Last night, I had a long video call with my best friend in New Zealand, someone I met through work in 2007, and whom I spent some time in the Antarctic with in 2008 (Nev in Dead Men, to be precise). It’s such a long time since we spoke, partly because of the huge time difference and partly because we’re both so busy with work and life, and there always seem to be new mountains to climb. We’ve always spoken by phone, and we both laughed at the fact we’d not thought before of video-calling instead. I don’t know if that makes us both dinosaurs or just distracted middle-aged men. I think we ended up putting each other’s lives into perspective, somehow, and when he said to me (and I can’t do an impression of a Kiwi accent, never mind write it down phonetically) “Small kids small problems, big kids big problems,” it made me realise two things – we get very insular when we’re absorbed by our direct personal issues with family, and that there are others in the same position as us (which we forget in our insularity). He almost suggested we have a virtual beer together next time, but then we realised that one of us would be drinking at 9 in the morning, which wouldn’t be such a good idea. We’re going to try to make these conversations more regular. Our dads’ shed, albeit virtual.
Bregman continues to occupy my reading hours. The interesting thing right now for me is that his exposition of human nature is at the stage where it’s actually depressing, because he has already established, for me, that there is so much kindness and goodness in humans but that it’s being oppressed out of us all by the systems we have, over the course of millennia, allowed to build up around us, that the structures of society are what is actually producing the psychopaths who oppress us, that we have imprisoned ourselves in those structures, and have forgotten that life was all about learning through disorganised play, and about having joy in between bouts of hunting and gathering and being nomads and being a part of the historic food chain. I still have 200 pages to go before I see his final conclusions, but it struck me that I as a parent have been complicit in creating structures that have probably negatively impacted my children’s lives. Inevitably, this is overthinking, but what is philosophy (and the poet’s reflections on the human condition) but overthinking? In fact, art is probably the greatest result of overthinking, and, in the same breath, the most obvious outcome of learning through play (with paint, words, sounds, objects, everything), and the greatest source of joy. There are no objective measures of quality. There are no measures. Let’s all make some art today!
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 32