Category Archives: Planning

Mortality and the art of living

The Danish birth certificate in Jelling. Photo: Mick 2005

Denmark’s birth certificate in Jelling. Photo: Mick 2005

It seems to me death is all around me. First, tragically, actor Robin Williams commits suicide, which makes me wonder how could such a funny man, who seemed to be able to summon joy for himself and other people, do that to the people he loves? Then, horrifyingly, American journalist James Foley is decapitated by members of Islamic State, which makes me wonder how people can hate so much to justify this violence? In Ferguson, Missouri police kill 18-year-old Michael Brown, sparking racial unrest, which makes me wonder why the colour of your skin should determine your life chances. Next, the 1975 Klaus Rifbjerg radio drama, De Beskedne, that I was listening to abruptly ends with the sad death of the family patriarch, which makes me wonder about the cleverness of writers to make you care so much about a character that you feel sad with his or her fictional passing. Finally, I see on Facebook that a childhood friend, the drummer of my brother’s teenage band, passed away before turning 50 years old, which makes me wonder about life’s fragility and my own mortality.

It happens all the time, death, it is a consequence of living; in its own way it is probably the very realisation of life’s finiteness that gives us motivation to live well. In a paradoxical sense, the living is so much harder to do than the dying. Precisely I was granted life through the amazing fact of the evolutionary success of every ancestor that has come before me: each one of them, right back to the primordial soup, were successful in navigating life and surviving at least until they could reproduce. How to make sense of the millisecond of life I have on life’s stage in the long history of the world? How to be secure in the knowledge of my own value and worth in the bigger scheme of things; how to live well; how to make a difference and make a mark? And then you die. And most of us will die twice – once those who remember us also die we will finally slip into oblivion.

Death is the certainty of living. Photo: Mick 2005

Death is the certainty of living. Photo: Mick 2005

In 1979, death first came close to my life when my grandfather, Morfar, died. It was suddenly, without warning; a heart attack, as he sat up in the bed in my mother’s sister’s house. I loved Morfar, who was always warm, funny and willing to read us Asterix comics because he himself was deeply interested in ancient history. He took my brother and I to see the archeological diggings for the remains of 1000 year old Gorm den Gamle in the church in his home town, Jelling. In viking times Jelling was the residence of the Danish monarch and to this day, the rune stone known as Denmark’s birth certificate still stands here. Sadly, at the time of Morfar’s funeral, Jelling’s church was still closed for these important investigations and we sat in a neighbouring community, singing for him and ourselves with our tears, memories and gradual realisation about life’s fragility, our own mortality, how irreversible death is and how long ‘forever’ really lasts.

In 2003, the last of my grandparents, my beloved grandmother, Farmor, died. I loved Farmor who had simply always been there for us. She had reminded me that I was going to come back to Denmark when my kids were ready for school – which I never did. I was across the world in Australia and could not be at her funeral. It was the end of an era. My father said to me: “My generation is next in line”. Ten years later he passed away and, given the fact that my mother died in 1997, I urgently feel my generation is now next in line. The untimely death of someone I knew when I was just a kid, someone just two years older than me, brought this fact straight home to me.

Next on my bucket list is our one year stay in Denmark in 2015. I will be home again, after 23 1/2 years living in another country. 23 1/2 years are roughly half my lived life. Does that mean I am Danish and Australian in equal portions? I look forward to reconnect with my culture, my family and friends. I especially look forward to spending more time with my nieces and nephews. Indeed, in the midst of all the mortality, a brand new member of my Danish family was also born. I cannot wait to meet you, Lillepigen.

Hedonism, fatalism and free will

Fatalism or indeterminism? This week's arts experiences offered everything. Photo: Lone 2014

Fatalism or libertariansim? This week’s arts experiences offered everything. Photo: Lone 2014

I had not worn this fine leather jacket for some time. I bought it on Ibiza from a fashion house in the summer of 1989. Though it bemused us that students without many means were treated as princesses by attentive sales people, I walked away with the softest buffalo skin leather jacket, hitting the waist with generous pleats in the back and a diagonal zip overlay at the front. And a payment plan. It is fair to say it was an impulse buy.

