Monday, April 02, 2007

A Letter to My Teacher...

The boys chow down at Fixit's sister's engagement party this weekend.

... but first; some background.

If you're my vintage and you grew up in Canberra and you were educated in the public system, then in Years 11 and 12 you would have attended a 'college' as opposed to the 'high school' where the Years 7-10 were miserable educated. I made a good choice in my college because I insisted on going to the one that the majority of my bogan high-school mates did not. I went inner, they went outer if you know what I mean. The point (I think) of college was to prepare us for University. Students designed their own timetable based on a certain amount of core subjects and some electives, and bonus! you could schedule free periods for yourself. There was no uniform. Smoking was permitted but only outside (this was a while ago now, in the days when public servants still smoked at their desks). You addressed teachers by their Christian names. But they still sent letters home to your parents for truancy and held parent/teacher evenings and whatnot.

Anyway. At my college I had one teacher - I'll call him A - of whom I was very fond, and in fact we are still in occasional contact to this day. You know there are some inspirational teachers who make learning an exciting and positive thing, who can help you believe in your worth as a person and as a scholar? Well, A was one of them. I'm sure he won't mind me describing him as an eccentric and an original. Sadly, in the years after I graduated, the school system became more conservative. The dynamic and quirky energy he brought to his teaching was perhaps not really valued by school administrations which had budgets and quotas and goals to meet. So a brilliant and enthusiastic teacher ended his teaching days on sick leave and many students were denied his capabilities.

A taught English and History subjects. I have a shocking memory, so I've forgotten the names of his classes but there was a drama one where we studied Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and a brilliant class called Australian Identity which was Australian history made interesting (unlike the dull-as-ditchwater classes I'd suffered through with Mr. G back in high school) because it focussed on episodes that shaped the national character. And somewhere in A's eclectic and wonderful classes I was introduced to the concept of the Cargo Cult. Which brings me to my letter.

Dear A,

Many years ago, you taught me about the Cargo Cult. You explained about indigenous peoples from Pacific countries who built up religions based on cargo dropping to them from the sky. Some were obviously influenced by witnessing Western soldiers receiving military cargo drops from aeroplanes; those cults began to imitate military behaviour, carving walky-talkies out of coconuts and clearing airstrips as a way of signalling the deity their fittingness to receive the cargo. Which is of course an interesting concept in itself, but as is your wont, you drew parallels between the original Cargo Cults and our modern society. Because you discerned a growing number of people developing Cargo Cult type mentalities. "Why should we work?" they say "when for very little effort I could win tattslotto or become a famous movie star and never have to worry about money again." You taught this to me in the days before reality television! All those wannabes in the Big Brother households. Living, breathing, walking examples of that sort of Cargo Cult mentality. History can tell you the future. As you knew.

Anyway, I write to you because there is this new phenomenon called Dear Universe. I first heard about it on Michael Parkinson's show. I can't remember who the interviewee was, some Brit, an ex-television presenter who had recently made a spectacular comeback. Which in part he attributed to this movement, this Dear Universe movement. I'm sure it's huge on the interweb. All you do is write a letter. Dear Universe, you write, and then, because you are a person deserving of good things and as such all you need to do is ask for what you want, you list or request the things you would like in your life. And through cosmic forces or by attracting the requisite good luck vibes needed, the Universe will heed your prayer. Yes really. According to Parky's guest, you ask for specific things within a specific timeframe and then you offer your letter up to the Universe and either get on with your daily life or sit back and wait, and within the allotted time (he cited a year for his own modest wants of a house in the South of France, a revival of his television career and something else, probably a hotted-up car) these things will be delivered unto you.

I write to you about this A, because I am confused. I would like to write the Universe a letter. I wouldn't ask for much. Just a house, located in a certain suburb. Preferably one that we own, because it's not always easy being a renter. But my conscience is bothering me, because I am well aware that we are ridiculously well off in Australia and if I take stock, I have all the things in life that I need. Okay, we are not 'well-off' perhaps in Australian terms, but we have regular income, a roof over our heads, food, clothes, toys, music and fun. So what right do I have to ask for more? Would it be bad, and weak, and lazy and a sell-out if I wrote Dear Universe, please let me have that house? Would you think less of me? Is it any worse than the weekly tattslotto ticket we purchase in lieu of any real financial plan for our indigent old-age? Basically, is it allright for me to join this new-fangled Cargo Cult? What about if I keep doing my do-gooder activities like collecting for the Red Cross Doorknock Appeal last week or selling raffle tickets for Diabetes Victoria or volunteering my time at Cherub's creche? Does that make it more acceptable? You can see I want and try to be a good person, can't you? A good person with a house in that certain suburb.

