Monday, 5 August 2013

A responsive narrative to my 15 year old self and his letter to the future...

2012 Masters in Education
Victoria University

To Rich (or RIK!) ha Age 24

I’m sorry 15 year old Rich, (Yes, it is Rich still!), I know this letter was intended for you when you were 24, I can remember how you thought that was so far into the future. I’m grateful you wrote me this little time capsule; but I have to tell you I’m 40 years old now when I’m replying to your letter. Whats more I think I’m being brave in that I’m publishing the response to a complex life you have lived, as I study a Masters of Education at Victoria University, Footscray. Bet you did not think you would be doing that! Actually, I don't even think you could have imagined yourself as a 40 year old-but here I am!

15 Year old Rich:

Im 16 tomorrow. Wow. Will I get a guitar, or a jacket? I s'pose you know. I'd like to smash a guitar right now. "You want ta - He wants ta learn the guitar. It's no use havin' it in his room by himself. He's got to get out and play in a band!' KERIST!

I can’t remember what it was like for you on this day, but your letter gives me an idea. My memory is not clear, but I’m pretty sure you received an electric blue guitar from Mum and Dad. You used to play it all the time and I still have it, with its many decorations, stickers and graffiti placed on it over the years. Guitars became a vehicle for your expression in later life.

You used to hide dope in the battery compartment later on when you were at art school. (Yes, you went to a prestigious Art School-bet you didn't expect that after wanting to leave school as a surly teenager in year 10!).

I can sense your anger, and know the anger that was much internalised for you, and seemingly from parental expectations... I know Dad used to say you need to play with other people, and that frustrated the hell out of you - thats because you were quite isolated in a way-he only wanted the best for you. In many ways you are similar to your Dad, in many ways different. In actual fact, you did get out there and play in bands-you were the lead singer and guitarist-right up until you were about 28.

You played lots of clubs and band venues around Melbourne and even in Canberra. You did studio recordings with various bands in a few different incarnations, with your friend Greg Kirby, whom you had not met yet-but I remember you remembering the name ‘Greg Kirby’ at the year 7 role call-as if were fated you would meet him. You even recorded a CD with your brother, before he moved overseas to Ireland to live for some years. You also, were fortunate enough to travel quite extensively, and made drawings along the way.

The music you played was punk rock / pop, and as expressed in your letter, you were a young existentialist that liked to record where you are at in art, music and writing. There was some success with your band, or at least personal gratification, and it seemed to be a method in which you could channel your frustrations about sexuality and your struggles with mental illness, for unfortunately for you, you would develop a full blown psychosis by the time you were 20, and have reoccurring psychosis for the next 20 years. Despite this, you have been an extraordinary survivor with great resilience, and contributed to society in many ways. 

You were and are a complex person, but you have found many friends and much more peace in your life despite some massive obstacles. Your life has never been dull in terms of creativity, although it has been questionable in terms of its inward existentialism that was driven by some bad choices. Nevertheless, you are collected in galleries, and institutions, have written a novel about your youth, and published before aged 30. You just received a call today at age 40-with a gallery offering a space to exhibit in next month. Your life and art was celebrated in a documentary that has been used to reduce stigmas and misconceptions about mental illness, and you have been generally fortunate in your life. At the present time-you have never been happier.

15 Year old Rich: 

Where are you? In a zoo? A mental institution? Possibly a mansion, Nah you've got no go. Maybe you're in the tip, making mechanical hands out of coat hangers. Hey, are you on another planet? Maybe you'll never read this. Maybe you've been abducted by aliens, or killed in a nuc bomb. That means I'd be wasting my time right now, but that doesn't matter, I do it all the time.

Where am I you ask? I am in Footscray in the west of Melbourne in a big old house typing on a computer, which has revolutionised modern society, like your sketch suggested from university when you were 20 years old was extremely intuitive about. In your time up until now, you have struggled a lot and moved a lot, but it is fair to say that you have grown in many ways through these processes.

In actual fact you just got off the phone to your Dad and Mum, whom bought a new dog off a lady they said I would be so ‘in tune’ with-they offered her number. She says there is no such thing as schizophrenia (which you identified with for a long time), -and you are likely to call her! Your Mum and Dad accept you as different, spiritual and somehow in touch with something they are not. In the present tense, you are very appreciative of this fact. They understand by not understanding, and have done the best they can to raise you despite you feeling misunderstood and neglected sometimes.

