Last week was Dad’s birthday. It neatly lines up with Father’s Day (Australian) every year, landing in the same week. I feel like my Dad has always been the same age. Always slightly bald, tufts of white hair and a white beard, a little Bernie Sanders-esque. Always present, the person in the other room tapping away at his laptop, piles of papers strewn across the desk.
He’s been the constant presence in my life since birth. Crazy to imagine it. The three people who have been with me the longest still exist, still maintain spaces in this physical world. We swell from a cell into a conglomerate of matter, sucking parts of the universe into our own being for such an insignificant amount of time, days or months or years and then the time ends and we slowly expel all of these atoms back out into the universe.
And that’s it. The universe holds no memory of us or our time here. Sometimes small parts of us get trapped in limbo, dinosaur bones fossilised by the pressures of moving planets, but for the most part we exist in living form for a century if we’re lucky, exist in dead physical form for a couple more and then slowly re-integrate into the nothingness of the void.
The one aspect that can continue on is ideas. Man can spark a thought from nowhere, carry that rational thought to its logical conclusion (or not, in the case of most) and that idea can live on for thousand of years. See Greek philosophy or the birth of religions or the development of the printing press for ideas that have stood the test of time.
If I had to say one thing about my dad, he IS an ideas man. He’s a creator. He conceives ideas, pulls the fragments together and poofs them into being. From my youngest days, my memories of Dad have involved him creating and curating ideas. As a teenager I would earn money by printing and binding course materials he created. A multi-linguist, he created books on learning English from an Arabic speaker’s perspective. Then on learning Arabic from an English speaker’s perspective. Then on niche markets (in conjunction with my mother, the first doctor of the family): health education for the illiterate, how to lower infant mortality rates from diarrhoea in third world countries, how to teach English health vocabulary to foreign-language doctors. My younger years were surrounded by filing cabinets of course materials, bookshelves of resources and dust. Dust everywhere across the shambles of Dad’s workspace. The dust was ostensibly more a sign of living in the Middle East than of Dad’s work habits, but one constant of every ‘office space’ he’s had is a vague sense that there’s a little too much stuff in it. Papers spill across desks. There’s always a corkboard with little scraps of paper pinned to it. A whiteboard with words scribbled across it.
I get the sense that his mind is a little like his office space. There’s thoughts bulging from every corner, an overwhelm of ideas. The beauty of it is that he mostly knows where nearly everything is kept. Ask him to hold forth on high school chemistry or the Arab alphabet or obscure elements of human history and he’s there. He absorbs ideas like a sponge and files them away… somewhere. Wherever ideas go I guess. He’s intensively inquisitive, excited to learn, always happy to have a conversation (and/or a debate) on anything. I made the mistake once of asking him about Richard Dawkin’s book The God Delusion, and a week later he’d read it and sent me an email outlining his thoughts. This is his modus operandi: consume information, run it through the supercomputer, distill it as something else.
As a teenager, people would often remark on my similarity to Dad and I never quite got it. My brother was like Mum, I was like Dad. Of course the sum of the equation isn’t quite that simple, because we’re more than a mixture of two halves, we’re a confluence of genes and friendship groups and experiences and childhood trauma, no matter how innocuous. A chemical cocktail that takes on the intangibility of personality and shapeshifts its way through social situations.
Over time I’ve started to adapt the idea of similarity, to consider it in a new light. There’s the base physical similarity: the kindred baldness and physique and squint when we smile. There’s the base emotional similarity: hitting life from a logical perspective first and foremost, emotions coming second (although I’m sure I’m imprinting my own experiences here), and the sense of humour. But there’s also a much deeper mental similarity: the desire to create, the desire to take ideas and crunch them into bits run them through the supercomputer distill them as something new, the desire to debate ideas.
It’s taken me time to get to this point but I’m slowly piecing together a vision of my future, and it feels like the similarities I share with my father paint a poignant image of who I am and what I could be.
This is the final video in my ‘Isolation Sessions’ series. It’s also the final track off my first EP We Were Wild. I’m starting a new video series this week, pulling in a bunch of friends to do something exciting! Enjoy.