The Queensland climate rarely lends itself to wearing a leather jacket. Our summers are hot and our winters are mild. But on Thursday I wore it to the opening night of La Boite’s indie season’s Hedonism’s Second Album. As we were waiting for the show to start, I thought to check if there was something in the buttoned pocket of my jacket. And I was immediately transported back in time. I found a ticket stub for a concert I attended with my very good childhood friends in Århus in February 1991. Mek Pek and the Allrights. I could almost hear the ska with the trio of trumpet, trombone and sax in the background, thumping out Hit me with your rythm stick, Mek Pek style, in a smoke-filled room packed with young people, well imbibed by the 10pm start, the laughter, the shouting, the drinking, the dancing, the sweating into my leather jacket.

Like a genie, this ticket was hidden for over 23 years and then appeared to make me think of the past and what got me to where I am today. Photo: Lone 2014

Like a genie, this ticket was hidden for over 23 years and then appeared to make me think of the past and what got me to where I am today. Photo: Lone 2014

It was an apt entré into Hedonism’s Second Album which portrays a four-piece band after the excesses of their first album’s success. It explores the ‘sometimes badly behaved characters we may hide within, behind our public selves’. The play was fun with its comedic approach to the ideosyncracies, posturing and insecurities of four young men. But it had a serious edge with its terrifyingly real message about conflicted young men struggling to be: in endless pursuit of pleasure, excruciating pain sometimes is the price. Did they have a choice?

This message came on the back of our Monday night experience when we, courtesy of the Danish Club, attended a special screening of the Swedish film, The Hundred Year-Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Dissappeared. It is a surprising and funny film, which places its affable main character in a series of historical events. Allan became an orphan at the age of nine, yet he is portrayed, not as a troubled, but as a straight-forward young man, whose favourite pleasure was to blow up things. He is almost oblivious to his profound impact on the course of history. Things just happen, as he carries with him the words of his dying mother: Stop thinking so much like your father – just start doing. But if you thought this liberatian advice was the message of the film, it needs to be seen in light of Mum’s fatalistic advice: it is what it is and it will be what it will be. No point to pursue pleasure or avoid pain.

In their painful pursuit of pleasure in the flotsam of their success, Hedonism’s musicians found it difficult to just do. So Saturday’s performers of Casus Circus were a perfect contrast, demonstrating the power of free will. We braved the unseasonal, relentless rain and went to the opening night of Finding the Silence at the Judith Wright Centre for Contemporary Art. The title refers to ‘that elusive silence, that moment of pure clarity’ which a circus performer has to find before every trick to defy danger, fear and gravity. Through physical exploration, the show questions whether the silence and clarity really exists. I was in awe of the young performers’ physicality, skill and bravery; and most of all their ability to work together to do what seems impossible. Like ballet dancers, just much more interesting. And shorter.

Real-life Casus appear not unlike fictional Hedonism. Hot on the heels of their international success with Knee Deep; however, Casus have been determined to follow up in a timely way that seems to defy the fear of not reaching the heights of former glory.

As I reflect on the arts experiences of the week, it seems to me that we fall into a trap when we give in to nostalgia. The youth, the dreams, the life in front of me, all came back to me when I stared down at that 23 1/2 year old ticket. Would it be what it would be or was I able to influence the course of my life? I think the latter. But as I look back I see that though my life is full of thinking and planning before doing, I also see that life changing events can happen with little planning and decisions may be taken at the spur of the moment. Like the soft leather jacket and the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude of Mek Pek’s Allrights. And when I find that moment of silence, I see that I would not change a thing: it is what it is, it will be what it will be.

To dare

High up, the sky is the limit. 2014.

High up, the sky is the limit. 2014.

Sometimes I wonder what it would feel like to take a wrong step on a ledge high up and plummet through the air to the earth? Don’t worry, I am not suicidal and I don’t have a death wish, but what of the adrenalin rush, when the foot steps onto nothing and the hands grasp and clutch at free air, that moment before you let go and gravity makes the inevitable happen. I can almost feel the chemistry of the shock.

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Welcome to our blog: Pied-á-terre CPH

by Michael Keast 2013

by Mick 2014

Pied-á-terre is a french expression, literally meaning a foot on the ground. It is used to describe a secondary residence away from your first. Feet take you places, and mine took me to Australia in 1990 where I met Mick and fell in love. I migrated in 1991 and we have made a wonderful life together here in Brisbane.

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