Thursday, October 29, 2009

These visions of Johanna/Jeanette are now all that remain.

As I mentioned previously I'm a tad behind in my posts on Zen and the Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance. So this is a bit of a catch up.

Pirsig talks of two realities and a conflict between them. I'll try to explain.

There is the world as we see it right here and right now. That's a reality of appearance. The other is the more scientific reality of the world explained (the scientific world that explains the reasons why things are as they are).

For instance - the radio is playing at the moment - my reality right now is listening to a (poor) song on a radio show. The other reality belongs to the radio waves that have produced the sound and the mechanisms within the radio that reproduce the sounds being broadcast from an office somewhere in New Zealand.

As you can tell it is the first reality that I can identify with - my aesthetic reaction to the sounds I am hearing, and NOT the reality behind the sounds.

Displayed in red, this image shows the spectacular filamentary structures that appear in centimeter radio wavelengths, apparently.

There is a tension at work here between, on one hand, the immediate artistic appearance and, on the other, the one of underlying scientific explanation.

Pirsig expands on these two visions of reality to divide human understanding into two kinds - classical understanding and romantic understanding. A classical understanding sees the world primarily as underlying form itself. A romantic one sees it primarily in terms of immediate appearance.

I have zero interest in how a car works (the underlying form) but I use one to travel around. I don't want to know how the laser works on my CD player - I just want to listen to my CD.

My brother and I very different in this regard. When we were growing up Ross and I were given various toys. Ross would pretty much take them apart and put them back together to see how they worked (not a conscious thought at the time I don't think). I had no interest in seeing the mechanisation behind anything - I'd be off reading a book somewhere. In this regard Ross takes after my father, who made our first TV set and had many boxes of transistors and electronic devices. This has led us down different paths. I am an English teacher, Ross is a (very successful) software engineer. We're both very happy in those roles, too. It's just that we see (vision) the world in different ways.

I've just had a terrific experience talking on the radio (The Breeze) to my friend Jeanette Thomas (aka Jynette Harnish or Jyn). It's World Teacher Day and she rang me on air to say hi. Jyn was in my classes at Maclean's College in Auckland in 1988-1989. Wow - that's now 20 years ago!! She hasn't changed much over the years - still a huge ball of positive energy. She's on the Target TV programme and has a terrific family of her own. Bit weird saying 'she' all over the place cos she's been getting my blog updates like the rest of you. Loved talking to you Jyn!! You won't know this but dad always told me when he saw you in the Orewa foodmarket. You probably thought he was an elderly stalker! I think he loved the fact that he knew you vicariously through me.

Love and peace - Wozza

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Oh, to live on Sugar Mountain, with the barkers and the colored balloons.

I've not mentioned much about my return voyage through 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' for a while. I will have to back track a bit at some point. However - I've just read a great passage that I need to share - particularly given events of last week (more on that later).

Pirsig has earlier talked of the allegory of a physical mountain for the spiritual one that stands between each soul and its goal. He says most people stand in sight of the spiritual mountains all their lives and never enter them. Some travel into the mountains accompanied by experienced guides who know the best and least dangerous routes by which they arrive at their destination. Still others, who are either inexperienced or untrusting, attempt to make their own routes.

Where do I fit? Well not in the first group. My spiritual life early on was all about Sunday school every week at St John's Anglican Church in Royal Oak, Auckland; regular church attendance; confirmation into the Anglican Church; and until I was 26 (November 4, 1983) a solid set of spiritual beliefs. But then my mum died at an early age and I got angry (anger turns to hate) and frustrated and I lost my footing on that mountain path. So not the first group.

The third group? Maybe. During my university years I attempted to make my own routes. The spiritual church gave way to the church of reason and Wordsworth, Bly and Ginsberg, Ferlinghett1, Uncle Walt, and Chaucer made an impact. But all the while the anger, and the frustration was along for the ride.

And so to that group of experienced guides that leads to ultimate arrival. Just before dad passed away he explained to me the question asked of those wanting to become freemasons. I had my copy of Zen... with me at the time and wrote it down on the title page: 'In times of danger and adversity - in whom do we place our trust?' Dad told me with a bemused grin that some answered, 'My wife' or even incredulously, 'My mother-in-law'. The correct answer, of course, is, 'In the lord'. And he did. Hearing my father say that in a moment of serene calm was like a sudden awakening and an epiphany. After 26 years I felt the anger and distrust and frustration evaporate, as if by magic. My father is the experienced guide (still).

