Pleasure and Pain


I want to talk about our relationship with pain and pleasure and take a look at the relative values of both.

First of all, pain gets very little validation as either a path or a learning tool and it is intimately bound to, even constricted by, time. Pain is generally measured by the time it takes to pass as opposed to the time it takes for us to get its message or make our way.

It’s opposite, pleasure, is generally regarded as good and we don’t mind how much of our time we give it.

As I often do I will turn to the Websters Dictionary for a definition of pleasure and pain.


highly unpleasant physical sensation caused by illness or injury
suffering · agony · affliction ·

cause mental or physical pain
hurt · cause pain · be painful · be sore · ache · throb · smart · burn · prickle · sting · pinch · twinge · cause discomfort · be tender · kill · play up · sadden · grieve · distress · make miserable/wretched · trouble · worry · bother · perturb · disturb · oppress · harrow · cause anguish to · afflict · cut to the quick · mortify · torment · torture · wound · gnaw at


a feeling of happy satisfaction and enjoyment
happiness · delight · joy · gladness · rapture · glee · satisfaction · gratification · fulfilment · contentment · contentedness · enjoyment · amusement · delectation
enjoyment · fun · entertainment · amusement · diversion · recreation · leisure · relaxation · jollies · beer and skittles, joy · delight · source of pleasure · enjoyment · amusement · diversion · recreation · pastime · divertissement · treat · thrill
sensual gratification.
“the touch of his fingers gave her such pleasure”
sensual gratification · hedonism · indulgence · self-indulgence · self-gratification · lack of self-restraint · lotus-eating · sybaritism

give sexual enjoyment or satisfaction to

Photo0416Still Life Abundance by Carmol Scammell

So, there we have it. PLEASURE is all the nice things in life and PAIN is all the suffering.

But is there a case for PAIN being the pathway to a more substantial brand of PLEASURE?

Too often I have been told by well-meaning family or friends to give up on something or someone who causes me pain. But the truth is I willingly suffer for my art. I have put in years to achieve a result that largely goes out into the world unrequited. I have also put in years nurturing relationships with people that others would walk away from. Well-meaning friends whose lives are punctuated with episodes of moderate pleasure in the form of holidays and romantic relationships, advise me to stop “wasting my time” on books, musicals and people who cause me pain and frustration. Their concern is both reasonable and touching. Perhaps on my last day I will look back and wish I’d been more frivolous and spent my time enjoying myself as opposed to wasting my time on projects and people that have given me little in return. Or have they?

Pleasure can certainly be measured in laughter and sensual engagement with food, wine and attractive others. But this kind of pleasure is temporary and requires much topping up and surely when looped on repeat it suffers from a lack of surprise? My pleasure, when it does arrive after years of investment in the form of energy and hope, signals a mark in time, meaning I have produced something of lasting quality. The quality of my investment requires no “topping up” because  it will endure and delight others. I hope!

Anyone who has suffered the pain of creating a work of art or making a new scientific discovery has a sense of self-worth and achievement that goes far beyond the simple pleasure of a night out or a holiday. Their joy echoes in that silent realm of spiritual connection that translates into the illumination of everything around them. In short, the person who feels validated by achievement sees the world differently.

This kind of joy is not mentioned in Websters definition of PLEASURE.

And I maintain that only PAIN leads a person to this illuminating brand of PLEASURE.

So, now applying that to relationships with people. In the Websters definition of pleasure we see a selfish focus. Pleasure is measured by what others bring to us. He/she brings sexual fulfilment. She/he brings wonderful food and joyful celebrations. He/she completes us. This pleasure is outwardly focused. Now look at the relationships where you are the giver rather than the receiver. You give to others in order to help them grow and become more fulfilled. You give to others in order to heal them or make them well. You give to others in order to release them from cages of confusion and pain. If the recipient is your child, friend, family member or student you may give for years and receive little in return until one bright day the butterfly emerges from the cocoon with wings fully-formed ready to brace the skies. You know that all the years of support and buffering against the elements have given this person time to grow and with your steady belief in them they are ready to brave the storms and brilliance of that exposing light. They are brave and they are free.

There is a huge difference in the quality of a relationship based solely on pleasure as opposed to one that endures pain and the time of its duration to fund enormous growth in the beloved. True, this kind of relationship often leads to separation as the beloved flies off, but if you are on your own path you will need that wingspan yourself and your paths will cross from time to time.

Beware the kind of pleasure that twines an everlasting loop. It goes nowhere, proffers no-one.

