In my last piece I finished with these two images and the statement “authority and control are the shadow side of authenticity and imperfection”. I have spent most of my life attempting to reconcile authenticity with authority by “doing the right thing”. At school I would abide not only by the rules but by the expectations of the teachers, other students, and the society in which I lived if I was to be regarded as a friend or useful contributor to that society. This is how we all live successfully, by mostly conforming to the authority of what is accepted practice in our school, workplace, social environment and life we choose. Those outside of “accepted practice” are regarded as rebels or at worst criminals and perhaps even insane. It is all measured on what we do, who we do it with and how we respond to those we are with. Our actions are observed, our results are quantified and we are assessed accordingly on the scale of “rightness”. But is that really an “authentic” life?
A life lived in obedience to an external set of requirements is not an authentic life, I believe. It is a life half-lived, a life lived in “image” not reality. What is real is inside you, inside your heart, your mind, your soul, your essential humanness, your source. There is only one person who really knows you and that is yourself. What you do and say with anyone else is an “image” you want to project at that time in that situation. You relate to people in honesty but that relationship is always coloured by the knowledge of what has occurred in the past, the sensation you each have in the present and the goal you wish for in the future. Relationship is a constant transmission of energy in a cyclical fashion.
But what about the Law; what about morals, beliefs, standards, guidelines, even rules that ensure the society we live in does not degenerate into chaos and madness? In Australia, those laws are based on the British tradition which arrived on this continent 231 years ago. It completely replaced a system of Law that had been in place in this Southern Continent for at least 60,000 years and possibly much longer. The British could not “see” this Law because it was held in the landscape and the stories that the people who lived here told as they journeyed on that landscape. Mother Earth was their source, the basis of their life and their law, which was to them, the same thing. The British tradition was based on codes, precedents, written words that people could express and define and show others where they were wrong, regardless of how they “thought” they should live.
This written system of Law has built up over time from the Roman law that was established throughout the Empire in Europe then substantially enforced in an adapted form by the Roman Church which was in turn the basis of law in the developing European system of Empire building that led to British settlement of this Southern Continent. Between the Roman Empire, the Roman Catholic Church and the growing commercial business empires of capitalist Europe, we now have the country we call “Australia” ruled by Governments adapted from a British system known as “Westminster” with its codified Rule of Law and with a people living in a society where people’s worth is defined in terms of educational achievement, social success and a work ethic that rewards competition and acquisition. We define people by where they are, what they say and what they do. Even our beliefs are codified, with “good Christians” defined as those who “do good things” or who attend religious services in their chosen church. Where is our source, where is our “heart”? What is an “authentic” life? The answer, I believe, lies in understanding that word “imperfection” and knowing what “control” really means.
I will continue, but first some images to stimulate reflection.