Memoria ( Kurt Cobain)

I wrote this in a note book, a stream of consciousness, and I’ve just edited it a bit… a pencil portraitIt’s coming up to twenty years after Kurt Cobain died. Twenty years ago he was trying to pretend that there was nothing wrong, while everyone around him panicked for  various reasons. Even the ones who saw him as a cash-cow on some level must have had concern for the man he was. Most of them loved him at least a little bit. However, no one could salve his terminal sadness, not even Frances. (She’d be better off without him, he believed). Courtney was no more self-aware than he was, so not much help in the crisis. I’m pretty sure that he wanted/expected her to come and rescue him after he fled back to Seattle, but she didn’t get his calls (he forgot the secret code she’d given him), so she stayed in LA. And he gave up, and died alone.

Everyone has to make the final exit fundamentally alone, but a witness or two is a comfort on the journey. A witness or two might have anchored him in this life. Who knows?

Their nanny, Cali, thought he was a dream, Courtney didn’t get his calls. He must have felt as invisible, unwanted and irrelevant as when he was a little boy and his parents divorced – not at all amicably. Just because so many people suffer these wounds doesn’t make them any less dangerous. “Is yours a sad story?” asked Michael Azzerad. “……..No…….” said Kurt. Lots of people have the same story. But, Kurt, they all have a sad story, they are all suffering, many of them will medicate away the gnawing sadness at the core of their being; many will die, like you, too young. Or just stagger through life in a haze of alcohol and misery. That sadness needs to be acknowledged and addressed if the wound is to heal. Not enough people seem to be managing that, if the great plague of anxiety and drugs is any thing to go by. Maybe childhood wounds are what drive all the paranoia and fear in the media? And that feeds into the anxieties of the public, so that it is magnified in a feedback loop.

A few years ago, the news in Victoria was full of report of people carrying knives – and guess what?- more people started carrying knives to “protect” themselves from the other people whom they believed to be carrying knives. Hence more problems with knives as anxious, fearful people “protected” themselves from each other. Frightened people with weapons are always dangerous. Police who are required to carry guns should also be required to learn to live without fear – Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Naht Hanh teaches mindfulness courses for police and other emergency workers. Then they might be able to calm the frightened child with the knife instead of killing him. I wandered a bit there, but that is what Kurt Cobain has done for me. I see the world differently. And for that I am grateful, even as I wish fervently that he didn’t feel the need to do it, that he was still with us, an old fart having reunions and exhibiting his paintings, maybe selling the recordings of outsider artists out of the boot of his car in little towns that don’t care who he was or know what “insider art” implies. They are all outsiders…a pastel portrait

Is that it?  King of Grunge, Top of the Pops, known, imitated, desired by millions, in his head was he still the little kid whose parents betrayed his love and need, the boy who didn’t really feel wanted anywhere and didn’t fit in. Whether he ever slept under the Young St Bridge  or not, he couch surfed for much of his adolescence, sleeping in a cardboard box in someones porch at one stage. All the money and adulation in the world couldn’t make up for those years as the undesired rat-kid, a role that itself went back to the great divorce. Did no one ever say – we’re so sorry Kurt, it’s not your fault, we just don’t get along but we still love you and Kimmy, and we’ll look after you both, just not us together. Too late now. It didn’t help either that Wendy fought for custody of both children, but passed Kurt on to his father when the little boy was hard to manage.He only needed love and reassurance (don’t we all!), but Wendy had her own issues. As did Don. As do most of us.

There’s our problem.The issues of the parents are visited on the children, even unto the umpteenth generation, unless someone is able to break the chain. Some folks prevent the passing on of issues by having no issue. Drastic but effective. Most of us barely know we have issues, and our unconsciously driven behaviour causes us endless trouble and grief. Becoming conscious is the only proper solution. So simple, yet so difficult.a stencil portrait
Kurt Cobain is my “Favourite Subject” in more ways than one – here are three of the art works I’ve made over the years. Capturing a person’s facial expression, and something of the essence of their personality is a constant and provoking challenge.

3 Quotes: Kounter Dominator Culture

Lotus pod, with seeds

“As empathy ties the knots between us,
intelligent, unconditional love
unleashes a torrent of peace.”

Marietta McCarthy

“How Philosophy Can Save Your Life”Golden evening

“The mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service.”

John Stewart Mill

“On Liberty”palimpset

” If the parent is able to create the right balance between secure attachment and at the same time encouraging independent exploration, the child will develop a healthy sense of self and acquire the appropriate emotional maturity to engage others and develop meaningful relationships.  If, however, the parent is not able to provide a sense of warmth and security and allow the infant to explore the world, the child will grow up with an arrested sense of self and be unable to enter into more than superficial relationships with others.
…Subsequent research into the parent/child dynamic…clearly shows that the more empathic the mother or father figure, the more able they are to identify emotionally and cognitively and to read their child’s needs. A parent with immature, inadequate, or deficient empathic sensitivity is not going to be as successful in producing a well-adjusted, trusting and caring child, who feels both secure and independent and able to enter into meaningful relationships with others.”