Beware also the kind of pain that refuses to let go of the past. It, too, goes nowhere. The only way to discern who is worth investing your love and time into is to maintain your own trajectory in life and teach by example.

Now I want to look at an entirely different kind of pain that leads the sufferer to a very different kind of pleasure. There are people who give their lives to God. These spiritual questers put their faith in something no-one can prove. They suffer deprivation, poverty and rigid discipline in order to achieve a connection with a God who possibly never answers a single prayer. I have met a few of these people on my travels through life and have observed that their enlightenment comes through endurance and faith. They may never hear God but they seem to find a deeply-felt pleasure in giving to others and denying themselves all temporary pleasure. These people may well be deluded but they have a huge reservoir of spiritual generosity and kindness. Perhaps even God’s silence is part of the pain they use to develop empathy. These people do not judge who is worthy of their time. They give of themselves unstintingly and deem it an investment.

I am not talking here about the paedophile priest or scam-artist guru or self-appointed New Age prophet. I am talking about the simple men and women of any faith or creed who have largely outgrown their doctrines to invest in a living ministry where they are available to those in need. I have seen these people in action and witnessed the transformational results of their love for humanity. To the outsider their lives appear empty and painful, but look more closely and you will see that their souls shine with transcendental pleasure and that their high-grade joy has an angelic lustre. In short, these people are happy and fulfilled and they have earned this peace of mind through years of deprivation and by giving up all the usual pleasures of life.

Theirs is a pleasure earned through pain. I would posit that most of them have given up waiting for God to answer and have chosen instead to act like God.

Pain usually signals illness of body, mind or spirit. But there is another kind of pain, one that marks progress and endurance and accompanies us on the road less travelled. This is the good pain and the one worth enduring.

And finally, the worst pain of all – the pain of sour pleasure. This is the unbearable pain that follows years of indulgence. This is the agonising realisation that too much pleasure hurts and we have wasted our lives partying. Now the music that once made us dance beats into our brains like a drum and the laughter of drunk friends is hot wires to the senses and the feast that once excited us tastes like ashes and our wasted years shroud our souls. We have danced our lives away and the pleasure is agonising.

It is a Midas touch, the gold that buries us in a mountain of futility.

Our pleasure is our pain and only real deprivation can return us to the path that leads to sacred joy, holy light and the kind of pleasure that illuminates the soul.

Vincent 7

Mint Julip and Gum in Country NSW

campsie park 12

Thirty years ago the man I would marry showed me an old peasy house he had bought along with a small holding of three hundred acres, tiny in those parts of New South Wales where the average farm is three-five thousand acres. We both fell in love with the old house and wrapped many wine-infused dreams around it on starry nights when you could hear eternity sighing and far-flung dreams seemed a heartbeat away.

The old house had been built over a century earlier and had stood empty for decades. It needed a lot of love and I remember the first thing that greeted us when we opened the door was a disgruntled goat who had enjoyed sole occupation of the premises for some time. The goat followed us as we explored the empty rooms whose ghosts no doubt watched us curiously as we planned the renovation and our lives.

The garden had once been landscaped by the famous Edna Walling who took her inspiration from British Landscape designer, Gertrude Jekyll, and it still bore the marks of a once-great beauty. Walling’s signature curves could still be seen in the crumbling sandstone walls and perfectly-placed cypress pines and claret ash. I longed to resurrect the garden and add my own flavour, a walled garden of delphiniums and hollyhocks and a copse of my favourite trees, liquidambar and English plane. To marry the landscape to the garden I decided to plant out the creek and the soak, a damp section of the meadowland, with cottonwood poplars and willows, trees whose lush minty green would enliven the Australian palette of olive and fawn. campsie park 14

The old house nestled in established cypress, plane and liquidambar.

Even though I longed for distant mountains and European colour I had to content myself with the intermediate view and to that end I planted dozens of willow and cottonwood sticks. I didn’t strike them, just stuck them in the creek bed and soak and left them to it.

When I arrived at Campsie Park there was nothing but gum trees as far as the eye could see, which was to the near horizon of gently rising, largely barren, brown hills.

Last week I went back after thirty years, to finally close that chapter of my life, unsealed by the divorce and the years of single life and to my delight I saw that my trees had grown to green perfection, creating a minty foreground view, pulling the eye and the imagination towards a verdant little kingdom of exquisite proportions and ebullience.

campsie park 13

The cottonwoods in the soak.

campsie park 3


The willows along the creek bed.

