It is with sadness that I have to report the passing of Robin Peter Simson on the 15 July 2018.
It is with sadness that I have to report the passing of Robin Peter Simson on the 15 July 2018.
SUSTAINING THE MIND
Since my Prostate Cancer has gone to my bones and my energy and concentration levels have become limited, I have to be selective in what mental matters I can deal with.Hence Emails and requests for support from the Wilderness Society, Get Up, Bush Heritage Trust, Australian Wildlife Conservancy, Médecins Sans Frontières etc. have to be ignored.
I am now only using my brain for the business aspects of my two new novels under contract, and my work as Toohey Forest Orienteer’s secretary and the preparations for the club hosting the Queensland Orienteering Championships in August.
I don’t intend to give in but as the disease progresses that may be the case. It is important however to keep the current limited agenda going and sustain the life of my mind as long as I possibly can.
An article by Piero Pasolini, physicist and christian preacher, was kindly given to me by a friend, Jonas Bernotas, and it proved not only interesting but challenging for my atheist position of entirely shunning God and those religious perspective I grew up with.
The author develops the idea that evolution was the work of God beginning with the creation of the universe and has continued in a unending chain of events. This means that he sees intelligent life (in other words Homo sapiens) as part of that hugely extensive chain from the ’big bang’ to our present Earth times. However, he proclaims the ultimate revelation of this theory was delivered by Jesus with the Last Supper pronouncement, ‘This is my Body ‘ and is repeated every time in the Christian Eucharist. In this Jesus is revealing to humanity the true source of evolution is God not just associating evolution with ‘life’ on Earth but with life forms, including intelligent life, elsewhere in the universe on other planets.
My problem with all this is the inconceivable idea that there is this evolution of ‘life’ forms in many if not thousands, or even millions, of places elsewhere in the universe which Jesus of Nazareth could have no understanding of, given the historical era in which he lived in here on Earth. Secondly, since there were literate societies with language, writing and art 4,000 years before Jesus Christ’s birth amongst the Hebrews, why wasn’t this message delivered by a much earlier prophet. And thirdly, if the compassionate God that the religious humans pray to actually exists, why is this God driving a ‘survival of the fittest’ style of evolution resulting in so much violence, suffering, and cruelty; including the sustained cruelty and attempted genocide suffered by Aboriginal Australians, and the horrific chaining and lashing of convicts prisoners.
Pasolini elaborates his article with the concept of syntropy, the opposite of the scientific principal of entropy, and first expounded by Luigi Fantappiè in 1941 in order to describe the mathematical properties of the advanced waves solution of the Klein-Gordon equation which unites Quantum Mechanics with Special Relativity, postulating that there is a tendency towards energy concentration, order, organization and life, in contra-distinction to the more scientifically acceptable concept of entropy, that is retro-causality leading to persistent and more complex organization.
It is another huge jump of faith that the God-force always had in mind the principal of syntropy and would eventually produce order and harmony if only all humans believed in this message as it is revealed in the Eucharist.
My agnosticism has not departed me as a result of Pasolini’s theory, but it did force me to justify again in my mind that there no God, no so-styled Creator-being or force.
Riding to obscurity
I have a painting on my bedroom wall called Going for the Afternoon Swim. It depicts a young adolescent girl riding her bike up a hill in an outback desolate landscape — the desired swimming hole and relief from the scorching heat, presumedly just over the hill in front. The artist signed the work N Hagan whom I know nothing more about; except that there is a very famous Australian artist, writer and film maker, named Robert Hagan, who was born in Murwillumbah in 1947 and who could be related.
I purchased this piece for our bedroom some 35 years ago while visiting a Brisbane City gallery, It awakened a strong sentiment for me, of what Dorothy, my wife, would have been like in her late primary years before we met. It was capturing an imagined vision from the past and still does — that beautiful young woman off on an adventure.
But what does this image mean to me now?
Unfortunately Dorothy is now in a nursing home riding a princess wheelchair towards her eventual resting place — the hidden pool. There is no turning back with her mysterious brain disease. Forces beyond her control will lead to the final plunge — death by dementia. All her life, magnificent as it has been, has led her to undertake this final pedal up the hill to what will eventually end in oblivion.
As death through prostate cancer is creeping up on me too, the painting can be seen as representing a final journey for my body and mind as well. I can’t believe life was ever meant to end in heavenly joy. The pool is all just physics and chemistry, and I am content with that. Both Dorothy and I have had our time. Time for other biology to disintegrate and for nature to replace us — including others to die prematurely with no pedalling option in their final years. Still a century or so on, obscurity awaits us all but a few celebrities whose name lives on in history’s chronicles.
Hubris describes a personality quality of extreme or foolish pride or dangerous overconfidence, often in combination with (or synonymous with) arrogance.