Jeremy Rifkin

“The Empathic Civilisationlotus pod, with seeds

Empathy, as the Rifkin quote implies, is best learnt in infancy, modeled by parents and/or other caregivers, but it can be taught, even to adults. It is part of the curriculum for medical students at Melbourne Uni, I believe. The teaching of mindfulness, of which one consequence is increased empathy, would save the world a lot of trouble (and money) in years to come.mastery 2

What is dominator Culture? Egyptian politics. Or Syrian. Or the Taliban, desperate to control the frightening spectre of an undependent Feminine, murdering schoolgirls. Even in ‘civilised’ Australia, politics demonstrates the unpleasant, unhelpful and lovely truths of Dominator Culture, where one-upmanship holds sway, and co-operation and compassion are of no account.

Empathy: what it’s good for

morning lightI’ve been having a bit of a clean out, moving things around and going through boxes of saved papers to see what I can do without. I found this piece of writing in one of those boxes. It was typed on an a word-processor that is long gone, so I wrote it well over ten  years ago. Evidently this has been on my mind for a long time!’ George Bushism’ would refer to the elder of the two – I decided to let that stand, however dated, as only the labels have changed.

Empathy, empathy, god grant us EMPATHY!

Empathy could save the world.

Empathy could destroy – militarism, terrorism, George Bushism.

Empathy is what Tibetan Buddhists cultivate in order to grow in compassion.

Empathy could destroy – xenophobia, war, greedy banks.

Empathy would make babies happy and grow them into happy adults.

Empathy prevents depression.

Empathy is more precious than any commodity you care to name.

Empathy can be taught.

And it’s high time it was.

Empathy, Empathy! Empathy is what makes us human – humans being – being in relation to others, and if we are not in relation to others, what are we?

Empathy allows others inside each others heads and hearts.

Babies die without empathy, and with not enough, they grow up to be psychopaths – incapable of feeling, of understanding – or caring – how anyone else is feeling.Seattle sheep graf


I also found this quote, scribbled on the back of a recipe…

“Living with hybrid identities and multiple cultural affiliations breeds a bottom-up cosmopolitanism and empathic extension. By incorporating diverse cultures, individuals become multicultural in their own identity; and therefore more tolerant and open to the diversity around them. A multicultural identity also gives an individual a richer reservoir of personal experiences and feelings to draw upon in expressing empathy to others.”

Jeremy Rifkin

‘The Empathic Civilization.’

What he is basically saying there is – everybody needs to get out more, literally and figuratively, and we’ll all be much better off personally and socially.

Empathy is one powerful way to Counter Dominator Culture!chair shadow

Change V – Wrap Up

“Be the change you want to see in the world”

attributed to Mohondas Gandhi be the one

Want to see more Peace in the world?

Be more peaceable.

Take up meditation.

Practice serenity as much as you can.serenity

Want to see more Love in the World?

Be more loving.

Try not to limit love.


Don’t just love your friends

Anyone can do that.

Learn to love those who frighten you;

Have compassion for those

who disgust you;

Forgive the greed of the rich

As well as the need of the poor;

When you see that the evil

are lonely and afraid,

and feel compassion-

When you see that the rich

are empty and confused,

and feel compassion-

When you learn to love the unlovable,

Accept the unacceptable,

Touch the untouchable,

Forgive the unforgivable,

You will have made your dwelling place

In the heart of

Want to see more Empathy in the world?

Cultivate empathy in yourself.

It’s catching.

Twin Jackets

Peace, Love and Empathy naturally lead on to Justice and Compassion.

If we can stretch our care and understanding to the whole world, as in the Tibetan Buddhist practice of compassion, then it is natural to respect all others as ourselves (first we must love ourselves!), and justice must then follow.

It’s the way to make our world a better place, one person at a time.



Peace, Love and Empathy

Are branches of one tree,

Sprung from one root;

From this same tree

Grow Justice and Compassion.

This is the Tree of Life.

This is the Tree that is given

For the Healing of the Nations;

This is the tree that is grown

For the Healing of our Souls.

Don’t cut it down,

Or burn or poison;

Embrace it with your heart and soul

And be set free.

Another year is over, time to change the calendars, time for many of us to make resolutions for the New Year.

Time for a final blog post for 2012, in the midst of the busy-ness of the Holiday season.

The two poems I have included, I wrote quite some time ago, but the themes are those I keep re-visiting, and will likely keep re-visiting for the rest of my days! Because I believe they matter more than anything, although they are easy to forget in the press of life. As John Lennon said, “Imagine..”Imagine.