As much as the land shapes us so we shape the land. Australia has a burnished majesty in its sweeping ochre planes and gnarled ancient gums that survive the harshest conditions and need the tempering of fire to propagate.

campsie park 1

But we bring our imagination and taste to our plantings and every tree we plant is an investment in the future and the health of our glorious planet.

In my own small way I have made a mark in history, a symphony in green that will inspire and linger long after I have moved on to the next part of my journey.

campsie park 12


For two friends who lost the battle but won the war.

A friend lost his battle with cancer today.

Another friend is facing a similar ending very soon.

I know that neither one of them had the time nor the opportunity to fulfil their potential or fully realise their dreams. Both were talented creatives, one was a writer, the other an artist. Neither one ever gave up trying to find traction in this world and offer their shining gifts.

You don’t know their names and for the most part they will disappear into obscurity and a grave marked only with their names and lifespans. They will be forgotten, their words, paintings, smiles. All gone.

But there will be an afterglow, a residue of brilliance that will linger like perfume and signpost the paths they took through their difficult lives because genius leaves an indelible mark, a residual glow after it has passed. Genius or soul-light leaves a trail of sparkle that continues to light the path and inspire others for centuries. Like its opposite, abuse, it’s easier to recognise in the people around them than it is in the abuser or the genius. They appear quite normal to the outside world but those affected by the abuser’s hatred or the genius’ singular light show signs of proximity.

Genius is the light we shed in life and the afterglow of our having lived.

I hate the value system that supports people who accrue nothing but wealth and make no perceivable difference. It saddens me that so much real wealth in terms of inspiration, scientific invention and artistic endeavour is squandered in favour of business. I can’t change that and neither could my friends but I can salute them for their courage in the face of insurmountable challenge and thank them for the beauty they left behind, beauty that will keep resonating and increasing in value even as the piled gold of the oligarchs tarnishes and diminishes.

Wherever you are my beautiful friends shine on.



The Snob on Betelgeuse

snobSNOB a person with an exaggerated respect for high social position or wealth who seeks to associate with social superiors and looks down on those regarded as socially inferior. Webster’s Dictionary Definition

I have always judged snobs as people so devoid of self-worth they super-impose a set of  consensus-sanctioned qualities over their real selves in order to trick self-esteem. The problem with snobbery is that it is so embedded in our culture that we fail to see it for the degenerative nonsense it is.

Does it really matter how much money we have or what colour our skin is or what school we went to or what title our ancestors stole? Really? Does any of this crap value-add to our characters, intelligence or souls? People honestly believe in the superiority of one group over another and they are misled into worship and envy based on the imagined sanctity of belonging to a particular sorority, religion, culture or social demographic.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: None of this shit matters on Betelgeuse.

For those of you not familiar with Betelgeuse (I love the name!)
“Betelgeuse is a Semiregular Variable Star generally considered the ninth-brightest star in the night sky and second-brightest in the constellation of Orion. It is a distinctly reddish, semiregular variable star whose apparent magnitude varies between +0.0 and +1.3, the widest range of any first-magnitude star. At near-infrared wavelengths, Betelgeuse is the brightest star in the night sky.” Wikipedia

Pity poor Betelgeuse had to be categorised according to its brightness and empirical worth.

But what is the driving force behind snobbery and elitism? And why are we categorising stars? Surely they are the last bastion of self-determination.

I’ve decided the driving force behind snobbery is gravity, the force that glues us to the earth and prevents flight whilst orchestrating falls.

GRAVITYin mechanics, the universal force of attraction acting between all matter. It is by far the weakest force known in nature and thus plays no role in determining the internal properties of everyday matter. Yet, it also controls the trajectories of bodies in the universe and the structure of the whole cosmos.

Gravity, the weakest force in nature that keeps stars and planets apart and galaxies spinning in a socially-strataed whirl has no impact at the sub-atomic level. In short, the inner sanctum, the relationship between electron and proton, quark and charm or soul and God is immune to gravity even though it seemingly orchestrates the dance of super-novae! And decides how far apart bodies must be in order to maintain a safe distance.

So, assuming you accept my hypothesis, why are we allowing the weakest force in nature to set our paths?

Answer: for safety.

