Thursday, June 06, 2013

Under the Influence - Part 1

So the subject of my late-night-lightbulb moment was this (word for word, this is what I scrawled at about 1am):

Influence of childhood authors on later life. ie if you read widely when you're young; will your perspective be broader as an adult? Conversely: if you don't read at all or read only what you have to, to get through the education system, will you be more likely to confirm to society's standards?

Case in point. Brutha & I. 

My influences (early):

Judy Blume
Elinor M Brent-Dyer
Enid Blyton
Astrid Lindgren
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Joyce Lankester Brisley
Noel Streatfeild
Elizabeth Enright


Harper Lee
JD Salinger
Jane Austen
Bret Easton Ellis

That's what I wrote. I'm kinda impressed that not only is it legible, but that it actually makes sense. Also the fact I've given an example of the case of my brother and I, impresses me.

So.  Let me expand.

For as long as I can remember, I have been a voracious reader. I don't ever remember not being able to read.  It's a long-standing source of pride for my mother that I walked out of my first day of school with the reader we'd been given (which we were told we would "eventually" learn to read) and proceeded to speed-read it aloud in absolute disgust in front of the other mothers, finishing up with a flourishing slam and a "this is a book for babies - when do we get real books to read?".  Apparently the other mothers were in awe at my reading level.  I didn't notice - I was too busy being pissed off at the pathetic selection of books being offered for my enjoyment. Thankfully, we had an understanding school librarian, who allowed me to borrow from whichever section took my fancy and I was reading from the upper primary school section by the time I was six.  By the time I was nine I had read the entire children's section of our local library. Twice.  Every year for my birthday (and again at Christmas) I was given at least half a dozen books. When my dad purchased a set of World Book Encyclopaedias, one of my favourite pastimes was to pick a volume at random and just read.  If you ever wanted to find me as a child, you didn't need to look far. I'd be the one curled up in a chair with her nose in a book.

It's pretty safe to say, I LOVED reading. I was naturally curious about so many things, and reading answered a lot of the questions that my parents (and teachers) didn't automatically have the answers to. Of course, it also raised loads more questions, so it was a double-edged sword I guess.

Brutha, by contrast, was NOT a natural reader.  He had no problems reading, per say, but he couldn't bear to sit still (unless it was on a bean bag in front of the TV at 5pm every afternoon watching Monkey and The Goodies) and spent the majority of his childhood outdoors kicking (hitting/bouncing) a ball or climbing a tree or riding his bike or (once or twice a year) scrounging through the local hard rubbish collection collecting "stuff" which he would use to build things.  He read only enough to prevent him getting D's at school and had no interest in the written word.  Movies, he loved. He was all about the visual. But even if you bought him a novelised version of Star Wars, you couldn't get him to read it. Reading for enjoyment was not something he subscribed to.   I remember his final year of school being quite the battle in our household. I'm sure in his mind, knuckling down to study for exams equalled the worst possible form of torture.

To say we were polar opposites is somewhat of an understatement.

As a child, I lived vicariously through books. I sought adventures to far away places in the words of the authors whose books I inhaled. As an adult, I have been inspired to visit many of the places and undertake many of the activities I read about as a child. My curiosity and sense of adventure can (in no small part) be attributed directly to the words I read as a child.  I've travelled widely, studied any number of fascinating subjects in great detail and have a perpetual "what if/imagine that/why is it..." attitude towards life. I rack up frequent flyer points like a business traveller on speed.  There are so many places in the world I want to visit that I'm terrified I'll die before I get to see them all.  There are so many things I still want to achieve that I worry I'll never fit them all.  I haven't lived in my hometown for over twenty years and I have no intention of ever living there again. In fact, I've lived in over twenty different places since I first moved out of home.  That's an average of a new place every 12 months. That's not really normal, is it?  

By contrast, Brutha lives less than half an hour from the place we grew up.  He's worked in many jobs, but until recently, they've not been jobs he's interested in - they've just been a means to paying the bills. Now he's working as a landscape gardener and although he complains that the work is quite physically taxing, he's enjoying it.  Brutha has never been overseas (and I highly doubt he'd ever want to). His idea of "travel" is to take his wife and daughters to stay at the in-laws farm which is an hour's drive followed by an hour's ferry trip away from his house. I think the last time he went on a plane was when he went on his honeymoon to North Queensland, which was in the mid-1990s. He didn't much care for that holiday by all accounts. Lying by a pool or exploring a rainforest is not his idea of fun.  I'm not entirely sure, because by the time he returned from that trip, I was safely ensconced back in London and planning trips to Scotland (to go in search of the elusive Hamish Macbeth, whiskey and men in kilts) and Switzerland (in search of ski slopes, fondue and the location of the Chalet School books).  He is more than happy to spend the remainder of his life doing the job he's doing, doing home improvements, spending his weekends at the local sporting clubs (cricket in summer, hockey in winter) and adding to his (already-ridiculously-huge) collection of Marvel comic memorabilia. Oh yeah. He's also a hoarder (takes after our mother who I swear saves every scrap of anything that crosses her path).  Apart from books, I live a pretty uncluttered life. I could pack up my house and be ready to move in a day. Or less. 

Our politics are also wildly different. My parents were/are quite conservative. I'm pretty sure my mother voted for John Howard. I've voted for a few different parties over the years... I do a lot of research into who to vote for and why, regardless of party (having said that, you'll never see me voting Liberal/Coalition. Ever.).  My mother doesn't agree with my political views (and I abhor hers), but we've learnt to not to get into an argument about them. In contrast, Brutha apparently votes the same way my dad did (which is the same way my mother votes). No questions asked. Just tick the box. It's not important. Keep the status quo. Don't get involved with that stuff. 

Yep. If we didn't share a physical resemblance, I'd swear we weren't related.

Which brings me to the subject at hand.  I guess it's a nature vs nurture thing?  Or is it?  We have the same parents, were raised in the same household. Yet our outlooks on everything are vastly different. I can't even begin to understand how he's happy (and he is happy) with his day-to-day life; and he is totally bamboozled by my constant need for new experiences, to explore the world and to look at life from a global perspective.

Wow. I've just scrolled back through what I've written and it's long.  And that's just the intro. I haven't even started on the main argument.  Maybe I'll make this a two part post and let this one sink in first.

Well done if you've made it this far... stay tuned for Part 2!

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