To date, after you left home in Keysborough where you lived with Mum, Dad, Jodie and Brad, you have lived in the following places:

  1. Mordialloc, with Steven Teitjens, whom is still a close friend of yours today, and whom you were best man at his wedding,
  2. Back at Keysborough again with your parents,
  3. Then you moved into a run down property, (that really needed demolishing), in Edithvale with your associate friend through Karen, whom you dated for a short time, Dee, and another girl, Tory. Here you recorded music with your band ‘Less’, a self depreciating name of which you have mastered in your life-stop it!
  4. After that you moved home again for a while, and shortly after, needing help with feeling comfortable in your own skin in terms of sexuality, you moved out with your cousin Duncan in Preston who was outwardly gay.
  5. From Preston, you more accepted your sexuality, and moved in with a new friend Shannon to Clifton Hill. (Thats where you recorded the CD with your brother and Kirbs). Shannon moved out shortly after and you stayed there for a number of years whilst you worked as an illustrator for ‘The Age’, (Yes, you got to do your dream job!)
  6. From Clifton Hill, you moved to the western suburbs where you live now, although first stop was West Footscray with Paul. Paul has since passed away.
  7. From there, you bought a golden retriever that you have adored for 9 years. You were busted with the dog at the rental and were forced to move out to Seddon, where you lived with a cross dresser, and you fell away from society and into a life of bad choices with drugs. Your art suffered. Some people have commented though it was a necessary step.
  8. From here, you were destitute. It was fortunate you had written a book about schizophrenia, and befriended Rossco - whom came to your house one day and moved you to country Eildon.
  9. After Rossco had a breakdown, you fled back to your Mum and Dads place, and collected your things over time. You are still great friends with Ross.
  10. Living with your parents again was hard for you, and you had met a younger fellow-Shane. You cashed in your super, (you had been unemployed for quite some time), and you moved to Phillip Island, which you loved so much growing up. Shane went with you, and you both lasted about a year. Its clear to me that you dated a younger guy so you could exist in that space which was ‘out and proud’, as he was, to compensate for your ‘lost youth’. It was another big learning curve, and you ended up-you guessed it-at your mum and dads.
  11. After a time you moved to Mordialloc, which is where your mum grew up. While you were there, you met the most wonderful man, Steve. Although you were doubtful at the start, he moved in, and you both moved to Footscray where you have a studio and have been accepted with a scholarship to study a Masters, which is the auspice under why I am writing this to myself.

Interestingly enough-you ask if I am in a mental institution, how your young mind was intuitively tuned to the life you would play out. You had become an advocate for mental health after writing a book on your experience with schizophrenia. You had some very tough years, but-you are well and you seem to have overcome extraordinary odds, including overdoses, (which you have hardly mentioned to anyone as a great shame), to turn your life around. You have helped many and although you have not changed the world, you have indeed contributed to it changing. You have spoken internationally and on Australian television and a lot of radio, and your book has been available for 10 years and sold over 11,000 copies-even translated to Japanese. Although your intuition on ‘madness’ was accurate, you cope, and you do well. You still have little in the bank, although is that whats important?

Much of the happiness of the last few years has been attributed to you making conscious decisions about changing your life, learning personally, and accepting the love and teachings that your partner Steve had to offer. Steve seemed to be sent at the right time in a fatalistic sense. He has taught you so much, and the rebellion of meaningless sex no longer applies to your life, I’m happy to say. At the age of 40, you are more together and have never been closer to anyone in your life. He is a blessing and the muse for your work ‘The Universal Embrace’.

15 Year old Rich: 

I bet you're really cut you haven't done anything in your childhood. What a waste. Have you still got mates like Grant Jacobs? You God damn bore. I've got heaps of homework tonight, BIO, CHEM, MAT A, ENG etc.

You did what you could-you are hard on yourself, and for the most part-you still are. You could be wise even now to give yourself a break from time to time. This does not mean work less-it means to be satisfied with your accomplishments. You have not changed the world in a massive way, but rest assured you have changed the people around you, mostly for the better. You have been an inspiration to many, and helped a lot of people too.

You don’t still have friends like him, either. In actual fact there are few people from high school you chat with. You are blessed with many friends. Your beloved lifetime friend, Wez, passed away last November 2012 after a life of alcoholism and also, coincidently enough, schizophrenia. You were a great support for one another, and he came to say goodbye one night to you before you knew he had passed over-this made sense later that week in retrospect when your parents drove from Keysborough to Footscray to tell you. You organised his wake-and you remarked how those people who were so mean to you in your adolescent life had not changed at all. Even now, in this moment, the crystallisation of what your life experiences have been have made you quietly proud, and very grateful.