Because gravity is the antidote to risk. Anyone who has ever suffered from vertigo knows the visceral tug of gravity. But in truth gravity is a trickster, the weakest force in the universe. Light outsmarts it every time by traveling anywhere it wants to in whatever form it chooses, particle or wave. Light has no respect for gravity. Even the super-powered gravity of a black hole cannot fully direct light. Some escapes. And I daresay the light that does get swept along in that tide of mono-directional force will ultimately find its own expression in a cramped and compressed new world.

But back to my theory. Those who are afraid of flight rely on gravity to keep them glued to the familiar pathways and broad-stroke highways of earth, to the byways waxed and polished with millennia footfall of converging followers too frightened of the wilderness to risk its wild aridity and uncharted expanses. The weak force of gravity will keep the timid grounded and the galaxies spinning while the brave defy restraint with flight and quarks charm the elementals, dear Watson.

Why are we so afraid of the unknown that we corral imagination with a black hole mentality, a mindset that chants “This is known, this is preferred, this is safe” a mantra that ultimately becomes “This cage is best and you must fight to get in.”

Don’t be seduced by the tepid mentality of snobs so afraid of freedom they harness their souls to gravity and allow the weakest force in nature to govern their thinking. There is a world beyond the burrow, rabbits.

Gravity, the great leveller and preventer of alteration, keeps the classes in place, the stars apart and timid feet edging along the tamest of ruts as if they were flight-paths. Do not append achievement to the creeping mundanity of group thinking.

I see a world where titles, royalty, celebrity, class and money have no gravity or gravitas. I see a world where people defy gravity in pursuit of being.

Who are we without all the appellations, social clustering and box ticking used to stigmatize us with either unearned privilege or undeserved discrimination? Who are we in relation to the sky? More importantly, who are we in relation to ourselves?

We simply are under the universal principle of I AM and it is incumbent upon us who have been gifted with free will to simply and grandly BE without the safety rails of class distinction or social sanction.

In our daily interactions with the unknown do we offer open-minded tolerance or do we peer through the lens of calcified stratification?

Once our brief internship on this planet is over and we are bracing the fiery winds of Betelgeuse or thrilling to the chilly embrace of Rigel we will do so armoured with nothing but our being. We will face fiery Betelgeuse and frozen Rigel and say I AM. Who are you?

rigel star

And finally here is  a portarit of the fellow who once ruled the world and is now a museum piece.


Beauty – Companion piece to Misogyny

Women bend ourselves out of shape for beauty.

To achieve an impossible and in many cases, ludicrous ideal, women will do anything to outshine other women. Yes, it’s that brutal and that nasty. The richest man in Babylon has first pick of the fairest flowers. The prettiest woman gets the prince and then gets worshipped and then dies.

beauty misi

But don’t celebrate women for their beauty, celebrate them for their souls and their right to simply be comfortable in their own skin.

Because the emperor liked small feet a generation of Chinese women bound their feet and lived a life of agony with feet that resembled mangled stumps.


Because long necks were considered attractive they added a ring every year until the vertebrae in their necks disconnected and made it impossible to remove these abominable chokers.


Because some misogynistic fashion designer decided HIS clothes were more important than HER health these women starved themselves to death.


Because HE was afraid his beautiful young wife would run off with a younger man she covered her face to protect his fragile ego.


Because tiny waists were considered sexy they wore strangling belts that made breathing difficult and digestion impossible.


Geishas slept on wooden blocks so their precious hairdos would not get spoiled.

She had a boob job because she wanted to look like Barbi.

They lived in a harem and spent their lives trying to please one man.

All of these women bent themselves out of shape to please men and become the living embodiment of sexually desirable slaves.


They said enough and were beaten up.


And if enough women had the courage to say NO to BEAUTY and the men who demand it we could put an end to this:


20190729_133634Every time I see a woman being disregarded, talked over, ignored, corrected, abused and objectified I ask myself why.

Why are women a sub-species in so many parts of the world? How did we sink so low or have we always been the last in line behind husbands, male co-workers and children? And if so, why?

I have been watching a fascinating series of Saudi Arabian movies on the World Movie Channel. Each movie has focused on the lot of women in what I can only assume are “normal” households. The wife is everybody’s servant and punching bag. She suffers the neglect and abuse of her husband, the contempt of her children, the judgement of her female neighbours and the domination of her mother-in-law and whilst this culture is at the high end of patriarchal dominance I witnessed similar treatment and placement of women in Evangelistic America when I was married to a Born-Again Christian musician who insisted on entitlement as his God-given right. He ruled our household with a fractured rod of iron.

In the end I bought a one-way ticket back to Australia.

But I was lucky. I could escape. Not all women can or want to.

