Show me a person who appears to enjoy good luck more often than most and who may thereby be known as a ‘lucky so and so’ and I will show you a person who almost certainly doesn’t leave their consistent good luck entirely to chance. I am convinced of this assertion from my own life experience, firmly believing that ‘good luck’ is not only a matter of chance but that it also has a lot to do with the way we process information and make our decisions. The information we receive and convert into stories we tell ourselves on a regular basis can either enliven or dull our imagination, which may then have positive or negative influences on our values and decision-making. While it is true that we often experience good and bad luck merely by chance, being lucky or unlucky also results from good or bad decision-making by ourselves and others, especially those others to whom we are closely related. For me, it was my mother Dilys whose values, imagination and story telling all but guaranteed I became a ‘lucky so and so’.
I was made in Scotland at a place called Campbeltown, probably during October 1943, because I was born about nine months later in Wales at a place called Cardiff. During the first five years of my life my mother Dilys often said to me “Robert you were born lucky and its better to be lucky than rich”. In hindsight I believe these words had a lot to do with the fact that my parents survived on a very modest income and that my mother had lost her first two children at birth, so I was indeed ‘third time lucky’.
With the help of her closest female kin – her mother, sister and at least one aunty, Dilys nurtured and raised me in the Welsh town of Penarth, while my father Jim was stationed in Scotland remaining obediently subservient to the British Royal Navy and seeing me in the flesh for the first time during my third year – 1946. Throughout my youth I idolized Jim because he was a tall handsome detective sergeant who told me lots of exciting naval and cops and robber stories and on some rare good mood payday evenings he would take me to the movies. Unfortunately when it came to nurturing my younger brother Richard and I in the ways of the world, our father was about as useful as tits on a bull. Maybe its just as well, because I hate to think where he might have led us; during his later years he idolized Margaret Thatcher…, I rest my case.
I believe it was a combination of post war euphoria plus a relatively strong Welsh matriarchal influence on my early formative years that began having a major influence on the way I related to people and places. On reflection it was as though my childhood years were a never-ending adventure, with everything and everyone appearing to enjoy being in a seamless relationship, ‘Cynefin’ is a contemporary Welsh word I came across during my Social Ecology studies at the University of Western Sydney UWS/NSW (2000 -2002) and it well describes what I remember of being grown up by my Welsh mothers and aunties in Penarth –
“a place or the time when we instinctively belong or feel most connected. In those moments what lies beneath mundane existence is unveiled and the joy of being alive can overwhelm us.”
Unfortunately as for most five-year olds, my childhood adventure came to an abrupt end when I was made to start learning the devices of the world and my Cynefin place was pushed aside, to make room for a place called school and a so-called proper education. School and teachers were so un-attractive and of little interest to me, hence I didn’t learn much from my early school lessons, it was my mother who during my ninth year eventually taught me how to read – better late than never. Dilys was the best teacher I ever had and could have been my one and only teacher had the culture of the day allowed her to be.
My childhood indoctrination into believing that I was ‘born lucky’ has been a lifelong conviction and way of experiencing the world; it has enabled me more often than not to assume constructive intent on the part of others, somewhat naively during my youth, then with a tad more caution during my adult years. This way of experiencing the world in general and relating to other people in particular has enabled me to cultivate mostly positive and meaningful relationships with the people and places that I have had the pleasure of living and working with. It is a way of relating that has brought me far more joy than sorrow and I believe it has been this quality of relationship with other – including the other than human, that has enabled me to acquire a spiritual, ecological and political consciousness that inspires me to continue cultivating my world view, values and not least, my seasonal and daily PaGaian praxis.
As with our spiritual vision, so too with our ecological and social visions, they are planetary by nature and PaGaian by name.
( Taffy Seaborne & GlenYs Livingstone – Southern Winter 2013)
During my early fifties while living and working among the Anangu traditional owners of Central Australia (1990-98), I had a sort of ‘born again’ experience that nowadays I put down to the Anangu and their cultural landscape having reminded me of what my life was like as a young boy. My then partner and I were on a deliberate pilgrimage to experience what we imagined might be the ‘real’ Australia and as it turned out for me at least, experiencing a more real Self. Among the many benefits of living among and learning from the Anangu, I became more aware of the fact that I had been and was continuing to enjoy a relatively privileged lifestyle, not so much in a material sense, but more in the sense of having been ‘born lucky’. I am convinced for example, that it required a bit more than good decision-making for me to transform my career self from Welsh apprentice toolmaker to Australian Park Manager of Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park. Now I want to try making more sense of what that bit more is.
My later adult returning to Cynefin was an adventure of my own making that began in 1965, when as soon as I had completed a tedious five-year toolmaking apprenticeship I was lucky enough to convince a desperate chief marine engineer to give me a job on board a merchant vessel, that went tramping around the world. This too was one of my life changing decisions and it reminds me of how my imagination is inclined to process information that manifests as good luck rather than bad luck. When we left port in Bristol England there were two of us so-called junior engineers on board ship, a few weeks later while anchored off the Bahamas we received orders to pick up food and supplies for the war effort in Vietnam and deliver them to Da Nang and Saigon. I got all excited and looked forward to an adventure, with a double pay war zone bonus thrown in for good measure, whereas my fellow junior engineer felt so bad about the idea of sailing into a war zone he jumped the ship in San Francisco, never to be seen again. On more careful reflection my fellow junior engineer’s first language and all of his thinking was Welsh with English being his second language, it may well be that he was a young conscientious objector, if so then I take my hat off to him and say yachi-da boyo, I hope you are alive and well.
