Most days after work I see them. Rain or shine. The group of aborigines picnicking on Wita Wirra Park, next to Adelaide Himeji Garden, seems always carefree, jovial and free. Even inside my car, I can sometimes hear them hollering to one another, or maybe they were singing. Maybe not, they do not sound melodious. They often appear relaxed, without furrowed brows, I imagine. Somehow they know cars will not hit them. They are prone to crossing the road freely, staggering and wayward, sometimes. Except once when it was pelting down with stinging rain. It was the only time I saw them move quickly, with purpose. No umbrellas to shield themselves with, two or three of them held brown corrugated cardboard sheets over their heads. I am 61 years old and have worked for most of my life. In 1975, my pa sent me to work for a friend of his, Mr. Sim, when I was waiting for my MCE results. Mr. Sim had a haberdashery warehouse on Kimberley Street. I was to be his secretary and found it especially enjoyable to read his old correspondence with some exporters in Hong Kong. People with broken English could still engage in international business. Nothing can stop the art of trading, not even war. Businessmen will use imaginative ways to secure their deals. Language is no barrier, which leads me to opine the tariff wars will also not stop trade between countries. Those who worry about trade repercussions after Brexit need to be reassured. They will find a way to do business. Ingenuity and creativity are hallmarks of our imagination. Perhaps Pa was worried I might fail the important exams that would determine the direction of my life. So, I did about six weeks of work-experience. Another scam thought out by big business? Work-experience means work for free. Imagine if we were paid to learn about what the job entailed? We may have actually liked the experience. I imagine the aborigines on the park do not have to work. They are paid, regardless. If I were to have experienced fail proof, perpetually guaranteed free money, paid without having to work, maybe I would have liked it too. I am thankful that’s one experience I never got to enjoy. Fortunately for me, I have never been on the dole. Maybe I’m a closet workaholic – I can’t remember when I last took a sickie. Paid sick leave? This is a great system but it is not for me. I imagine it is one privilege I will not want to enjoy. Who wants to be sick, right? As the traffic stalled, I imagined parking my car by the side of Pulteney Grammar on South Terrace and joining the group on their picnic. I have often wondered if they would welcome me with opened arms and offer me the beer they are enjoying. Do they have tidbits as well? What kind of snacks do they bring there? I have seen how some tribes bite off the head of a snake before stuffing it into their cloth bag or slurp a living muddy worm into their mouths like a sought after delicacy. There are so many things I have not tried here. Will they offer me a seat on a piece of cardboard and let me mingle amidst the jingles of Christmas carols? I imagine they would be as stunned as a kangaroo caught in a 1000 LED spotlight to see a Chinese bloke walking up to them. Or, maybe they would hurl vocal abuse at me and shoo me off like a green-eyed blowfly. Would it be proper to discuss with them the ravages of war, the senseless killings, the conflicts of organised religion, the divisive nature of the man-made and mad concept of borders and countries? What about the hot topic of climate change as the Aussie continent continues to bake? Take a look at the aborigines. They adopted the minimalist approach eons before we heard about the eco-friendly benefits of owning few possessions. No possessions and therefore no greed. When the Brits arrived on this land, a group of natives were there to greet them. They had no concept that the new arrivals would massacre them. Those new arrivals were no different from the Spanish conquistadors who massacred their South American hosts by the millions, thanks to the belief of a superior God, a superior religion. It would have been easy justification for the Christian armies to annihilate the heathens, the unbelievers. They readily imagined they would go to heaven having helped cleansed the world of their perceived scum. Imagine above us, only sky. No heaven or hell. Many say I am a dreamer, it didn’t dawn on me it is folly to dream until many old schoolmates sang it like a chorus.
“Wake up, old man!”
“Stop dreaming, bro.”
Or when flippantly dismissing me, “Go back to your dream, mate.”
I gave up defending myself. Do they not realise the power of dreams? In REM phase of my sleep, I am more super than Superman. For years I told my best friend in school, Ah Ban, how powerful my dreams made me. He used to get all the pretty chicks whereas I could only smirk and watch. The super confident Ah Ban never doubted his ability to charm girls, he was appropriately nicknamed “SuperBan”. But, in my dreams, I am more powerful than SuperBan. Stronger, faster and much more attractive, magnetic even. It is no coincidence that my status in WhatsApp is “In REM sleep.” I have always said it’s a misnomer to call someone who has big dreams a dreamer. Some friends laugh at me, they connect a dreamer with a loser. Dreaming is not an inactivity. It requires a creative mind. An adventurous one. It takes guts to dream. It takes imagination. For me, it is not a sedentary, motionless nonsense. Imagine. It is a hive of mental activity which sometimes produces a remarkable thought, life changing invention or an inspiring awesome story.
Last night I felt privileged to have watched a documentary about John and Ono, “Above Us Only Sky”. Back in 1971, they co-wrote the song “Imagine”. With the backdrop of the indiscriminate massacre of millions during the Vietnam War and the devastating indiscriminate massacre of millions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki embedded in their psyche, the couple imagined what our world would be like, with just the sky above and nothing to divide and tear us apart. No country, no religion, nothing to kill or die for. I did not get acquainted with the lyrics until last year when I sang the song at a karaoke session with my neighbours. Maybe their words have resided in my brain ever since. Subliminally. Sublime.
I must conclude with Albert Einstein’s wise words in 1924. “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.”
Knowledge is limited. It will take us to somewhere some of us already know. But imagination will take us everywhere, even to the unknown. For many, we are also limited by our weak imagination. Sometimes it takes a wildly positive mind to create a dream and then a never-say-die attitude to make it come true. In my case, I did not possess an imagination strong and wild enough to dream that I can produce a book. It took a kind and generous friend, Wilson Gan, to imagine and create it for me. It is hard for me to imagine John Lennon has been gone for 39 years. So much has been lost for posterity. Let us keep dreaming and maybe the world can be a better place for urghhlings. War is over… if we want it. That is people power. Imagine that.