Maybe I do have the foolish pride and arrogance to think I am a very capable author and deserve to have at least one of my works published as a best-seller. So I must ask myself, ‘Why don’t publishers immediately delight in my submissions? Is it because in some works I don’t conform to the genre rules in swapping first person with third person? Is it because my diction and punctuation is old-worldly? Is it because my stories are too tame and boring? Is it because my characters are not well developed at the expense of my passion for describing the settings and the environment? Is it because I wish to teach more than tell a story?’
Perhaps a combination of these and more.
When Austin Macauley offered me a contact out of the blue on my latest work, The Meaning of Streuth, I was mystified and still wonder if it is a genuine offer. They are an expanding publishing firm and are growing in market share, but do they have the machinery to market an Australian story since they are based only in New York and London? Do they understand I can’t help with the marketing?
My doctors tell me I have less than a year to live and my hubris is daunted thinking about how I can handle the on-going negotiations to bring the novel into production. I want to know why they like the draft and how they will want to “massage” it before they go to finalising the text? I want to feel that the conviction, not just opportunity is there — that they believe the manuscript has real merit. So my pride in the work has its emotional costs, and time is running out given my health prognosis.
Do any of my readers believe I should go ahead? Well how can you if you haven’t been able to read the draft? You can only judge by your knowledge of my published writing and your understanding of the book publishing industry.
But last week I had the joy of local publisher, Boolarong Press, being excited about my work, The Osprey’s Dolls, and I have signed a contract to self-publish with them. Here I know I am on safer ground — a local Australian publisher, two suburbs away, with whom it is easy for me to negotiate and who in turn will give my book a priority. I know I will be here to see it in print and that gives me a hell of a boost. knowing there will be copies at the commemorative service arranged by my family when I die from the effects of prostate bone cancer.
My hubris might yet be partially justified with some of it wafting off like fairy dust onto my descendants.
When we were young
Life can be full of interesting prospects when you are young, and you never come to consider that one day you might become ill and die. But even when you know your cancer is a death sentence, it is important to retain that sense of prospect — that something exciting or surprising is going to come up and bring that childhood joy back into your mind.
Since my diagnosis that my prostate cancer has imbedded tumours in my bones, I have still been able to enjoy happy family moments, and good times with friends. Today I had an email from Barcelona, from a friend who, with his wife and two children, lived beside Dorothy and I in Sunnybank for about 2 years. Climent Nadeu was on a professional exchange at Griffith University in Brisbane. Both Climent and wife, Merce, were often our guests at BBQ’s in the garden and also joined in Dorothy’s Saturday morning walks. We introduced the children, Anna and Paulo, to orienteering and now Anna is still orienteering in Spain some 10 years later.
This is the type of surprise contact after several years that brings out those earlier joys like the memories of our visit to the Nadeu family in Barcelona in 2012 while Dorothy’s dementia was just beginning to show. Of course now as the dementia has progressed she has no memory of that event or indeed very little of her life, but at least she still knows me and every little smile when I visit the nursing home is a reminder of us the Simsons, a young family with many prospects.
Our children have all gone on to be high achievers in various ways and recently in conversation have shared many of the joys they experienced growing up in our family household. Thankfully they have all rallied around to see that both Dorothy, and now me, experience the best of care and support in our terminal years. Jennifer, unfortunately, is now in hospital recovering from the removal of a tumour from one of her kidneys. Neil is my on the spot support with transport, house help and attentiveness to my needs. Scott visited for two days just after my discharge from hospital when I had a nail spike inserted in my left femur in order to keep me mobile, and Arnold and his wife Nusha are always there to offer emotional support from Canberra.
You could say the fun years are gone. Childhood is also terminal. But we can still share the joy from those earlier days and even include snippets in our dreams.
Let us all take joy from when we were young.
Health is complicated
Health is complicated for many of us humans. There are bacteria, viruses, cancers, allergies etc. ready to affect the smooth functioning of our bodies and brains.
Dorothy, my wife, has serious dementia and knows so little of what has happened to her. I, however, can feel the full effects of any viruses, my bone cancer, and my mysterious Grover’s Disease. The latter is a skin disease attacking men middle aged and over, and causing unbearable itchiness on the back, chest, under the arms and down the sides even to the crutch. Mine is also affecting my neck and head. It keeps you awake at night and makes lying in bed, a continuous nightmare without resorting to sleeping tablets which are usually semi-effective. Dermatologists know little about Grover’s Disease and are unsure how to treat it. It may go away if I can recover so well from my recent operation to pin my left femur and give me back more strength. That will mean I can spend less time in bed.
Others go through much more with their disabilities so I shouldn’t complain; and anyway I have known since September that I had only a year or so to live. But it is not easy and as I write the tears fill my eyes. I am so not the person I used to be — shattered beyond repair, a write-off. Even writing has become a burden. My blog posts will dry up, but please remember Rob’a Write as he was some of the time during his past.