It was my experience of having sailed with a couple of very entertaining Australian sea dogs and what for me turned out to be a life changing movie called ‘They’re A Weird Mob’ written by John O’Grady, that had me imagining a new life adventure ‘down under’. I don’t mind admitting that it was the combination of scenes of Bondi beach with lots of bikini clad girls, the six o’clock swill in the pub and the blokei-ness of the building gang that influenced my life changing decision to emigrate to Australia. When I tell people about my weird movie experience come life changing decision, most of them say it would have had the opposite effect and put them off moving to Australia. Once again though I must count my lucky stars and vivid, albeit naïve, imagination for having decided in 1967 to emigrate to what for me actually did turn out to be ‘the lucky country’. The number of good luck stories that then led to my so-called ‘born again’ experience among the Anangu of Central Australia and my ongoing PaGaian praxis are too many to mention but some do stand out and are worth telling.
Working within the William Ricketts Sanctuary on Mount Dandenong Victoria, roughly between 1978 and 1985 and learning how to relate and communicate with such an interesting eccentric artist proved to be an exceptionally good stroke of luck for me. William must have been well into his 80’s and I was the local Forest Overseer employed by the then Victorian Forests Commission, to among other things, help William with the maintenance of his sacred place. Most of my forestry crew found William to be a bit difficult, even annoying to work for. Fortunately I was able to avoid such difficulty thanks mainly to being in awe of what he had created, particularly his sculptures of Central Australian Aboriginal people, who until then had not entered (let alone raised) my consciousness in any way whatsoever. On reflection it was time spent sitting and staring at the mounted life-size statue of a male Aboriginal elder and further up in the sanctuary a statue of a female Aboriginal mother embracing her many children with the words ‘Earthly Mother’ at her feet. My partner Glenys and I have a large framed picture of William’s Earthly Mother that alternates between seasons to oversee our communal ritual space and our bed. Being in awe of these images and entering into many of the sacred niches on William’s holy mountain must have sown the seeds for me to eventually visit and be further inspired by, the people and country that so inspired the artist himself decades earlier. I have a strong feeling that William Ricketts also had a mother who made sure he became a ‘lucky so and so’.
It was a combination of good decision-making and good luck that resulted in my being employed by the then Australian National Parks & Wildlife Service (1990-95), a federal agency that jointly managed the Uluru Kata-Tjuta National Park with its traditional Anangu owners. During my time as District Supervisor (1990-92) then as Park Manager (1992-95) we successfully re-nominated the park as a World Heritage Area based on its cultural values and built the long-awaited Anangu Cultural Centre. It was for me an amazing period of learning in general and these two major cultural projects in particular meant that I was privy to information and stories that I would not otherwise have been so lucky to receive.
It was during the next three years (1995-98) while I was employed as the Project Officer for the Anangu Pitjantjatjara (AP) Lands, that I was able to visit Uluru during my free time purely for the purpose and pleasure of re-creation. This is when I had my so-called ‘born again’ experience, a time when Anangu and their landscape taught and reminded me about the importance of relationship: relationship with Self, with other and with all-that–is. In hindsight when compared to my childhood Cynefin, my time in Central Australia turned out to be my adult Cynefin and as such the second most significant and lucky period of my life.
My ‘third time lucky’ at the relatively grand life changing scale of ‘good luck’ was meeting my beloved Glenys Livingstone during early 2000. We were both studying Social Ecology at the UWS/NSW Hawkesbury campus, Glenys for her Doctoral thesis and me for a Masters degree, we both graduated on the same day during May 2003. I was trying to build some kind of bridge between my Central Australian pilgrimage and my need to continue making sense of main-stream contemporary Australian society that I had chosen to re-immerse myself in. Glenys was rigorously re-storying the Deity no less, using female metaphor and seasonal ritual celebration as a catalyst for personal and cultural change. Our common heritage, spiritual and philosophical interests were not the only aspects of our relationship that proved to be a good match. Our family names Livingstone and Seaborne was an inspirational early clue that there were some of the more subtle realms also busy match making on our behalf.
During the past fifteen years Glenys and I have enjoyed living and working together here in a village called Springwood, in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia. We are literally surrounded by a World Heritage listed forest, an ideal natural environment within which to hold sacred space for the purpose of celebrating what we refer to as Mother Earth’s seasonal ‘holy moments’. Each year Glenys is host and celebrant for the celebration of eight seasonal moments including the Winter and Summer Solstice moments, the Autumn and Spring Equinox moments and the four cross quarter moments in between. During our time together Glenys has produced her book entitled PaGaian Cosmology – Re-inventing Earth based Goddess Religion, and we have since built our PaGaian Mooncourt, a sacred space designed specifically for the purpose of celebrating the seamless relationship that exists between the Human, the Earth, the Sun and the Moon.
As one might expect, being born lucky has served me well enough to enjoy what I now comfortably consider to be my ‘full material liberation’. However, it was not until my beloved Glenys introduced me to her Earth-based eco-spiritual practice that I was able to attain my ‘full spiritual liberation’. With my spiritual consciousness already being informed through my PaGaian praxis I was able to become more careful about receiving and processing information in general and have since narrowed my information gathering and processing down to three main categories of consciousness – spiritual, ecological and political. I can now endeavour to inform each category thus: spiritual consciousness through my PaGaian praxis, – ecological consciousness through being guided by the twelve design principles of Permaculture, and my political consciousness through the political teachings of Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky; as represented and expressed by the Social Equality Party’s World Socialist Web Site – WSWS.org. I am confident that there will continue to be many ways and means for the toiling and exploited working class to develop their political and socialist consciousness and thereby eventually attain ‘full material and spiritual liberation’ (L. Trotsky 1938), but for me, being ‘born lucky’ more or less guaranteed it.
Malpataffy, – Summer Solstice 2014.