Every year I try and go to a Writer’s Festival. Contrary to what many might think, it’s very accessible and for the pleasure you get out of it a pretty cheap day out. The audiences usually comprise of middle aged women – a daytime audience you might say, although men turn up too. You can come up close and personal with authors, some of whom you admire and maybe others not so much, according to whether you like what they have written and what you know about them. I once attended a talk with William McInnes and Steve Bisley, two fine actors and writers, and while I wouldn’t necessarily have bought a book by either of them, I tell you, the audience was in stitches for the whole 45 minutes. Apparently a close relative of William McInness’s reckons he walks like John Wayne! I think he was pretty upset about that when she told him. In fact he was clearly gobsmacked, but you know, it’s actually true! You have a look next time… Our own dear William McInnes, frontiersman of Australia.
I went to another talk with Richard Flanagan and Thomas Keneally. The two of them were chatting about their latest books and Keneally told us an anecdote about the time he and his wife were travelling through Africa. From memory they were in a car or a jeep and came across a horrible accident of some kind on the road. They were both obviously shocked and very concerned and Keneally told us how his wife immediately went to see what she could do and then proceeded to go and do it. To paraphrase his next comment, he observed to this audience of mostly middle aged female readers that ‘women were good at cleaning things up.’
Now in spite of the clearly dreadful circumstances I had this immediate image of Mrs Keneally down on her knees scrubbing and cleaning but it struck me that what Thomas Keneally was really trying to say, and none too clearly for a world famous author, was that women are very good at caring, straight up, in your face caring. It’s what we all do and to some extent it is who we are and before you blokes get upset, women know you care too.
I think we need to celebrate the idea of caring some more. To talk about how we care for each other and try and identify all the different ways we do it. So much of caring we consider as work. Whether it is housework or paid work, whether we are good at it or not, at some level we care about what we do and in this we care about the people for whom we do it. It is the way we connect with others. To identify it more clearly by saying it more loudly to each other is to acknowledge how very precious it is.
There is another talk on this year at a Writer’s Festival near me which is titled ‘Disruption’ and it will discuss our search for contentment. I bet it will be packed out… Many of us are looking for an answer to this one, I reckon. What is contentment exactly and why is it so illusive do you think? I imagine many of us attending will be hoping for some kind of formula showing us the way. Maybe we should consider that the actions of Mrs Keneally are worth remembering here. Can caring for something result in being contented and more importantly, are we overlooking the daily work we do as real evidence of us doing just that?
How do you show you care?
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