Misunderstood childhood questions

Topic for the day: What are some questions that you remember asking as a child, but which the adults failed to understand?

I’d like to share two.

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The first was about the future of human society. I’d read about concepts such as “civilisation” and “barbarism” in books, and wondered if human society might someday advance to a point so different from what we usually refer to as “civilisation” that it merits a new name. This would not be a degenerate state, but a transcendent one that makes civilisation look primitive. If so, what would be the achievement that defines the beginning of that new stage?

I don’t remember how I worded the question, but I do remember Dad missed the point, insisting that the only way civilisation could be replaced by something else is if society regressed to a more primitive state.

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Conversation cards

During the long drives on our recent holiday, we entertained ourselves in various ways. Music from various CDs, a few episodes of Astronomy Cast on another CD, and a game or two of The Art Of Conversation. That last item gives me an idea for a blog post.

The Art of Conversation consists of a hundred cards that, between them, contain 300 conversation ideas (yeah, you’re all thinking Monty Python did it first in Meaning of Life, but this is genuine). To play, you leaf through the cards until you find a question you want to ask, then everyone else answers that question, and then it’s the next player’s turn. Concepts of winning, losing, and competing do not exist in any form.

Below is a photograph of four cards from the game. [Update 2014: I’ve taken a new photograph to replace the out-of-focus original.] Underneath I’ll blog in the spirit of the game, by selecting topics from these cards and writing either about that or about something closely related.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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A World Within Your Mind

In 1997, I wrote a song called “A World Within Your Mind“, which may be the best song I ever wrote. The words and music have been on my website for years, but what with (a) the fact that I’m slowly migrating to a new website, and (b) the fact that I now see the website as secondary to the blog (rather than the other way around), I’ve decided that I should post it here.

Note: this is a godawful recording and I know it. You have to remember that back then most people didn’t have the digital recording options we have now. It was performed live onto cassette tape, and my voice was affected by the cognitive strain of all the multitasking that’s required.

A World Within Your Mind (Adrian Morgan, 1997)

There’s a world I was exploring
A world within your mind
And in it I was searching
For a path I could not find.

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Some tenets of faith

We all change our beliefs over the course of our lives, but the beliefs we once held remain part of us in the sense that they are part of our story, and helped shape the people we have become. They are, therefore, worthy of an occasional blog post.

I was raised in a Christian family (liberal Protestant), and during the period corresponding roughly with my teens, held a strong Christian faith of my own. I was also interested in theology, especially in how the more challenging parts of the Bible could be harmonised with what I knew to be true on other grounds (be that intellectual or moral).

Listed below are ten beliefs I held, or conclusions I came to, on the subject of the afterlife: Heaven and Hell, etc. They are not presented as a comprehensive overview (for example, they don’t specifically mention Christ), but they do summarise a lot of my thinking on these matters.

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Explorer of the Galaxy

In an early post on this blog, about stories that I wrote for pleasure when I was a child, I said:

There was a science fiction adventure story called Explorer of the Galaxy, of which I remember practically nothing.

In an amazing archaeological discovery, the complete original text of this story was recently revealed. Mum found it somewhere (I don’t know where and she doesn’t remember either) and it was waiting for me in my bedroom when I visited my parents for my sister’s wedding last month.

I wrote it the year I turned twelve. My favourite sentence (I just love the casualness of it):

The Explorer was returning to Alos for a refuel only to discover that the planet had been blown up.

I’ve scanned and posted the whole story below. It is quite amusingly awful.

explorer1

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Earliest astronomical memory

Here’s a question that might encourage some discussion in the comments, and ties in with the International Year of Astronomy: what is your earliest memory of an astronomical nature?

I was five years old and on an aeroplane, having taken off from Britain and being destined (via one or two intermediate stops) for Australia. I turned to my parents and asked, “Have we gone past any other planets yet?”

My mother told me that we wouldn’t be going that high.

What’s yours?

Memories of Childcraft

In a shop recently, Mum found second-hand copies of the Childcraft series from World Book Encyclopedia, which were among my favourite books as a child. I’ve often remarked they’d make great gifts for relatives who are about the same age now, so with this in mind, she bought them.

The Childcraft series is still being published, but in a form so different from the books I had that they can scarcely be recognised (over the years they’ve gone through many different editions, with some changes to the titles at each revision). Reading the series was a very significant part of my childhood. I received them about one volume a month when I was about seven years old — as an extended birthday present — and their contribution to my quest for knowledge is incalculable.

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Some childhood art

The first photograph below shows some artwork I made in Year Four at school (when I was 8 or 9). The second shows a pair of cushions my sister and I helped make for our grandparents on Dad’s side. I did the one with the rabbit; she did the one with the cat; Mum did the tricky bits for both.

The man in the moon

Countless people have looked at the moon and seen, in the light and dark regions of its surface, some sort of human face (or else a full human figure). The Man in the Moon is observed all over the world, in both the northern and southern hemispheres, but the faces people see are not the same. One person sees an eye where another sees a mouth, and the face will never have an official map.

No-one, as far as I know, has ever formally researched how many versions of the Man in the Moon are seen around the world. Most illustrations show a version recognised in the Northern Hemisphere, but in Australia we see a face at least as readily, even though we look at the moon from a different orientation. In this blog post I’ll describe the face as I’ve seen it since I was six years old, adding my part to the very little that has been written from a southern hemisphere perspective.

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Recent family losses

Two of my relatives died during the last few months. My mother’s father’s brother died on Anzac Day (25 April), and my maternal grandmother died on 11th May.

I only saw Uncle Max occasionally when he was alive, and almost invariably in the context of a large family gathering with lots of other people around. He owned a pine plantation which had a lovely fairy-tale atmosphere when I was a child (I once went looking for wolves there; in reality there are at best foxes). He was also into woodcarving, and had a pool table that he made himself, as well as a joke pool cue — made from a twisty branch of wood — which he explained was for a professional pool player to use when playing against him if the opportunity ever arose. He used to sing bass in choirs and musicals, but that was mostly before I knew him. I don’t remember ever talking to him about music.

The other death was that of my grandmother, known to me as Grandnan. By the end of her life she was bedridden in the nursing home, unable to speak and — at the very end — even to swallow due to the cumulative effect of many minor strokes. Yet she was at peace, intellectually alert, and never lost her sense of humour. The last time I saw her alive, I played some Flanders and Swann songs to her from CD. I intended in the last few months to compile a CD of my favourite music as a gift for her, but I never got around to doing this. Her husband David is now my last surviving grandparent, and is still living in the nursing home.

Grandnan’s funeral was a first for me in that it was the first time I have ever spoken officially at a funeral. Here is the full text of my address. It ends with some music that I’ve dedicated to her.

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