I want. But I don't want to be greedy.

Love Stomper.

PS . You promised me a letter. In January. I don't want to nag but it's April. Maybe you could stop editing, and just print and send?
Also, thanks to Nutmeg for this. Maybe that's why I've been inspired to post some of my thoughts today instead of some of my doings. Anyway, in keeping with the rules of this exercise I need to nominate some blogs that make me think. This is hard because I love all the blogs on my bloglist and they all give me something different. But for helping me to think about things outside my norm, I nominate Shula and Aunty Cookie and Kirsty at Two Lime Leaves for crafty and or visual inspiration, Joke for culinary inspiration and House & Baby for living and loving her 'suburban dream'. And it's not like each and every one of the others doesn't deserve accolades but I'm supposed to stop at 5 and some of you have already received nominations from other sources.


  1. Dear Stomper
    You ARE a good girl and I give you all you need (and you kind of know that).
    love, The Universe

    ps thanks for nominating Kirsty xx

  2. I've heard about this ( thru Woman's Day or sometwat .. um .. bought when my mum was here.. OK ?! )

    And it's something I struggle with too. When tsunamis hit, and we have our TOKEN WV Child ... and still dream of a new kitchen .. or perhaps if the drought wouldn't wreck our grass so ! ..

    I feel so awfully TOORAK.
    And someone sould bitch-slap me now.

    But we're not so far apart, really. F'instance .. the Canberra thing ... I know all about it ... and in Melbourne, in my circles ( yours ? ) .. everyone's from Melbourne.

    Canberra was my closet Capital City growing up, and so spoken with great reverence whenever someone had something new, unusual, different ( esp after xmas ).

    "Oh, we picked it up in Canberra!"

    When Coles NEW WORLD opened up in Bega .. it was like WOW! .. we now longer have to go to Canberra for clothes.

    Oh yes.

    Thanks for the nom, BTW.
    I feel not very worthy, when all I do is crap on about myself. Not much worldly introspection here ;)

  3. I think everyone deserves to have their own/owned home... so let's hope the universe pulls through for you. (That said I've never heard of this bizarre phenomenon.)

  4. Don't feel bad about wanting stuff, unless it's someone else's stuff.

    "Please Dear Universe, kick these people out of their house so that we may move in" isn't likely to score points on your behalf.

    But asking for a windfall at nobody else's expense isn't bad.

    Just don't be ungrateful for what you have at the moment.


  5. It's so hard to strike a balance - doing your part for those less fortunate, while still being able to appreciate what you've been blessed with and allowing yourself to dream of maybe just a little bit more. I think you can ask for the house.

  6. Thinking blogger award.

    I don't know what it is, but it makes me feel good.

    I've been writing to the Universe for several years now. But she doesn't answer my letters.

    Do you think a quiet chat with a lawyer would be inappropriate?

  7. They say there's nothing new in the world; everything just keeps shifting shape. Don't you think that this "Dear Universe" thing is just old-fashioned praying with up-to-date window dressing? I see nothing wrong or greedy in wanting to own your own home. At least then your monthly housing expenses are making things more secure for your family......

  8. I think 'Dear Universe' is the equivalent of Dear Santa, only for grown-ups. ;-)

    And I'd never heard the expression 'Cargo Cult' ... very interesting.

  9. Somehow in the organising of planets and comets and black holes and nebula and stars of all sizes, the universe had time to worry about whether or not a dude had a house in France. That is HARD WORK!

  10. Dear Universe does sound suspiciously like a new form of prayer for the 'nonbelievers'.
    But I dont see harm to ask for a house for yourself & family. Ask! Ask! Whoever you ask, I hope you get one.

  11. The problem is the Universe, as Einstein proved, has moved and seemingly left no forwarding address.


  12. Not to worry.The Cargo Cult will come good eventually. Your parents will expire in the fullness of time, and then you can have your share of whatever they have left. Urge them to lead unhealthy lives.