Those events from last week? One of my students committed suicide. The repercussions from that action are huge - like ripples in a pond. I've been thinking about him a lot over the weekend. A lovely guy - cheerful, friendly, a great artist. Unfortunately, in his short life, he never even glanced in the mountain's direction.

Time I did some climbing.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

You say it's yer birthday, well it's my birthday too yeah!

That first week back at school was hard work, not made easier by Jade having to spend two nights in hospital with severe abdominal pains. Her appendix may be grumbling. We don't know, and the doctors know about as much as we do. She's back at school too but we are monitoring things closely.

In other news a number of us have experienced birthdays of late. In a shock move that has surprised a few, I've decided to suddenly recognise birthdays of friends and family, given my new Edward Kennedy/patriarchal role. So take a bow: Greg Knowles 18 September, Michelle O'Neill 24 September, me 1 Roctober (I told you it was my birthday too yeah). Scott Purdy turned 14 in early Roctober, Ross Purdy hit the astronomical age of 50 last Sunday (Lynda beat him to it by reaching the same milestone 9 Roctober). Coming up is Hayden Purdy 23 Roctober - who turns 16. November is a bumper month too! If you had a birthday between Greg's and Hayden's - sorry but I didn't know about it so please enlighten me as I go!

Sadly - to balance the birthday frivolities we also received news that Sallie's horse had a stillborn foal which is devastating given the care, expense and time invested so far by Biddy and Sallie.

Making a return visit - nature watch: It hasn't stopped raining for about a month in New Zealand, so it's all rather soggy at the moment. I hope it's better at your end. The spring growth is immense. We have so much grass - it's going to be a bumper crop this year (we still have tons left from last year, even after selling about 30 bales, so if you want hay...). For some reason the daffodils were very poor this year - throughout Taranaki. Strange - given the freezing winter we've had. Same with the rhodos. The bird life however is thriving. We're woken up by a fantastic array of birdsong each morning (and Bazil doing his yelpy act because no one has untied him yet).

In other catch up stuff - I've finished wallpapering the lounge. It was always on my agenda for the last school break but after dad passed away I really needed to keep busy. So Jacky and I painted and wallpapered the lounge and dining area. It looks 100% better. Adam has finished his university exams and now waits for the results. Jade is four weeks away from leaving school FOREVER. Samantha has a groovy job as a dog groomer...excuse me - assistant to a dog groomer, that she is enjoying in San Fran. Rochdale football club have had two wins on the bounce, as have The Arsenal. Keegan is enjoying working his way through some of my old music scrapbooks (I also had a huge sort out after dad passed away - tidied up all the personal papers, threw away two bin loads of toss and donated stuff to Keegan that he might like).

And Michelle and Gavin have bought a bus. Yes - a bus. It's actually pretty gnarly! Think Ken Kesey and the merry pranksters circa 1969. Michelle has even started tie-dying lessons. Maybe the kaftans and Gavin's dreadlocks are a step too far but all power to them! The picture up top shows Gavin loading up to go on their latest trip (wow - man - freaky drug references dudes).

...and I'm currently grooving to some great new ones by Muse, Mastodon, Porcupine Tree - all loud, brash in yer face style - perfect antidotes to introspective musings (pardon the pun again).

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fill my life with song, and let me sing for ever more. You are all I long for, all I worship and adore.

I note that my previous post was made on Sept 16. That was a Wednesday. On that week's Friday I headed up to Auckland to spend the weekend with my dad at North Shore Hospital. Little did I know that events on that weekend would lead to me not writing another weblog entry for close to a month. On Monday 21st September my father, Graham Nugent Purdy, passed away due to complications from the stroke he had on August 18. He died peacefully and fully accepting of God's will and his destiny.

