When I was an impressionable teenager, my revered brother poked fun at the hippies who embraced a carefree life and sat in contemplative lotus chanting om to the stars. He labeled them “mungers” after their supposed excessive consumption of mung beans. At this stage I hadn’t been introduced to the wider world of legumes, nor met a real live breathing vegan, and thought my brother was the very impression of the perfect man. He drove a yellow Hilux, windsurfed, and oscillated between work as a carpenter and the exotic world of crayfishing at the Abrolhos Islands.
At this age I didn’t imagine I would marry a surfer, build my own thatched house on an Indonesian island and sprout mung beans bought from a toothless betel nut chewer at the weekly market. The suit boy of my future was wearing Armani, not neoprene. I thought you had to aspire to a shiny Landcruiser or a Holden ute and the latest TV. You filled your days with "honest" work for a good wage and happiness would flood in through your bank account and the recognition from significant others that you were successful. However, somewhere deep down, the admiration I had for my brother, despite his mockery of mungers, molded my values and visions of the perfect husband. An aquaman that knows how to swing a hammer and looks hot in boardshorts.
So here I am sprouting mung beans, peanuts and alfalfa, and picking organic rocket from my garden. I do head stands and cartwheels and have daytime naps. My heart beats faster when I pick up a well weighted pen or push an audible camera shutter. I love our rusty '89 landcruiser, I haven't owned a TV for 15 years and like to pretend I don't have a debt that supports the Macquarie Bank Christmas party.
Yet there are still times when I find myself on Seek or Careerone fumbling through the drop down lists of job titles, searching for me, for something to define me in society, to answer my most dreaded question "what do you do?" A fruitless activity that does little but rouse fear, doubt and confusion. Then I get up, walk down to the lagoon and give myself up to the ocean.
I empathize with the words of Richard Bode, the beachcomber of Miramar : "As I walk the beach, I like to think I am an autonomous being, moving through the world as I wish to move, free of encumbrances. But despite my deepest yearnings, there is a contrary force, buried in some secret, shameful part of my being, drawing me toward conformity. I am still trying to meet the expectations of others, still afraid that if I don’t the whole unstable world will come down about my head".
What does the real world look like?