I noticed you changed the subject quickly to homework-its true, you were good at adapting to school and you have excelled in your Bachelor of Fine Art. You continue to push yourself and it has enriched your life.

15 Year old Rich:  
I hope now that you're a success in life. You can't change me now, but I can change u can't I? You're at my mercy, Under my power. Are you an enigmatic presence packing red death now? Maybe I'll feel your feelings when I'm 24 at this moment. 25! Gee! half way to 50! I remember when I thought I was old at 10!!

Oh Rich of 15, success is a long winding road-but you have had your achievements in your life. You have done and experienced a lot more than others can say. You have been overseas, by yourself and with others, about 7 times... Artistically, your life has always been a meandering journey of expression and reflection, and this continues in the current time. You were a risk taker though, and you are grateful for your health and the people in your life. If I could have said that to you then when you were fifteen, I know it would have given you great comfort.

15 Year old Rich: 
I want you to read this to your wife or best buddy.  If you're laughing, best wife or buddy, or rather, best buddy or wife, I give permission for RICHARD WILLIAM MCLEAN to either bash you, or hmmm!

Oh young Rich, you were so aware of fluctuating sexuality, but you felt the need to use the term ‘best buddy’, if you had a male partner! I remember you writing this, and I know what you meant. In that time, in that space, in that environment, in that age, there was no room for you to confidently express your sexuality. Things in society have changed since then, and peoples attitudes have changed. You are very aware of yourself sexually these days, and comfortable. It sounds like you in yourself were comfortable back then, at 15, and I remember being attracted to both boys and girls at primary school. Such is the untarnished  and unfettered self reflexivity of a frustrated 15 year old-that you had to write it in code.

This would be a recurring theme in your art, doing things in code, and deluding yourself about the facts. While this was certain, your intuitiveness with creativity often led to great insights.

15 Year old Rich: 
Hows the world looking now? Overcrowded, polluted, overused, exhausted? Or have the extra terr's taken over to control we numbskulls? I bet there's smog everywhere. All those poor species deceased. 

Poor 15 year old Rich, your pessimism about the world has held you back through your life. Even to now. You do venture into positiveness, but you still feel a great responsibility for the world, carrying it on your shoulders, which has been to your detriment, but also fired some creative processes.

Your intuition speaks well. Yes the world has problems, but you knew that already. I’m sad that growing up in a cold war era, and knowing about the end of WW2 led you to an uneasy fear of nuclear war. I understand that as a child you could not really grasp why the people and leaders you are supposed to look up to would have these devastating devices. These kind of negative thoughts almost certainly led to your unravelling, in your pessimism.

For the record, there have been no nukes used in wartime since the two you knew about at the end of WW2, but there have been two devastating nuclear accidents, one in Chernobyl, in Russia, (Which has now dismantled), and one in Fukushima, in Japan, after a devastating earthquake that triggered a tsunami that killed many people. The devastating legacy of that pollution is slowly being made public.

You really could have used a sign of the lords prayer on your wall when you were young-as you do now-which is- Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Funny you should mention extra terrestrials. For you, seeing beings in your room or sensing them was so real to you, even as a child. This became more real in adult life and adolescence when you have had profound experiences with beings and hearing other peoples experiences you relate to that have experienced similar phenomena.

You have egotistically looked into shamanism with your work, and you have been led by negative entities into dark corridors. You are a person blessed and cursed with seeing these types of occurrences, and in your adult life, have managed to rid yourself of negative presences. You must know however, that metaphorically you have been told that you continue to shine light into dark places, acting as a spiritual guide somewhat, in a world that needs transformation. So yes, in actual fact, you had already been compromised with darkness in your life metaphysically, but out of that grew the light.

15 Year old Rich: 
Hey, have you seen an OILS concert yet? Or have you grown out of kids stuff like everyone else?

I remember with this question to my future self, that you as a 15 year old were dealing with a lot, maybe too much for a person so young. Metaphysics, sexuality, discordancy, nuclear war, etc. To have you ask if I have been to a concert reminds me of how young you were, like a normal kid, yet how you had been burdened with so much. The answer is YES! You have seen a few Midnight Oil concerts-the best one was where you went with Wez at the Palace. It was amazing and to date one of your favourite gigs! 