I didn't bare this loss alone. My brother and his family, my family and all of the many friends and former colleagues my father had, have had to deal with his death in their own ways. However, this post is about my experience and it's hard to write because if anything was the number one reason for the blog's existence - it was to communicate with my dad, and if anyone was the number one fan of my weblog - it was dad. And he can't share in it anymore.

His funeral was held at Purewa crematorium on September 25. It was conducted in a very traditional way but with Diana Krall's soundtrack at the beginning and close (Fly me to the moon's lyric is the blog title this time around. It was the song we ended the service with). My two sons, Keegan and Adam, and I delivered eulogies. Samantha wrote about her grandad and Keegan read it out. I've decided to include Samantha's message and my eulogy here so that my friends and family around the world can share in our farewell to a beautiful man.


Good morning everybody, both family and friends. Let me first please apologize for my absence this morning, I tried my hardest to be amongst you all, however due to untimely flight schedules, unfortunately it was not possible to make it back in time. All that I can offer is my word that I am thinking of you all and of a truly special man whom I miss and love very much. Many of you will know this amazing man as Graham or perhaps even Mr Purdy but to Jade, Adam, Keegan, Hayden, Scott and myself he was Grandad.

What a total champion, Grandad always knew what the grandchildren both wanted and needed. I remember when I was small, going to Grandad’s for the afternoon was a real treat. We would dress up in our finest and in return for looking cute Grandad would pull out a box of toys, give us cans of coca cola and present each of us with a film tube filled with coins. You have no idea how rich we all felt. I don’t know why but this childhood ritual will forever be one of the most favourite memories I have of my grandfather.

He was so kind and gentle yet at the same time so clever in occupying four very energetic children. These traits in my opinion represent how he lived his life. I think I can speak for my entire family when I say that as time has passed, as we have all grown older Grandad grew with us and opened up in a lot of different ways. Instead of pulling out a box of toys to keep us entertained he would share stories about his life and work, cups of tea and Tim Tams eventually replaced the sugary cans of coke and in terms of gifts of value we would receive warm hugs and kisses, greeting cards for all occasions and even the odd DVD, which of course he had created himself.

When I began writing this memorandum I really had no idea what to write. I have had to take one million breaks and still I’m struggling with the idea of expressing how much my Grandad means to me in only a few words? Somehow I just never thought I would have to write something like this. Life has dealt me a perfect hand and unlike many of my friends my grandparents have always been there for me. I guess I was naive to think that that level of fortune would last forever. I am honoured to have known such a kind and generous man, to have been a part of his life and in return have him be a part of mine. During his time on earth he accomplished many things both great and small. Some of the Great are without a doubt my Dad and Uncle Ross who are more like Grandad than they think. I’m blessed to have been given such an amazing family, for you Grandad I thank for this.

I loved my Grandad very much and am extremely sad to hear of his passing. I wish I was there to say goodbye but I take comfort in the fact that his spirit lives on and he is reunited with my Grandma Dulcie, who I know will take care of him. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to say it for myself but “Goodbye Grandad”, I want you to know I love you and I’m going to miss you so, so much. Thank you.

and me:

On behalf of my brother Ross and our respective families I’d like to thank you for attending and joining the Purdy families today – some of you have traveled a long way or made a real effort to get here to support us and farewell our dad – Graham Nugent Purdy. Unfortunately Samantha was unable to return but she has written a beautiful message.

This eulogy has had a long gestation period – the tumour dad had removed in Sept 08 gave us a warning shot – so I’ve had a long time to prepare my thoughts but the emotional force of this moment means that I will no doubt be blubbering like a baby at times and I make no apology for that – Jacky told me that crying at funerals is okay so please feel free to join in with me whenever you wish.

In fact that tumour last year was the first time in 80 years that GNP had been in a hospital since his birth – not a bad record to have!

GNP was one of life’s gentleman. Kind, always impeccably groomed, and genuine. He was a traditionalist. In fact if you look up the phrase ‘old school’ in the dictionary there is a picture of dad. Dad owned zero pairs of jeans but a lot of slippers and he had the same haircut for 81 years.

He set extremely high standards for integrity and values. He was a stickler, a person of logic and precision (I have a distinct memory of him measuring out some garden fertiliser with his pharmacist scales while dressed in suit pants and a business shirt to do the gardening). He and mum provided a fantastic example of a marriage and love. But I’m getting ahead of myself a little. Let me tell you some brief details about my dad.