So whose fault is it that women are dominated and oppressed? Men’s? Or theirs?

What surprised me in America was just how many women were complicate in their lot.  I spoke to women in the church group I was forced to attend every Wednesday and was amazed to hear them justify their husband’s dominant role in the home. These self-appointed tyrants were answerable to no-one except another male, God. The women couldn’t see the rod they were making for their own backs. If your only hold over a man is a sexual one be assured ladies that fades with age and what exactly is left? A pattern of abuse established in the first weeks of courting. One very pleasant and highly accomplished young woman I had befriended invited me and my then-husband out to the lake house she and her husband owned for a weekend getaway. All weekend she waited on us hand and foot and generally acted like a servant. Her behaviour embarrassed me and I wrongly believed she was being dominated by her husband until it came to after-dinner coffee on Saturday night and she had to select one brand out of a dazzling array of choices. She asked her husband to choose and he sighed and asked her to please make the decision by herself. For the remainder of the weekend I observed that every time he tried to do something she rushed in and did it for him…and me…and my husband. I realised then that her victimhood was in fact a form of sugar-coated control.

By refusing to allow anybody else to do anything and by forcing her husband to “decide” on every little detail she was in fact making sure he remained bound to her. She created the illusion of helplessness. Only he could be trusted to make the right decision. Is that because Eve chose to sample forbidden fruit? Should she have checked in with Adam first? Who can trust shrew-eating snakes after all?

By the end of that weekend I despised her and the stupid religion that ran her thinking or should I say, absence of thinking?

Which brings me back to WHY do some women willingly accept domination?

Short answer: because it keeps them in the picture.

Long answer: because the dynamic of dominance creates the sexual tension they are addicted to. Their men are trained to pursue until the quarry is caught and then boredom sets in unless there is a way to trick that chase into a long-term relationship. And one of the primary factors necessary to ensure continued tension and excitement is to make sure the quarry is forever unknown i.e. a stranger. People in these marriages/relationships are rarely friends. How can they be? They don’t know each other. They play gender roles and maintain the separation necessary for sexual tension. These people catch and run and catch and run for years. It’s exhausting for onlookers and participants alike but they are willing to sacrifice friendship, support, self-respect, responsibility and equality for sex.

In every society there are women and men who are tired of this lack of balance and would rather have the healthy competition of a fully functioning woman than the half-life of a victimised stranger.

Then there is another aspect. There is only so much room at the top and do men really want 50% of society competing with them for top jobs? No. Keeping women barefoot and pregnant assures men of having first, middle and last bite of the cherry. It also means they can under-perform and still get paid top dollar for their efforts. Women, used to working hard for little or nothing, are stiff competition in an even field. Women don’t expect privilege and so they will work harder than their male counterparts who expect preferential treatment by virtue of their gender.

There is an emerging class of male who are refreshingly eager to befriend women and give them a chance to shine. I have met some incredible men since my book, Catch the Moon, Mary was published in 2015 and in fact some of the most extraordinary reviews I’ve received have been from men who genuinely celebrate my talent. These marvellous men have taken me at my WORD and for my words.

So, winding back to the atmosphere of hatred and oppression abounding in societies run by patriarchal religions. Women are viewed through the lens of Eden and original sin. Woman as temptress and seducer. Tempted by naughty, beguiling Eve, Adam bit the apple and what did it awaken in him? His delicious sexual appetite. In some faiths it’s important for men to maintain the illusion that they are lying with the devil when they have sex with a woman. They want the dark side of their natures to find sanction and apparently war isn’t reliable enough or happening often enough to sate that appetite for dominance. The evolved man and woman want friendship based on equality and respect but it means taking the route of self-reliance and self-development and accepting the genius of a friend.

There’s the rub. Genius is such a hard-won prize and has, for centuries, been the provenance of men only. How much more unattainable will the mantle of genius become if hardworking talented women enter the field and raise the bar? But this is the only authentic pathway out of the imbalance between the sexes. Encourage women to be the best version of themselves they can be and celebrate the genuine diversity of accomplishment.

I despair at the state of the world right now with so many tired old white men and nasty youngish brown ones fumbling the reigns of power. They are inept and sub-standard and so obviously stupid they can only maintain their delusional self-image with the sanction of women content to sublimate their own potential in order to maintain control of men they choose to worship as proxy-Gods.

And why?

Because these same women are too damned lazy to walk their own paths.

They would rather bask in the flickering light of deified nobodies.