I’m glad you experienced some normality in your adolescence, and in fact, in year 10, you convinced your Dad to purchase 27 tickets to one of their shows at Rod Laver Arena for all of your many friends at school. Your parents didn't always understand-but they supported you in everything you did and do.

You did grow out of performing music however, and you are very nostalgic about the performances and recordings you have made...they were a part of your journey of self actualisation.

15 Year old Rich: 
If kids ran the world, we'd be right. PTO

I still agree with you there.

15 Year old Rich: 
Maybe I should leave a sample of air for ya!

There is that quirky yet depreciating humour of the state of world events and circumstances. Perhaps you should have, the world, as you knew then, has been through horrendous tragedies and is a lot more polluted now than in the history of mankind. Some might say that without discussing these themes when you were that age with others, you had a gift of intuition that would both burden and inspire you throughout your life.

15 Year old Rich: 
Do you still like 60's music? I'm into it, man. I'd hate if someone reads this. I hope guilt looms over their heads until they tell me!!

Yes! You still like 60s music. Its a funny thing-you were attracted to the homoeroticism and sadness of the program ‘Tour of Duty’, and had all the episodes on video, (videos don’t exist anymore!), and you knew through music the political landscape of the world that came before you, perhaps even more so than your own mum and dad, whom had lived though it. You had an acute eye for transformation through art and music and this was also a help and a hindrance in your life.

You’d hate if someone reads this? Well, I’m happy to say you are so comfortable with who you are that the letter is going to be published as part of a narrative journey to your childhood and back to the present. You always have been an ‘over-sharer’, since coming out both in terms of sexuality and being honest about your experiences with mental illness.  You both enjoy not having to hide anything anymore, yet somehow you also feel quite transparent-yet this is your choice as a creator-to make yourself vulnerable as an artist.

15 Year old Rich:
(Points to a cartoon character) Is he a success? Maybe he is your only friend. If he is, do something about it.

You loved to draw Heudo the metaphorical reptile. The main human in it I remember was called Rik, and had a haircut like me at the time. It was another stepping stone of discovery for you, and although in yourself you felt very alone for much of adolescence and through what you identified with as schizophrenia, you always had the capacity to attract many different types of people into your life. You were non-judgemental, and accepted goths, spiritual people, even satanists, muso's, artists, and people whom you knew had not expanded their mind enough to let this happen. The lonely, so to speak, journey you went on was also, a curse and a blessing. You, in your life, if you needed it, were never without someone to talk to. If you were, you could quickly rectify that by having philosophical conversations with strangers and other people you would meet.

15 Year old Rich: 
I tried to invent a flying saucer today. By a gyroscope I copied, or magnetic powered. or a combination of both with a huge fan. Maybe you've got one!

Yes, indeed you had has that fascination for years and years, after you saw a program on free energy on the then futuristic but now kitsch television show ‘Beyond 2000’. Its now 2013 and those shows you longed to see are extremely dated! 

You really wanted to save the world, and set your mind to it. Can I tell you, that as an adult, just before you started your Masters work in 2011, you designed a conceptual animation that goes part way to your goal of making an endless machine. With insight, I’ve realised it was a symbolic gesture of relating to a troublesome sexuality, but this is the alchemy in which your art exists. I could confidently say that you have been guided, and that the Jungian idea of synchronicity, that meaningful co-incidences have spiritual significance, has been at play throughout your life.

The design you had the idea for is included in this interactive project. Where it goes will be determined by a positive mindset. The linking to you, at 15, is still valid to me now, I guess you could say it was something I had never finished and that I didn't have the means to do. Now, I forgave how ‘delusional’ it might have been to put effort onto this idea of late, and your ideas are alive in my life now.

15 Year old Rich: 
What have you lived life for? Was it worth it? Do you wish I'd been popular in school or just 'RICH' that everybody knows?

