I think I found the magic ingredient. It’s movement. It’s nomadism. It’s constant play, acceptance of ourselves as Homo Ludens. After a brief escape to the paddocks, hills and lakes of the Adelaide Hills, driving along winding roads at 100 kilometers an hour, I feel refreshed and energised, like some spark has reignited somewhere among the cogs and oil. It’s the same feeling I had while travelling Europe, to some extent, and that’s a good thing because that’s exactly what I was trying to emulate.
“The automation of society in the 1950s was already changing the urban atmosphere. People had more leisure time and were becoming more mobile. New Babylon took this development to the extreme, envisaging a fully automated society in which labour had become entirely superfluous. A society inhabited by Huizinga’s Homo Ludens, an adventurous individual at play who, together with others, explored his or her own creativity and lived a nomadic life of continuous travel and creation.” – Introduction to the New Babylon exhibition at Reina Sofia gallery, Madrid.
At the beginning of life I was completely averse to change. I was afraid of leaving the family home, a place where we’d set up shop and created all the comforts that I thought necessary to happiness. As time went on and change became inevitable, new friends, new schools, new challenges, I began to change my mind. Now, after giving in wholly to the present I’ve come to embrace change. I’ve come to realise that constant shifting and evolution is the key. Stagnation, over-work, a focus on physical profit and fear of the outside are some of the most destructive parts of life.
It’s not always easy to be on the road all the time, though. We’re limited now by capitalism, ideals of fixed homes and property and relatively stable borders. We’re living in a world of home, blankets and television, but even within this we can strike outwards and challenge the borders that keep us in place.
Moving without Moving
There’s something so fulfilling about exploration, something I struggle to explain. It’s like, just by seeing new things your world gets a little bigger and brighter and you grow along with it. It doesn’t really matter if this exploration is physical, by bus or plane or foot, literary, imaginative or even digital. Sure, some of the methods are healthier than others, but we can still move forward or outward from our seat.
Over the past two months since my arrival back in Adelaide, I’ve spent most of my time sitting down. It’s not the healthiest habit to take up, but it’s just the way life is lived out here in the country if you’re not a labourer of some kind. In modern Australia, we spend most of our time on our arses.
Of course, I haven’t been completely sedentary. Through books, movies and even video games I’ve been exploring new worlds and even creating some of my own. Through words and pixels I’ve begun travelling again. I’ve become a little addicted to Fallout 4 for this very reason. It’s a brand new world for me to get lost in, and one that is much more fantastical and dangerous than our own. I’ve been wandering around post-apocalyptic Boston, in the boots of another man, being a tourist amongst decaying skyscrapers and radioactive seas instead of Victorian suburbs and Autumn forests.
But there’s real danger in this as well. We can become too lost in this fictional worlds, until we’re not quite sure we’re one starts and the other begins. It’s a nice escape every once in a while, but we can’t live within them. We can’t grow as Homo Sapiens, only Homo Ludens and, unfortunately, we need to be human beings to survive in capitalist society.
As writers though, Homo Sriptors, we thrive off of inspiration in any form. Fictional universes can seem just as fulfilling as our real one, especially if we can leave them with valuable inspiration as plunder. As modern people, we are products of the products around us. As modern writers, we are even more so voices for the products around us.
So I guess it’s fair enough to spend some time abroad in video games and books, as long as in the end it provides you with some little bit of forward momentum and doesn’t bog you down in a world of complacency and addiction.
Moving at Full Speed Towards Everything
Today, though, I need a break from sitting on my arse. I need to go an sit on my arse behind the wheel of a car screaming around the Hills. And so I did just that.
I tell you what, coming back from an overseas trip really makes you see your home in a new light. Before I left, the Adelaide Hills were all I had ever known. Rolling gold and green, huge gum trees and the occasional dead kangaroo on the side of the road were the everyday for me. I complained about the lack of activities and opportunities for young artists yet I didn’t want to leave. I was stuck and festering… something I still feel just as acutely now but now I’m not unimpressed by the scenery.
Months and months of cityscapes and art galleries can make you easily forget that most of the world is still covered by wilderness and what colonialists dubbed “Badlands”. It’s important to get out and appreciate these untamed places once in a wild, especially those that seem to resist the contemporary conquerors that build our towns and cities.
Today I went out into the farms and paddocks that dot the Adelaide Hills, going as far as Mount Crawford, before turning back, driving along Cudlee Creek and then back up the hill to Mount “Lofty” (a stupid name considering the Alps I’d seen in Austria just a few months earlier, but a beautiful place all the same). I stopped at SA’s famous Big Rocking Horse on the way to pick up a pin (a tradition I picked up overseas as you’ll see in some of my last posts) and to feel like a tourist in my own home.
It’s great to take a break from your homely life and role-play the life of a visitor. By looking at things through tourist’s eyes, always ready to snap holiday photos or to roll out a picnic blanket and a novel on top of a hill somewhere, you’re brain prepares you to appreciate the beauty around you. You de-familiarise yourself and thus become fresh again, a babe in the woods. Pretending you don’t have all the time in the world to bum around the place makes you really take advantage of the time you have. Hey… is this why they’re always talking about “your last day” and junk?
Realm of the Hillfolk
The Adelaide Hills are, for the large part, a sun-blasted and burnt landscape of amber and ochre. You can drive through dynamite-bombed tunnels of pink, rocky walls, through mile long corridors of deep grey trees with peeling brown bar or through hairpin corkscrews on the edge of cliffs. For acres around you can see nothing but wasteland or tangles of chaotic tree mass. If you’re lucky you can see a damp river surrounded by vibrant moss and greenery. The only living things you’ll see for an hour or more are passing motorists, big brown cows or herds of dirty sheep.
And it’s wonderful.
The outer Adelaide Hills is a place of harsh reality but also romanticism. Of course, I can only possibly see it from the view of a privileged white Australian, but even then I can sense the deep magic of the place. Under wide blue skies, the hills roll on seemingly forever. Every turn takes you into a new pocket dimension, a new desert, a new forest, a new marshland. Living here all my life and never realising how beautiful it is… well, that makes me feel a bit foolish.
I’m proud to be Hillfolk. I love cities and art and modernity, but if I were to choose anywhere to live it would be under bright, clear skies, surrounded by nothingness and endless opportunity for exploration. It must be a place that allows for quiet contemplation but also risky adventure and some sort of challenge. The Hills provides all that with the luxuries that we expect of a contemporary Western city.
So here’s to the Adelaide Hills, the adventure that I never knew I had on my doorstep.