This must be my heaven.
It's 11 at night - I just got home - some basmati rice is cooking on the stove, and a Mozart violin concert is playing on the radio.
Ah. This must be my heaven.
I know every note of the Mozart concert, but the solo musician and director has filtered it through some utterly alien sensibility and produced something at once more subtle and oddly disturbing of the familiar tones. It is as if I hear the Mozart in a dream and wake and have it all at once present in waking experience, but with the echo of rememberance overlaid like the eerie moan of the ocean at midnight, a sound so like that of woman crying in pain or ecstacy that it reminds me in its resonance of the frightful and profundly disturbing moment of my own birth.
I have had Marcel Proust at hand all day, reading it in snatches of five to ten pages. His book brings me great happiness today.
These opening pages of Temps Perdu are a synctium of the whole work. It is as if the first 45 pages of The Way By Swann's are a homeopathic ticture giving the bittersweet curative and purgative flavor of the entire work. I will quote the most striking sentence in another entry, but for now I am content to let it settle deeper into my consciousness and fill me with pleasure at the insight of this master of human relationships.
This morning I heard the Pathetique Symphony of Tychaikovsky on the radio, movement one and two. This is what I wrote, somewhat in a hurry to go out:
ON AUSTRALIAN CULTURE.
I was listening to Tychaikovsy on ABC radio today. Listening to the first part of his Pathetique, it is so obvious to me now how the view of life as essential a tragic drama of spiritual redemption underlies the Russian worldview. The feeling-water element and the intuition-fire element meet and ahniallate one another in the first part of this symphony, creating thereby a world of ideas and sensations - that is, of air and earth. What I am not prepared for, however, is the insight this casts into the Australian psyche.
The Australian weltanschauung would have to be optimistic and naive comedy of commercial imitation turning out better than imagined. Think Balzac's Cesar Birotteau set in a milliner's in Brunswick, Melbourne.
Australia has no historical figures whose names end with the suffix "the Great", and Russia has perhaps too many. Australia's defining catastrophe, the failed storming of Anzac Cove during the Great War, is small scale in comparison to two and a half century string of Russian disasters.
Australia's psyche might be made-for-televsion miniseries about two competing wealthy families, a protestant outback mob and a catholic inner city suburban clan, who over three generations from the first world war to the start of the Vietnam war protests intermarry first with each other, city breeding with country, then with new Australian Italians, then emigrant Singaporean Chinese, and for whom the political and social viccissitudes of their day mean nothing so much as a chance to sneer at the fussy Europeans and make more money from the Americans.
The consciousness of the Australian psyche is characterised by materialism and naivete. The unconscious shadow of the Australian psyche is expressed in physical overcompensation and intellectual self-sabotage. That is to say, Australian's worship sport as a compensation for our consistent failure to pay appropriate attention and funding to independent intellectual discoveries. Bluntly put, Australia bleeds innovation to other nations, resulting in an unfounded goodwill to Australians based not on our actual hard-won cultural eminence, but on our naive and scandalous mismanagement of our own intellectual resources.
The superior function, so to speak, of the Australian consciousness is earth or sensation, and the inferior or supporting function is fire and intuition.
As a result the current and the currency of the life of feeling and intellectualism flows unconsciously to more sophisticated elder nations, who under the pretense of patronage play the role of enabling Australia to remain unaware of itself as an individual culture. This accounts for the strange sense of ill-defined cultural identity in the Australian people. In a nation whose goodwill is based on concealing emotional and intellectual realities, prosperity is dependent on keeping everything undefined and vague.
The lack of definition in the Australian psyche is the main aspect of our shadow. Our shadow side is water, feeling function. Australians are the famed military who die with a quiet "Aw geez!" on the battlefield; Australians are the intellectuals who are valued for their ability to lie low and worship football; Australians are the people who will call you "mate" but steadfastly refuse to define exactly what obligations and responsibilities to one another said mateship might entail; and Australians are the people who make out as if the word "laconic" actually describes a personality trait worth having.
Beneath the shadowy realm of the poorly articulated feeling life of the Australian culture and people lies the hidden gift of Australia to the world. The unobserved and unnoticed treasure of Australian culture is intellectual liberty the likes of which I have seen nowhere else on earth.
This is where Australia's greatest strength lies, then: as a greenhouse to foster intellectual achievement. And instead of daring to define ourselves and expose the overcompensating vulgarity of Australian sporting excellence for the frightened sham it really is, Australia has been a nursery to endless suburban breeding hives since the mid-1940s. Instead of building a vibrant intellectual public life, Australians have managed to fostering only an endless blob of materialistic and naive adults whose entitlement to the fruits of individual intellectual labor and whose unprecedented liberty to explore the life of the mind is taken for granted not simply as a given privilege, but arrogantly as a natural endowment as a result of having been born in Australia. Such is the naive shortsightedness of the average Australian as to their privileges and blessings they are born into. For lack of intellectual and emotional excellence, the mob of opinionated Australians shout out any attempt to clarify the messy shadow qualities of Australian culture with a chorus of ill-informed and vulgar views. And from lacking a clear sense of collective public life, Australians have expressed the need for genuine intellectual excellence by reducing emotional and intellectual development to a materialistic outcome.
To sum up, in Australia the question "What did you learn today?" brings mockery, while the question "How much did you earn today?" inspires respect.
That is all I wrote this morning.
On re-reading it I would add that it is actually really rude to disrespect the younger culture of Australia from the vantage point of the Old West which I am most familiar with. It is a delicate balance between vaunting the obvious superiority of Western Culture in general, while accepting and valuing the fresh energy of the New West. A criticism is only as effective as it is also kind.