  13. But then I'll miss the quirky comments they leave me on my blog...

  14. Surely the gain will mitigate the pain.

  15. Hey. I remember A.

    He was also my teacher, no doubt part of my naturally following most of the things my big sister did (that's what litting sister's do isn't it, look up in wonder at their big sister, and copy everything they do, trying to be as good as their elder sibling?).

    I regret to say I had the same sort of experience at the same bogan high-school (hated it). But I followed my sister to college which changed my life and my attitude towards education. And of course, because A had been your teacher, I naturally had to take classes run by A (and of course, therefore had the added pressure of having to actually do WELL, something I'd suffered throughout my entire schooling - at least you didn't go to the same university - 'oh, your STOMPER'S little sister!').

    The first subject I took with A was Ancient European history. I didn't do very well in this course, probably because I was scared stiff. I actually got my first (humm, and only? I can't remember)'raw prawn', which was A speak for an answer that was so bad/funny that earned you a small drawing (in red I think?) of a prawn, with the initials 'RP' next to the answer. The question from memory was was something like 'what was purgatory', and my answer was something like 'an illegal way to get to heaven' - honestly, I had no idea, but can see the funny side of it! Goodness, I even had to look it up to spell it correctly! Sigh..

    Anyway, I eventually settled down at college, and the classes with A were the highlight of my college years. Probably of my entire education, and that includes doing a degree in political science at the ANU (surely inspired by A himself). I remember his famous quotes, such as 'the bicycle was responsible for the women's liberation movement because it got them out of long skirts, and riding side saddle', and that french history only gets 2 (was it 2, or 12, probably 2) minutes, because that they deserved, and his funny narratives of european history leading up to WWI, and describing the interactions between France, Germany and England. It was his humour and wit, but undeniable foresight, that made all of this stuff so fascinating.

    He bred great cats too, although I never managed to get one myself, not for my very own.

    I can only wish that my children - yes, growing up in Canberra - which I would like to point out, has a LOT of strong points, so no Canberra bagging in front of me please - not least the capacity to own horses if you are not horrendously rich - are fortunate enough to have a teacher like A, and that they can be similarily inspired to learn, and to THINK!

    If you ask the Universe for the house, do you think it is ok for me to ask it for a lovely truck and horse float, and the spare change to move from our house to be in the next door suburb where Whelan goes to schoool?

  16. Another famous A quote, at the end of a particularly fabulous English essay I wrote, on Heathcliffe and Cathy in Wuthering Heights. I was so tired, I couldn't bear writing the conclusion (this is because we did our schooling before computers and Word was around, so we had to RE-WRITE our drafts - so last century!), so submitted it without one. At the end of my essay, was his handwritten comment 'and alas and woe, no conclusion, 18 and a half out of 20'. Another highlight, and another great A quote. Just to think, I might have gotten 19 or even higher if I'd just had the energy to write that conclusion. That essay sits with my political science University essay on organ donations, which I got a 90 (HD) for, as my crowning academic achievements!

  17. pps - A - if you ever read this, a HUGE hi from me. I think the last time I saw you was in Ted's Camera Store in Civic! If you are still breeding cats, or do so in the future, please can I get one? I had to get my Russian Blue cat Stolli put down last August, because she had diabetes (I have a diabetic curse obviously, my son was diagnosed as type 1 diabetic at only 18 months), breaking my little boy's heart (we didn't tell HIM it was diabetes obviously!), so I am living in a catless desert. The dog is too big and smelly to have on my lap at night!!! Although she tries her best, but my heart is just not in it!!!!!!

  18. I think my sister needs her own blog.

  19. Stomper - you deserve your own house mate - no two ways about it! But I know what you're saying about asking for it and all when most of us in the Western world are doing OK by world standards. But "homes" are a little different - they are emotionally charged zones that fill our need for stability and groundedness (if that's a word!)

    I do believe in that old saying "what goes around; comes around". It will come around for you (but some say that the coming round may not be in this lifetime) but I send out to the world positive thoughts in support of your own :-)

  20. Yes,Bronnie needs her own blog! I was doing this on Liz's when it dawned on me....
    You are both so right about the enormous influence for good that teachers have. "The Mag" was my most memorable teacher, and my children had several they'll never forget. On the other hand, a bad teacher has a lasting effect too, as we've also experienced.


Don't let the cat get your tongue.