A vision splended


Ronald Conway once wrote, "The soul of the Australian is a starving captive in a dungeon created by generations of either not caring, or dreading to show care". A very harsh comment indeed, yet it is the view of many of our writers, poets and film makers. D.H. Lawrence, a rather famous visitor to Thirroul, wrote that he observed in Australia "The disintegration of social mankind back to the elements". And what reason do these observers of the Australian psyche give for our demise?

Firstly, many writers observe that we have failed to cope with our origins. We still behave as a group of servile convicts - petty thieves and bullies. We are still governed that way and we respond to authority as if it were still true.

Secondly, many writers observe that we have failed to cope with our environment. "If you call the land a bride, she's the sort of bride not many of us are willing to tackle. She drinks your sweat and your blood, and then as often as not lets you drown, does you in." The land is something we feel we must tame, break, and yet so often she destroys us.

So here we are, the children of Europe, transported to an ancient land, slowly degenerating into a primitive people. To keep up the pretense of society we promote a superficial mateship. We avoid "self-examination in adolescent geniality and the Australian art of knocking". When that fails we resort to mind deadening booze. From the security of the costal urban sprawl we dream of the Aussie bush while it disappears before our very eyes.

Have our 20th Century Australian prophets put their finger on the problem? We are certainly a people with a mighty inner emptiness doing everything possible to hide it. We are ineffective in human relationships, unable to touch each other, unable to be open and sensitive. We are insecure, at one moment fawning and servile in the face of authority and at the next, cynical. A people degenerating back to the elements? Surely too harsh a judgment.

The "pub rail", says Manning Clark, "is the only communion rail to Australian men." Yet in our grasp for meaning we have found only emptiness. Our inner emptiness has not been calmed by mateship or by the mystic bush. Our loneliness remains, devoid of meaning we go our way, lost, cold and cynical.

If Jesus had not said, "I come that you might have life and have it more abundantly", then there would be little hope for us. Our hope rests in the hope of our forefathers who found in Jesus the true meaning to life. A truth lost for a moment only, and easily found.