Young Rich, Im pretty sure I can say with confidence you were born for a reason, to contribute to the broad experience of human existence and to, if I was speaking spiritually, learn as the earth is a school, so that you can learn and grow. The earth hand your manifestation as a spiritual being in your body, has seen you overcome many obstacles. If I could have slipped into your mind then, and told you something about your life, it would be this:

You are blessed although you have had trauma. You have learnt through bad decisions. You have been a beacon of hope for others. You wrote and performed in your own bands. You have exhibited art for many years. You are very loved, if a little misunderstood by your family. You have been blessed with some spiritual/intuitive gifts over your life which I hoped you had paid more attention to. You have sold thousands of books that your wrote and travelled around the world a few times. You are in a fortunate country and you live in a state of luxury only Kings and Queens lived only 200 years before your birth. But the thing you have lived for-is to learn through experience and reflection, like I am doing right now. In this you are contributing cosmically to a grand design. You have met famous people and  listened to spiritual leaders, both famous and infamous. Life is not easy, but you agreed to that before you came here I have realised, as part of your life purpose.

15 Year old Rich: 
What are ya? Bikie, hiker, hobo, millionaire?

Your suggestion here is that I am somehow so different, that I would be unconnected to a normal society. In this regard, there is some truth to that I must concur. I feel for the 15 year old that was so overwhelmed he might check out of society as a way to preserve yourself in such a hostile place, or so it seemed to you. Sometimes, you were disconnected-for your own preservation, sometimes you were so disconnected, reality became cloaks and daggers, and your delusions, which make some sense in retrospect, took over your life and prevented you from engaging in (I hate the word ‘normal’), normal things. You are not a millionaire, but you are rich, in many many ways, which you have much gratitude for.

15 Year old Rich: 
I bet you're average, nothing special. Do I hate you? No, just wondering. Maybe I'll find a source of inner strength, and do something with my life, maybe I won't.

Again with the self depreciation, which would follow like a curse through life... I know you were told you were special as a child, but I also know the frustrations from inter dimensionality and fears born of the modern world that ‘normal’ people did not understand.  In actual fact, you invited this consciously. I remember you saying to ‘the universe’ that you would offer your mind and body and soul to help stop a nuclear war. Its quite unfathomable you might do this-I think you were about 15 or 16. Its about the time you consciously remembered encounters. I also remember when you were younger, you drew a landing pad for UFO’s on the shed roof with a crayon-which is still there-and it was a metaphor for opening up those multi dimensional qualities to your metaphysical experiences. 
Your strong moral compass was debilitating with a feeling of responsibility for the world. In some ways this is true to this day.

If I could say-Rich at 15-I like you. I even loved you, as I love you now. You were an extremely sensitive person thrown into a complex place that you could hardly bear, and you survived with the best attributes you have. But you made a hell of a lot of mistakes later on thats for sure! But, this is normal, and you have grown from them. Recently, you went on a trip to Thailand with your partner Steve, and on a whim, you got an image of your inner child tattooed on your foot. It seems that event acted in congruity with this response to your letter. This follow up writing was to say and enforce that as I look back, I love you and want to say-that you are going to be ok, happy, grateful, blessed, and a very fortunate person despite your many learning obstacles. You are grateful and loving and have not been broken yet! If I could say one thing to you however-it would be not to pick up smoking. I know it was rebellion, but I’m still smoking and its hard to give up! I would say this to any child or adolescent, too.

15 Year old Rich: 
Want to know whats in your room? 

Yes!I have read this letter and I will break up your text because I remember nearly all of these things that were in your room! Maybe I should tell you whats in our room now though?

We have a wooden floorboard big bedroom with a beautiful window to look out from. There is an image on the wall you created called 'sweet peace', and you have nostalgically saved it from being sold at exhibitions, because the day you created it it gave you such a feeling of accomplishment and serenity. It is an image of a lotus flower, the enlightened soul growing from the dark of the weeds and mud, quite a metaphor for your how you feel about your life now.

 On your bedside drawer, there are essential oils and incense you use for burning in the room and house; on the shelf opposite the bed there are many crystrals you have collected over your life, and there is a bowl of them on your bedside table as well. You use white sage to cleanse the room and you still burn incense like you did when you were 15.

You marvel at the crystals all the time, and clean them under full moons to keep them in pristine condition. Some may say you are wikkan in religion, lending a lot from buddhism. Under the picture 'sweet peace', you have a poem that was read to you about Archangel Michael, which is all about not being more than God with the ego-a lesson you struggle with as you feel reticent to promote yourself at times with your art, and other times placing too much importance on them. In any case, it has been important for this study to hang on to so many drawings letters and memories from your childhood.

15 Year old Rich: 
2 x Oils articles, A Rockhampton and Canberra flag on a bamboo pole, a Halls Gap and Sydney badge,

This delights me at this age, because although you were fraught with philosophical dilemmas about your place in the world and worrying about the world, you were a band loving, poster bearing normal kid in ways!

