Daily prompt: Another trip to la-la land

DAILY PROMPT
Pursue

I have to admit that I’ve always regarded ‘the pursuit of happiness’ as one of those la-la things that don’t have much to do with real life.

Perhaps this is because I was born right in the middle of WW ll when ‘happiness’ wasn’t the first word on everyone’s lips, and my younger years had more to do with planning, rebuilding and rehabilitating than with an all-out drive to chase bluebirds.

But even in my early twenties, when happiness became a ‘right’ for baby boomers, I wasn’t convinced. Life had taught me a few things by then, and not one of them suggested that happiness was a finite goal. And while smoking pot might create an illusion of happiness (wouldn’t know, never tried it), it wasn’t a long-term guarantee of a rosy future and red Porsches didn’t fall from the sky while you sat on your butt and thought ‘which way happiness?’.

If you’re in some reasonable facsimile of your right mind, you don’t flit about the garden chasing fairies, and to me, pursuing happiness is pretty similar. It is a nebulous, ephemeral thing with no rules regarding time and place and no instantly recognisable shape or form, and if you assign it these things, it’s quite likely to pass you by without you recognising it.

Contentment, now… And serenity. Yes, if you’re lucky and work hard both mentally and physically, you can ultimately organise yourself a peaceful, contented life. But those rare moments when your whole soul shines with active happiness… You don’t find them. They find you.

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Daily prompt: Hello to the budget

DAILY PROMPT
Temporary

As of today, Australians will be running around like chooks with their heads cut off, thigh-deep in media analysis of last night’s federal budget: What the Budget Means for You.

But it will be a temporary madness, fortunately. It always is – or almost always. The big exception was the budget brought down by our previous PM and his cohorts amidst loud proclamations that ‘the age of entitlement is over’ – which to them meant that the poor are lazy buggers who needed to get their acts together and the rich should be rewarded for their diligence.

A lot of the measures in that budget never made it through the Upper House, the PM in question was ultimately shuffled off to the back bench by his own party and the Treasurer was lured away from politics altogether with the post of Australian Ambassador to the US, thus ending our very own foray into Trumpery.

There will inevitably be those who hate the budget. This time, it’s those who recognise that this budget takes the wind out of the Opposition’s sails by addressing issues of health, education and infrastructure in a manner likely to please voters, and pleasing voters never pleases the Opposition when it’s in Opposition.

Oh how I hate politics! Not because I am dedicated to a particular party and desperately want them to win. On the contrary, I am a proud swinging voter. No, my problem is a hopelessly outdated sense of idealism. I want politicians to be honest, honourable, and committed to their constituents and the overall good of country – and it ain’t gonna happen.

I blame this unrealistic attitude on my parents, who brought us up to believe in things like honour and honesty, and lived in the belief that while there is bound to be the odd rotten apple in any barrel, leaders were, on the whole, to be respected. Today is my father’s birthday. If he were still alive, he’d be 112, which possibly says it all.

I realise of course that high aspirations are a lot more widespread than used to be the case (when we all knew our place in society and stuck to it like good kids), so it’s inevitable that Getting to the Top requires more ruthless determination than might have been common among our forebears. And staying at the top in politics demands a well-developed ability to manoeuvre, manipulate, satisfy, sledge and (let’s be honest here) bullshit.

But acknowledging it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

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Daily prompt: Good for a laugh – for the time being

DAILY PROMPT
Bitter

Don’t get the idea I’m bitter about this, or bursting with righteous indignation. More inclined to see it as good for a laugh, although you might have to take that on faith since outsiders seem to think the Australian sense of humour is weird.

Anyway, here’s what I’m talking about.

The first phone call between newly-elected President Trump and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ended abruptly with Pres T hanging up in PM T’s ear. Yeah well…

In two separate briefings regarding this little spat, White House spokesman Sean Spicer referred to Mr Turnbull as ‘Mr Trumble’. Aah…

Last week, Mr Turnbull travelled to the US for a face-to-face meeting with President Trump. The meeting was scheduled for 4pm to last for an hour, but seems the President was too busy to keep the appointment and it was moved to 7.15pm, giving them a quick 30 minutes to gallop through top level discussions on Korea, China, trade agreements, allied military presence in the Middle East… before attending a ceremony aboard the decommissioned USS Intrepid to mark the anniversary of the WWll Battle of the Coral Sea.

So far so good(ish). The President thanked Rupert Murdoch (who introduced him to the stage), Greg Norman (with whom he played golf once) and Anthony Pratt, who has just pledged $2 billion for American manufacturing jobs – presumably the only Australians Trump considers worth mentioning (or perhaps knows). All of whom are now effectively American. (Lots of eye-rolling from Australians.)

He also addressed ‘the phone call’, though perhaps not as eloquently as one might have hoped for from the world’s No. 1:

 They said we had a rough phone call, we really didn’t have a rough call, did we?
Everyone’s talking about this phone call. The media was saying ‘what do you think about the phone call? You didn’t really hang up?’

No, we had actually a very nice call, right? Good. Now the record is straight all those people back there. Thank goodness, it’s true we had a very nice phone call.