He was born in Auckland 81 years ago. His mother and father were Harry and Christina Purdy. He grew up an only child and there was always an element of distance in the family relationships. Harry was a master plasterer from a long line of plasterers in Rochdale, England but dad was destined for more cerebral pursuits.

After attending Mount Albert Grammar and making lifelong friendships with people like Bruce Pursar and Mervyn Hynes he trained as a pharmacist. Part of his early repertoire of concoctions were creams for Harry’s lime scarred hands.

As a young hot shot chemist around town he often frequented the record bars of Queen St. on the look out for scarce as hen’s teeth American big band jazz records. During these searches a young lady working the record counter at Lewis Eddy’s caught his eye.

He was smitten. She wasn’t impressed!

He was tenacious though and persevered and according to him – he wore her down. Dulcie Mary Adsett became his wife in 1953. Together they had two gorgeous boys – first was me, then Ross. Around this time dad swapped the chemist apron for a business suit when he joined Burroughs Welcome as a manager. Eventually he rose to become it’s NZ Managing Director.

Growing up we were always aware of dad’s great passions – jazz played at outrageously loud volumes, Marx Brothers’ movies – the password is swordfish by the way, freemasonry, and electronics or gadgets of any kind. It became something of a family tradition lasting until this year that he would buy the latest thing on the market whether it be audio/visual or computers or navigation equipment which was a bit of a hoot because he basically only traveled around Orewa after moving there 7 years ago. He was the most connected octogenarian that I know.

My brother Ross and I were/are very lucky. We grew up in a stable, loving, supportive, fun, disciplined family environment that gave us love, values, attitudes, support beyond question, happiness, a sense of fairness and backbone. Yes I know everyone says their mum/dad are the best but for us it's not a platitude or a cliche. It's the truth!

Unfortunately not all of you have met my mum and dad or knew them as a married couple, and only Ross and I know what it was to live at 18 Korma Rd., then 4 Ramelton Rd. with them. Because of the way families were in the 60's we had the most contact with mum because as dad worked in Otahuhu at BW he both left early and arrived late. It was mostly the little care network of mum and her mum that we saw more of/spent more time with.

I have very vivid memories of growing up and they are mostly sunny, warm and satisfied. Doubly and tragically unfortunate is that less of you knew my mother (Dulcie). She died on November 4 1983 after a battle with cancer and so none of my children knew her. She was an incredible person whom everybody loved. Shortly before he passed away dad asked me, “Where’s Dulcie?” I told him that she was coming and he smiled for he knew it was the truth. When he was finally ready Jacky and I passed the baton on to her and she took his hand. After 26 years they were reunited again and Ross and I could be content. She’ll be taking care of him now much better than we ever could.

My parents were inspirational. They were together until mum died and they loved each other (and that was obvious). They were such different people with such different interests but it worked. That inspires me right there and I know I'm lucky. As a school principal I often see students struggling to cope with horrendous family issues (sometimes amazingly no one wants the child) and Ross and I were safe from all that. So this eulogy is also a tribute to our mum and dad. God bless them! And thanks.

After mum passed away, dad became reacquainted with Nita who had previously been mum’s bridesmaid and Ross’ godmother. The friendship turned to marriage and some happy years living in Glen Eden where they both shared in the growing grandparent duties to our respective families. Unfortunately the relationship was not to last with Nita and dad made the transition to Orewa’s Maygrove Village where he became neighbours with old friends like Marion Schnauer and new friends like Don, Harry and Celia.

Two final things in closing
A message from Jacky first -

Graham – it was an absolute pleasure and a very special privilege to help you
at the end. You allowed me to accompany you to the doors of heaven and watch you
go through. Thank you and enjoy your reunion with Dulcie. Love you always, till
we meet again – Jacky

And to end I’d like to read a passage from Philippians Chapter 4 – Paul encourages the lord’s followers but, to me, it really sounds like Graham’s voice:

Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy,
friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile
and worthy of praise. You know the teachings I gave you, and you know what you heard me say and saw me do. So follow my example. And God, who gives peace, will be with you.