The author has been described by News Ltd as an "iconoclast", "Svengali", a pollie's "economist muse", and "pungently accurate". Fairfax says he is a "Renaissance man" and "one of Australia’s most respected analysts." Stephen Koukoulas concludes that he is "85% right", and "would make a great Opposition leader." Terry McCrann claims the author thinks "‘nuance’ is a trendy village in the south of France", but can be "scintillating" when he thinks "clearly". The ACTU reckons he’s "an enigma wrapped in a Bloomberg terminal, wrapped in some apparently well-honed abs."

Friday, April 8, 2011

Ode to the (un)born one, Jesse Joye...

Update: Jesse was born at 930am this morning in Laguna Beach, California, which is where I am right now. He arrived safe and sound--it was a seamless delivery. I wrote this little missive on the flight over and decided to hold off on publishing until he was actually here given our many, many trials and tribulations...

Well, son, I have not met you, yet. I thought it might be fun to pen some stream-of-consciousness thoughts in advance of your much-anticipated arrival (it has taken us more than five years!). And, now I think about it, 'pen' is apposite. Because it was my sister, and your brilliant aunty, Pen, who sagely--and arguably bravely--introduced me to your very beautiful Mum. And, as I am sure you now know, one would be hard pressed to compel the convergence of two more incongruent paths. Your Mum would no doubt say that our union is a miracle of human chemistry. She certainly dated many more handsome candidates before she selected your father, it saddens me to say. Tis also true that 'selected' is the operative word, since, as she is inclined to remind me, she had many 'alternatives' on the day she confirmed her destiny.

Moving forward to the present, I am currently sitting on an A380 around 40,000 feet above sea-level. According to the flightpath, we are gliding along halfway between Hawaii and Vanuatu. For what it is worth, I am using the first generation Apple iPad. God only knows what technology you will be harnessing in the decade or two hence when you actually sit down and read this!

Okay, I know I am taking my time. On to the good stuff. So, yes, I am apprehensive. To be frank, I was originally hoping for a girl only because having a son seems to bestow upon men a rather heightened sense of responsibility. I have intense demands being placed on me, and I guess being a father to a son, and all that that inevitably entails, was a bit daunting. How could I ever be as kind, wise and munificent as my Dad? 

Now, you owe an enormous debt of gratitude to your Mum. Few women have expended so much time and energy trying to bring a new life into this world. Over 15 IVF cycles with infusions of extreme doses of hormones, unrelenting failure, extraordinary sacrifices from friends and close family (especially his grand-mum), and then the awe-inspiring altruism of Natalie and her husband in helping us deliver you into the world...This must have been one of the longest, and most taxing, gestations in history!

One thing you can draw from all of this is that you are a very special boy. And I have to admit a betrayal of sorts here. I have told your (younger) uncles, Kai and Jett, that those special few born in this way are gifted with ESP. They have thankfully committed to a blood oath to never disclose this information to anyone, lest it fall into the wrong hands...

What advice can I impart at this time? Family is everything. There will be few folks that have truly unconditional faith in your potential. And you will find most of them in your immediate family. Two of my greatest heroes are my Dad, your gramps, and his father, your great grand-dad, Ted.

I remember when I was about your age, and plodding down the road with my grandfather. At the time, I was terribly naughty, and always getting into trouble. I got into so many fights at school that they gave me the nickname, "Rambo". My younger sisters, Daisy and Hermione, were, by comparison, pictures of pure perfection. As was my older sister, who, as I noted above, can claim credit for your genesis. Just as Jesse was the source of Jesus in the Bible, so Peachy was the soil from which you sprang.

Whereas my sisters were school prefects, outstanding students, and generally god-fearing souls, I set the school record for the most Saturday detentions in a single weekend. A barely-believable 18 hours worth! Your older uncles, Ash and Sax, were no better, by the way. Ash blew up the school science labs while Sax, well, I cannot actually write what Saxo was doing!

Anyway, my grandfather was walking me down the street that day. And, let's be clear: he had no good reason to think I would amount to much. But he nevertheless pulled me aside, looked me intently in the eyes with his large hands resting firmly on my shoulders, and whispered a few profoundly important words into my ear. He said, Chrissy, you have the potential to be a great man. I was genuinely surprised by this sudden burst of confidence in the resident recalcitrant. Yet they were words of encouragement that would fortify me for years. They were my psychological security blanket. When the chips were stacked against me, I knew there was at least one person out there who believed I could surmount the insurmountable.

The message here is 'faith'. It takes a long time to have real faith in your own ability. But once you do, that trust can be enriching and empowering. You eventually work out that there is little you cannot achieve once you discover that your supposed limits are much more about perception and practice.

You will learn the hard way that few people are deserving of your own unfettered faith. Having said that, you do need to have faith in others in order to sustain yourself. The human condition is an inherently social one. We are not built to be alone. In fact, it is precisely the fission, fusion, and fun that we experience when interacting daily with others that defines our lives. It is a condition precedent to our humanity. You were literally brought into this world inside another person, which is remarkable when you think about it. I metaphorically live inside my head as much as anyone, but such isolation is not a tenable life model in the long-run.

So, it is critical that you strive to contribute constructively to the lives of others, and never wittingly hurt anyone in a mortal or irreversible way. I know it's hard to be good all the time. In my early twenties, I started trying to avoid any form of schadenfreude. It's difficult, though, since human nature is heavily orientated towards competition. The attempted denial of this has led to flawed social systems, which you will learn about in the years ahead.

I have absolutely no idea what lies beyond, and gave up on my inebriated and all-too-prolonged teenage wonderings in search of a tractable answer. The one thing I do know is that we are biologically engineered to propagate our genes. It's a genetic war out there. Competition is hard-wired into our DNA. Just remember  that human progress is not a zero-sum game. One way or another, we are all standing on our forebears' shoulders, genetically, intellectually and economically.

On this note, a friend of ours is having a very troubling time right now. It is awfully tough composing words to another in these circumstances. Nevertheless, I have enclosed below what sprung to my mind. It might help when trying to navigate through the puddles that every once in a while conspire to thwart the good that resides within:

"When all is said and done, all that one can ask for in life is to have contributed positively to those that we share it with, and to have sought to have left the world in a better place than the one we first confronted. You have satisfied both these objectives in spades.

Australia is a different nation because of your labours. It is no exaggeration to claim that you have helped personally shape our shores, and will be remembered fondly and with gratitude as a consequence.

One day, I will be in a similar situation. We all eventually face our fate. If I can emulate just a small proportion of your deeds, I will pass a contented man and be able to embark on whatever lies in wait with happiness and humility."

Postscript: David Clarke, who I wrote these words to, passed at 11am today, about 90mins after Jesse arrived. He was an amazing man.

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