Got a little testy, got a little bit testy but that’s OK. We’ve had a very good relationship and I’m very proud of the relationship.

And following this all-round jolly affair, Reuters referred to Malcolm Turnbull as Brian Trumbull.

Now as I say, this whole rolling fiasco is good for a laugh, over here. Why waste emotional energy being bitter about such a ridiculous sequence of events?

But…

Australia is not as big as America. Not as powerful. Not as important. Malcolm Turnbull is not as important as Donald Trump and should be grateful for crumbs from the President’s table, right?

Wrong

Mr Turnbull might be a mere candle in the global firmament in Donald Trump’s opinion, but he is still a head of state, and international diplomacy as well as common courtesy require that he be treated with the respect due to his office. For a start, the President’s spokesman might get his name right.

Australia is also the only nation since Trump’s election to express loyalty to the US, and it might be worth the President’s while to realise that whatever Mr Turnbull says, Australians themselves are increasingly dubious about any such loyalty given the wars it’s led us into and the President’s cavalier attitude – and in Australia, everyone votes and he/she with the most votes wins.

We might get bored with this joke and stop laughing.

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Daily prompt: Simple is good

DAILY PROMPT
Lifestyle

I live a life of wilful sloth and glorious self-indulgence. Whether that qualifies as a lifestyle I have no idea and don’t really care, having been too caught up in doing what needed to be done to keep the boats afloat to investigate the concept of ‘lifestyle choices’ when it popped up as a buzzword back whenever that was.

Fortunately for me, my self-indulgence doesn’t involve food, alcohol or material possessions. If it did, I would be obese, broke and permanently half cut. As it is, I read when I should be sweeping the floor, stay up way past a reasonable bedtime and get up again when the mood takes me, guilt kicks in, or the phone rings – usually option two, because despite the sloth, I do still have Standards, which also ensure that I don’t live in a pigsty. I wouldn’t enjoy that.

So I suppose to that extent I do make lifestyle choices without calling them that, having an inbuilt resistance to fabulous new concepts that turn out to be a new name for the wheel.

In this case, I’ve probably also been put off by the ‘style’ part. I don’t do style except on special occasions, and even then, I find it stressful. If you set out to be stylish, you also set yourself up to be measured against other people’s style monitors, which automatically torpedoes your status as wallpaper.

Wallpaper is good.

Life is good.

Lifestyles are for other people.

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Daily prompt: None

DAILY PROMPT
None

You’d like me to weave a web of wonderfully wise words, taut with tension…singing with excitement…or even sweet with softness of spring. Wouldn’t you.

But it’s autumn, and none are forthcoming.

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Daily prompt: Me and Darwin ll

DAILY PROMPT
Control

Despite the fact that he lives in my house and is only about 1 ½ inches long, Darwin ll is completely beyond my control.

He lives behind my wall clock and shimmies out from time to time to smell the air or check the prospects for dinner. Or perhaps it’s when time gets to the bigger numbers and all that bonging as it strikes the hour is more than his little gecko ears can stand.

I suppose it’s a sort of negative quid pro quo: he is beyond my control, and the clock’s chime is beyond his.

 

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Daily prompt: Musing about life and death

DAILY PROMPT
Apprentice

I’ll be 74 next month. Which is fine by me. I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll barely feel a day over…ooh…73? 90? 60? Depending on the circumstances at the time.

But there’s no denying it’s a reminder that you’ve done your allotted three score and ten, and while I have no intention (and there’s no indication) of shuffling off anytime soon, I am certainly more aware of my own demise than I was say 20 years ago.

And that’s also fine. It is what it is. Although I’d certainly prefer it hung off for a while: my kids still seem quite keen on having me around and I try not to disappoint them.

But I must say that today’s discussion of apprenticeship, and the idea that we never truly master life, has unsettled me. The obvious extension of that – that death is the Master’s ticket – has all sorts of implications that will take a bit of thinking over.

Does it mean, for example, that unsatisfactory apprentices fail the test and leave without the ticket? It wouldn’t seem fair, at least to me, if Ted Bundy and Mother Theresa got the same qualification. But that gives rise to another question. I say it doesn’t seem fair ‘to me’, but I am not the judge here. I don’t know the criteria for passing the test.

As appalling as it was, did Ted Bundy have to do what he did? Having watched his final interview, I could ask whether Mr Bundy was sent here with a purpose: to shock the world into realising the dangers of pornography.

Whether I personally believe that is beside the point, as is the all-too-obvious fact that the world didn’t learn the lesson. The real crux of the matter is that if we are apprentices, what do we need to do in this life to qualify for a Master’s ticket? Do we all have to pass the same tests? Do some of us have a specific job to do? Are some people on their second-go round, with a few passes already up their sleeves?

And the big question of course, is what next? Once you have your Master’s ticket, what then? Nothingness? Start again? Elysian fields? A dream reincarnation? Every religion known to man has an answer to this question, which is in itself confusing when each one thinks theirs is the one true faith. The corollary to which is that a percentage of us are damned by default. Although I’m not sure what the implications of that are either.

I can only hope tomorrow’s prompt is simpler.

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