I watched the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos as they struggled to fly against the polar winds hitting Melbourne this morning. They were on their way to another of their many feeding grounds. I passed them driving home this morning all heads down, busy eating. They are one of my favourite birds.
Though it made me think.
On such a cold day these birds, along with many others, have to eat to survive the cold. This is the same for many people in the world. Not for me though as I type this out in a heated room, a cup of tea to my right, and chocolate teddy bear biscuits within reach. I sit here writing this article while listening to ABC Classic FM, in a well lit room by led globes, sitting on an IKEA chair.
I did not make any of these things, except for the cup of tea, though that came through a tea bag and an electric kettle. So, really I made absolutely nothing. The power comes to the house, as does the water and the gas, and especially the internet. I am connected, established and well kept on this cold, wet and windy Friday.
Medical and political techniques make life better
Later on today I am off to the local Hospital for my regular appointment with the Liver Specialist. I have seven medical specialists in my life right now, and that is not counting my Dentist. I was born with a mixed assortment of maladies, a congenital deformity and idiopathic scoliosis. Without the medical scientific advancements accessible to me I would at best not be able to walk or stand.
What makes my position even more unique for me is that I have met another with one of my conditions. She was not born in Australia and lives her life in a wheelchair. There was no medical welfare in her country. Even if there was she would not have had access to the advanced techniques that enable me to stand, walk, run, cycle and play cricket.
What has been denied to her was made openly available to me and I have that series of Australian governments from 1973 to today to thank for the incredible situation I am able to live in. I have uttered thanks to Gough, Fraser, Hawke and Keating as the establishment of medicare and social welfare in this country has enabled me and many others to find themselves alive and in shelter on a cold and windy Friday.
Techniques, technology and hope
Now I mentioned “technique” again did I? Yes, there it is in the fifth paragraph describing the advanced medical techniques that I have undergone that enhance my body. Technique describes all the political, electrical, medical, musical, engineering developments that make it possible for me to exist and sit comfortably inside while the wind is howling outside my windows.
For this very reason there are those (like Canadian Philosopher George Grant) who describe humanity as technology. “We are technology”, proclaims Grant. He is aghast at it especially the variant that he sees taking place south of the Canadian border (U.S.A). Grant harkens back to the Ancient Greeks, to an age of contemplation to something less technical.
American William F. Lynch S.J. (Jesuit) called for a rediscover of that which has “the taste of the human”. A call to revisit those earlier understandings of what being human is. In his work , Lynch points out the place of hope and hopelessness as a foundational element in the development of every person. In the act of wishing and imagination we are able to hope together for those very human goals.
When our hopes are revealed as impossible, we are supposed to rebound off this boundary and with imagination to attempt another way. That is until we realise that this wish is hopeless and to attempt to attain it only leads to an endless cycle. We have to move on to something else otherwise we will be trapped repeating the same futile actions that do not bear fruit.
Do we hope in techniques?
Techniques are not hope, though there are and were many who hope for the attainment of a technique. Francis Bacon for one, along with Descatres and even Oppenhiemer. Bacon hoped that in time humanity would attain and develop the techniques to enable us. Descartes was similar to Bacon though his process of attainment of scientific discoveries was less technical and more hope-based. While Bacon tested and repeated scientific developments, critiquing the language and terms used in his pursuit of a standardised scientific project, others like Newton followed the revelations and eureka moments.
Then there is Oppenhiemer and his quest for nuclear fusion and the atomic bomb. It is here when we begin the downstroke. Not one to damn someone over one line but when asked why he went looking for the solution to the atomic bomb (solution so not the right word) Oppenhiemer replied that the science was too sweet.
The task and development of technique has lead to where I sit right now, while the wind rages outside. I cannot make or design any of this. It just happens around me. I pay for it by working. I turn the switch and the light goes on, the heater goes on. There is no hope involved in this. It is an expectation.
The magic of expectation
We are no longer hoping like we once did. There is too much done for us, even though I like many are alive because of the techniques and technological developments that we depend upon. Arthur C. Clarke's quote “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” has me in thinking that this is where we find ourselves. In a place where technique is the one magic that is the only choice for all the problems of humanity. No hope for technique but our expectation of technique.
When hope is fulfilled it is no longer hope. A hope is to come. Technique is the magic that fulfils hope. When it is no longer hope it is expected. At what point is the requirement for imagination? At what point does the condition of fulfilled hope lead to the end of wishing?
If there is no need for anything but the continued practice of technique, then is this not a form of endlessness? An endlessness that give us hopelessness.
Phillip Hall has been too long in Melbourne to see AFL in the same light as those back in Fremantle. East Fremantle born and bred, he would love to see the Dockers back in the eight. But would settle for just beating West Coast twice a year.