Wednesday, May 26, 2004

What I'm reading

Looking back, my days majoring in English (Lit) at Melbourne University in the mid-80s, were ones of Brideshead-ian languor, as suitably cut down for the time and place.

Externally, my then character (complete with blue mohawk) owed more to the cast of TV's "The Young Ones" than to anything drawn by Waugh. For the life of the mind, though, this was time of haute classicism - to which can be added a sense of exquisite urgency, as portents from the ever-darkening real world occasionally lobbed in.

The Eighties - such as they have come to be popularly considered - thus more or less passed me by. While the boomers were proclaiming "greed is good" on every downtown street corner, I was either not listening, or else didn't care. It was only in 1988, with the thin edge of the HECS wedge looming, that the massive social changes being wrought by Reagan/Thatcher fundamentalism became concrete for me.

Which is not to say that Melbourne's English Department of the mid-80s was some kind of ivory tower. Far from it, in fact - it faced downtown with arrogant cocksureness; a stance that later would be recognised by 22nd C anthropologists as a precursor ritual practised by academics facing the ten-storey wall of terror and delight called Theory.

The above story is told to explain why I don't often do "What I'm reading". It's because I'm super-sensitive to the Canon. I got there just in time to get homage (that's homm-arge, BTW) for it drummed into me, but at the same time to be told, in no uncertain terms, that the Canon was now closed*; i.e. that all subsequent writers of exceptional talent would have to find some other place to be filed for posterity under.

Anyway, to cut to the chase. I reckon I'm going to commit the unthinkable, by suggesting that a writer be added to the Canon - and a living (b 1936) writer at that. His name is David Caute.

(Cont'd 27 May 2004)

I'd never heard, or read anything of Caute until a couple of weeks ago, when I came across two volumes labelled The Demonstration and The Occupation. Having a middling interest in student protests, I thought (correctly) that the two books might be along such lines, and so dived into them.

In so doing (and I read very few books "cold", other than from a sense of duty or of specialised interest), I was reassured and encouraged by the fact/expectation that (i) the two books were part of a trilogy (and even better, that the trilogy consisted of a play, a novel and an essay), (ii) the author's versatility didn't just stop there, with an edited** Essential Writings of Karl Marx under his belt, and most importantly, (iii) that the two books, published in 1970 and 1971, might have something important and "new" to say about the 1968 generation, having been written and published in real time, as it were.

So far, this latter expectation has been abundantly met. The Demonstration (the play; 1970) is an intelligent and provocative exploration of the limits of student protest generally, and a time capsule about Western universities in the late 60s in particular. It also contains some great one-liners - I'm sure, the first and last of this sort ever written by one who has, of necessity, read great swathes of Karl Marx.

While I'm only about a third of the way through The Occupation (the novel; 1971), it's clear that Caute is no one-hit wonder. The protagonist of both play and novel, academic Steven Bright, is depicted with particular relish and realism in the novel as a dirty, dirty man.

Looking up Caute's subsequent biography, there is obviously much more by Caute that is going to be worthwhile reading.

The most recent book on the list, from 1998, comes with an attached sad story, though. A parody (and apparently a ripsnorter at that) on the S@lman Rushdee affair, it was rejected by more than twenty publishers, before finally being self-published by Caute.

Which goes to show that terrorist appeasement was in high fashion in the West, years before 2001. In more ways than one, Islamofascism is the true and only love child of 1968.

* A neat little precursor of HECS this one was too - in hindsight - HECS saw the drawbridge raised against GenX, who were then forced to buy their way into university, irrespective of academic merit, and irrespective of whether they were part-way through their courses

** Karl Marx should no more be read unedited than pornography be viewed for its narrative.

Many people know the importance of self confidence and try to boost their own by using many different personal development models. Self confidence to most people is the ability to feel at ease in most situations but low self confidence in many areas may be due to a lack of self esteem. Low self esteem takes a more subtle form that low self confidence. So if you are tired of feeling not good enough, afraid of moving towards your desires and goals, feel that no matter what you do it is just never good enough, then your self esteem could do with a boost.

