can also give us a renewed sense of our own self-worth.

Paul Barratt's companion post to one of mine, Jim Belshaw on Leslie Hubert Holden, was not just flattering, but also put me in my own context.

On the way back from Mt Hotham, we called in to see my wife's aunt. Barbara has been researching the North side of my wife's family, and a fascinating story it is.

At this point in my daughters' lives, the family history is less important. They live, as I did at their age, in the busy present, although they were interested to learn that they had convict ancestry! However, I know that they will be interested later.

As I listened to Barbara talk, I kept wrapping my own historical knowledge around her words. This is now, I suppose, second nature.

I knew that Jim North, Dee's dad, was born at Cessnock. I had no idea, however, that the North side had such a strong New England connection.

Chinese testing wash for tin, Emmaville  From the first European settlers at Narrabri through children born there, at Inverell and Vegetable Creek aka Emmaville, I fitted the Norths into my own writing on New England. It was fun.

The photo, by the way, shows a Chinese digger washing for tin at Emmaville.

I know that my historical writing has value to people because of the feedback I get. People like to know how they fit in.

Over 2010, I hope to continue this writing. I actually find this quite exciting because of the way it continues to build my own knowledge. I also really like personalising things, focusing history on people.          

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