I was meditating.
There are two worlds, I thought. One the physical world of interacting matter driven by energy – the world of the big bang the astronomers talk about and all that followed. But the other world, the real world, is the ‘being’ within, the intangible, the essence of things, the essence of me. The big bang world goes on and on recycling all that ever was and ever will be. Even the energy that drives it is recycled –- just matter coming together, particles mixing in the ether, combining, changing, parting; reservoirs and flows, nothing gained, nothing lost. But my real world is the world of my knowing; what I see, hear, think, feel, dream. And when my brain cells die I suppose this miracle will be all gone …. like a film on the screen, it has a life of its own that is absorbing at the time, but then it’s over and that’s it. Someday, when my angel decides, it will be over and this, my real world, will cease. Death is not nothingness, but the void of not ‘being’.
How, when the void comes, can I leave behind an invisible balloon full of experience for a child to grab with joy – a kite flying forever? Maybe a Hawkesbury River swan? An osprey on the wing? Can I receive a legacy from a great artist? A Renoir, a Michelangelo? Out from their voids will some aura wash around and into me? Am I then their ideas, their ways, their dreams? Do they bequeath me, in their wisdom, with some unfinished task? Am I needed? Do I have a purpose outside the recycling of matter?
Since my bone cancer was identified in September I have been on a brain activity high. There is a new stimulus that has allowed me to produce Blog Posts, a series of Letters to Dorothy, revision work on two unpublished novels, and a large submission to RGSQ on a Long Distance Trail in the Carnarvon Ranges. This includes Inspiration during the night when sleep is disturbed and i get up to jot down notes or write a small article or poem.
The reading about Iranian which I did over Christmas and January, and the understanding I developed about the effects of the Muslim Revolution has had on society in my new daughter-in-law’s country of birth, has given me great insights into memoir writing. While Azar Nafisi’s work on understanding the themes, voice and structure of challenging novels from Pride and Prejudice to The Great Gatsby has allowed me to determine how I can change and improve the approach to my own writing.
Physically, although restricted in strength and having to give up Golf, Tennis and cycling, I have remained active doing walks in Toohey Forest, putting time in in the Brookland Gym and swimming in Feb in the Brookland pool. In this I have stayed positive about my health and gone ahead and booked a cruise from Broome to Darwin in April.
What is more remarkable is how things magically work out at just the right time, such as catching my bus, and timing of activities to fit other commitments, thus meeting my own deadlines. An example last Tuesday was when taken to lunch by Frank Spranklin at the Corner Cafe and by surprise environmental friends, Beryl Roberts and Bernise Voltz, walked in. Both deserved an update on my cancer — having not seen either for over a year. So we lunched together and shared updates on our interests. Another example was getting home from the forest just in time for the cleaner I had organised but wasn’t expecting that day and who was about to leave because she was locked out.
Now just today I am offered a contract on my new novel with a top publisher. This is serendipity in the extreme since I was ready to scrap that project all together and have been concentrating on an earlier unpublished work.
These will seem to be trivial examples, but as the number of them build up, coincidences almost every day, I can’t help thinking my sub-conscious is in the driving seat and life as it now is under my palliative care regime will continue to bring me joy.
Fiona and Tim
Yesterday I received a surprise Email from Mathieu McGuire in the UK. Mathieu was one of the young junior orienteers about the same time as my grandson, Aaron. He was a member of the Mini Cyclones Squad, competed in the annual Queensland Schools Orienteering Championships and was selected in the Queensland Schools team. He came to our sport as one of Helen Sherriff’s St. Edmunds Orienteering Club, always excited about participating no matter what his result. He had stumbled across my Writer’s Blog, and having been absorbed by the enlightened mindfulness written into some of the blog posts, he had felt compelled to be in touch.
The compliments he said about me brought a lot more than one tear to my eyes, but it also made we realise how much Fiona Calabro would have deserved even more praise. Till she died of a brain tumour and the complications of a stroke in 2014, she was the State Junior Coach and organiser of the Mini Cyclones training camps, amongst making many other contribution at State and National Orienteering level. There is rarely a day goes by without me thinking about her enthusiasm for our sport and her friendship.
The other person I so miss from our Toohey Forest Orienteers is Tim Apelt, for three years our club president. Like Fiona, Tim died of incurable cancer not that long after Fiona’s departure. He was truely a best mate — close bushwalking and orienteering friend with, like me, a passionate love of Toohey Forest where his ashes have been scattered. He died in dignity after 18 months of palliative care. Now I am on the same journey. Three for our club in six years is hardly fair, but we have to accept that we all die someday, it is part of the gift of living, and I’m sure none of us wanted our lives to being dragged out when the writing is ‘on the wall’, or the massage for me clear to see in my blog posts.
Yes readers go on visiting my blog. Rob’s Write will be cactus too by 2020.