Every day we make decisions based on our level of self-esteem. We also exhibit that level of self esteem to those around us through our behaviour. 90% of all communication is non-verbal - it is not what you say but ho you say it that matters! Your body language, tonality and facial gestures can all tell a completely different story to your words. It is our behaviour which influences others and people react to us by reading our non-verbal communications. Have you ever met someone you just didn't like although on the surface they seemed polite and courteous, or you met someone who seemed to speak confidently yet you knew they were really frightened underneath and just displaying bravado?

Parental and peer influences play a major part in moulding our level of self-esteem when we are children and in our early years of adolescence. The opinions of the people closest to us and how they reacted to us as individuals or part of the group was a dominant factor in the processes involved in forming our self esteem.

As adults we tend to perpetuate these beliefs about ourselves and in the vast majority of cases they are ridiculously erroneous. It is time to re-evaluate our opinion of ourselves and come to some new conclusions about these old belief patterns.

Ask yourself some serious question:
Is your long-held view about yourself accurate? Do we respect the sources from which we derived these beliefs? Most of the negative feedback we bought into as we were growing up actually came from people we have little or no respect for and as adults we would probably laugh their comments away! Yet the damage to your self esteem was done when you were very young and you still carry it with you to this day.

Is it possible that even those people you respected, who influenced your self-worth, were wrong? Perhaps they had low self esteem also.

As adults we have the opportunity to reshape our self-esteem. Try to judge accurately the feedback you receive from people you respect. This process will allow you to deepen your understanding of yourself and expand your self-image. It will also show you were you actually need to change things about yourself and were you don't. Many people are striving to better themselves in areas where they are just fine or actually excelling and it is only because they have an inaccurate picture of themselves in their minds due to low self esteem!

Setting small goals and achieving them will greatly boost your self-esteem. Identify your real weakness and strengths and begin a training program to better your inter-personal or professional skills. This will support you in your future big life goals and boost your self-esteem and self confidence to high levels you didn't existed!

Learn to recognise what makes you feel good about yourself and do more of it. Everyone has certain things that they do which makes them feel worthwhile but people with low self esteem tend to belittle these feelings or ignore them.

Take inventory of all the things that you have already accomplished in your life no matter how small they may seem. Recognise that you have made achievements in your life and remember all the positive things that you have done for yourself and others. Take a note of your failures and don't make excuses like "I'm just not good enough" or "I just knew that would happen to me", analyse the situation and prepare yourself better for the next time. If someone else created success, regardless of the obstacles, then you are capable of doing the same! Remember everyone has different strengths and weakness so do not judge your own performance against that of another just use them as inspiration and know that what one human being has achieved so can another!

Surround yourself with people who respect you and want what is best for you - people who are honest about your strengths and will help you work through your weakness. Give the same level of support to them!

Avoid people who continually undermine you or make you feel small. These people are just displaying very low self esteem. As your own self esteem grows you will find that you are no longer intimidated by another's self confidence or success and you can actually be joyful for them! Do things you love to do and that make you happy. A truly happy person never has low self esteem they are too busy enjoying life! By getting busy living your life with passion and joy you will not be able to be self-consciousness.

If you find yourself feeling self-conscious in any situation focus on the fact that others can tell and many of them will be feeling the same. Be honest. People respond to someone better if they openly say "To tell you the truth I'm a bit nervous" rather than displaying bravo or fake confidence that they can see right through. Their reactions to you, will show your mind at a deep level, that there was actually nothing to be frightened of and everything is great. If someone reacts to this negatively they are just displaying low self esteem and very quickly you will find others noticing this! Really listen to people when they talk to you instead of running through all the negative things that could happen in your head or focusing on your lack of confidence. People respond to someone who is truly with them in the moment..

Breath deeply and slow down. Don't rush to do things.

Stop the negative talk! 'I'm no good at that' or "I couldn't possibly do that" are affirmations that support your lack of self esteem. Instead say "I have never done that before but I am willing to try" or "how best can I do that?". Which leads us to the last point - the quality of the questions you ask yourself s very important.
When you ask a question it almost always has a preposition in it. For example, "How did I mess that up?" presumes that something was messed up, a better way of phrasing the question would be "what way can I fix this quickly?", as this presumes you can and will fix it. Or "How am I ever going to reach my goal?" could be rephrased as "what way will lead me to my goal quicker" presumes that you are going to reach your goal! Get the picture? Change the quality of your questions and your results will change!

Practise these techniques and watch your self esteem rise day by day. hypnosis spiral
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