Kounter Dominator Culture



If I am to adopt “Kounter Dominator Culture” as some kind of slogan or template, then I must explain what I mean. The Dominator Culture is that of paranoia and patriarchy, driven by a desire to control and destroy whatever does not fit that male and fearful paradigm. It abhors the “feminine”, those things deemed traditionally to be feminine, the dark, mysterious and unpredictable. The creative that does not seem productive ( from that controlling male point of view), the wild, dark, dank places, fecundity, the weedy, pointless wilderness, the community of sisters in which the male is irrelevant, the soft, the weak, the uncontrollable. Even the power of sex, in which man can be lost – unmanned- so sex is trivialised in pornography. Porn controls sex and puts it in its place. However much it talks about slippery and steamy places, there is control. It’s the straightener mentality, that wants everything neat and fitted into boxes, packed into drawers, labeled, categorised, computed. Untidy things that wont fit into the grid will be trimmed to size, unruly clippings discarded and hidden in deeper drawers. ( In science, this has happened – with fossils and archaeological finds. They don’t fit the theory – so they are ‘lost’.

Paranoia is not at all adventurous or free thinking. It does not want to know new things. It fears everything hidden and unknown, and assumes, for safety’s sake, that whatever is hidden and unknown must be inherently evil and therefore to be avoided at all costs and destroyed if possible. In colonial times (which are not entirely over) this has been the approach to native peoples and their culture. They become part of that Great Feminine which must be  controlled or else destroyed. If it wont be tamed with beads and mirrors, then it must be hunted down and shot, or at least, moved onto a mission or reservation, and taught to behave.

Having established some notion of what Dominator Culture is, how to Kounter it? Not with any sort of violence. With ahimsa. Non-violent  non-co-operation, passive resistance. By refusing to co-operate, refusing to be controlled, refusing to lie down and play dead, refusing to obediently consume all the trash that is being pushed. Arundhati Roy says that women must be at the centre of resistance, and that women will leave  and that fundamentalists will take over, if violence is used as a means of displaying disgust and resistance. All you have than is terrorism, which is part of that Paranoid Patriarchy – right up its rigid fear-filled alley. Fundamentalists are just an arm of Patriarchy, anyway. This is what is wrong with Fear Factory and other such roaring resistors of the way things are. You just cannot change a paradigm and fit into it at the same time. To Kounter Dominator Culture is to build a new one, gently dismantling the old one, like a puff-ball pressing its gentle way through the asphalt of a footpath in Moonee Ponds. Seemingly unlikely, yet irresistible  inevitable (and true)


Dominator Culture equals Male Culture, or rather, Masculist Culture, which is very hard for us to see, because we are up to our necks in it. It is necessary to climb out and look at it from another angle in order to see it more clearly. It is necessary to be separated from it, differentiated. This cannot happen at the social level unless individuals en masse  first take the step, or rather, begin that journey. Only when so many individuals have risen from the masculist social soup and dried themselves off a bit that the point of critical mass is reached – only then will the ‘soup’ evaporate and something new take its place. How many million personal revolutions must there be for the social revolution to quietly unfold? I’ve no idea. But every parent who comes clear will raise a child or children less messed up than they themselves were. Slowly, slowly. Its the puffball effect, quietly shouldering its way through the hard, unforgiving crust.


Differentiation- if a couple isn’t differentiated – if there’s an ‘overfunctioner’ and an ‘underfunctioner’ – the underfunctioner becomes, not a person in their own right, but a function of the other, some sort or vassal, vessel, bent out of shape and diminished by being (or seeming) part  of that other person. And the dominators personhood is in no great shape, either. That’s dominator culture on the small scale. The dominated, colonised one needs her (generally it’s her) self back, but usually she has no idea what that ‘self’ might be, her life having been subsumed by the other, their wants and needs. That’s what has happened between ‘male’ and ‘female’ in traditional society. The ‘female’ needs to draw a line in the sand. She needs to figure out who she is, what she is, and what she wants and believes and to stand up for that. And never give in. and say like it or lump it, and mean it, too. That’s not easy for someone trained from birth to roll over and play dead as and when the Master requires. To give, but not to receive. To accept with gratitude whatever it is the Master does not want, to take the leftovers (and share them), to be leaned on but never to lean. To conceal pain and cry in secret places. We have been complicit in our own bondage, because we did not know what it was. But we are learning. Anger is an energy, but if it is not put to constructive use, then it is a waste of energy. Anger tells us there is a problem, if only we can recognize the anger for what it is, and then figure out what we want to do next. Stand up and be counted. Kounter Dominator Culture, where ever that may be, non-violently. Ahimsa!

Some of the writers whose books have influenced these ideas –

Derrick Jensen A Language Older Than Words

Alice Miller- The Truth Will Set You Free, For Your Own Good et al

Arundhati Roy -The Cost of Living

Mahatma Gandhi

Anger Is An Energy is a song by John Lydon and his band PIL