15 Year old Rich: a homemade crayon, 

This speaks to me on many levels! I remember you making the crayon, it was melted with flame out of other crayons and was multi coloured. Even back then you were not only making art, but you were very philosophical about even making the substance that would make the art-somehow this was a metaphor for you as a deep thinker

15 Year old Rich: environmental balance symbol, 

I remember your environmental balance symbol-it was very coloured and expressive and you had melted crayon wax on it to give it bulk and texture. I remember it was a planet with a line through the equator, in this way you were aware of the respect of the natural balance of the planet, and you were an avid lover of david attenborrough and had many books, especially on lizards and birds.

15 Year old Rich: jars and bottles full of marbles, my license, heudo, surfing posters, roadsign dartboard reptile articles, energy for life poster, 2 x free flow design, an E.T. pamphlet, postcards, photos, garfield in a noose, 

I remember all these things! I especially remember the garfield in a noose-in your reading, which extended also to music and all aspects of your life-you were not interested in the cliche or the normal, you were interested in the destruction of what was considered general or apathetic in your eyes. To have garfield-the worlds most famous and as you thought-monotonous homogeneous cartoon strip in a noose, it was saying a big 'fuck you' to normality, and to bring on the diversity! Even then you displayed the characteristics that would drive your interests in a non conventional way. The shock of hanging a small toy fuelled the aspect of you that to make a point you had to go out on a limb-this did trip you up later in life with your experimentation with drugs, which exacerbated your illness-you were even addicted to crystal meth for a time before one of your soul buddies - Rossco - rescued you, for which you are still grateful.

15 Year old Rich: a plastic hand, 

The plastic hand was an extendable hand that you squeeze and the hand moves-you loved it and it was your dad whom bought you it from one of your almost yearly trips to the royal melbourne show. It was special to you because you were fascinated by it, and you were nostalgic about it because your dad bought it for you. One of the reasons you were accepted into VCA was the fact you had constructed a movable hand from coat hangers, string, and elastic from old car inner tubes.

15 Year old Rich: a paper 'sprint' hand, a goanna photo with me 

You used to get homesick as a child, but in year seven you went on a holiday to hattah lakes near Mildura-and yes, you bought secret cages in the bottom of your bags to take your catch of lizards home. You could not believe your luck when a goanna climbed a tree sunning itself-and you and grant waited all afternoon till sundown when it climbed down, and you brazenly caught it! In the photo, which is still on mums mantlepiece at your parents house, you were wearing full fluorescent tank top and shorts that you got in surfers paradise, and you look ridiculous!

15 Year old Rich: and a paper starfish, a red barren paper aeroplane, a spiderman, mickey mouse badges, a guitar strap, Footrot Flats picture, list of twenty elements, 

You were and still are fascinated by science. You finally let go of Footrot Flats with your last move with Steve, and donated them to the children of the poor guy that had to mow your lawns... I'm sure he didn't look forward to your requests to mow the lawn, it was more like you had to fell the back yard with his ride on lawnmower!

15 Year old Rich: ribbons, cars, piles of old rubbish, old broken typewriter, 

I remember that typewriter well. When you and your sister were young you would practise typing your names on it. You both had catch cries too you would write, over and over again. Your sister would write 'This is the story of Dr Jeckyl and Mr Hyde', over and over. Sensing something base and metaphysical though, you would type an interesting message over and over, as if you knew as a child where you would end up after this life had run its course. You would type 'Back to the place of origin'. In a way, writing this narrative is doing just that.

15 Year old Rich: a desk, (homemade), full of graffiti, 

You know what, you loved making things out of wood and decorating them yourself. When you were younger, you would carve boats-you also made a paddle boat (which sank in the pool and mum cracked a bottle of champagne for its maiden voyage!) It was so funny and a happy time recorded in photographs of an epic fail! I can tell you now, that the desk you have now is actually propped up on some books you self published and still have copies of-the top of the desk is an old door! You were always one to make light of not having things, or you would entertain yourself, and be satisfied with it. It was a good quality to have to be an artist.

15 Year old Rich: a 'telephone book money box', 

I remember that book too! Later on you worked at Kmart, and you used to hide the $26 dollars you would earn on the inside of the book-which was hollowed out so it would look like an ordinary book. During your childhood you were always making cubbies and going to secret locations, life was mysterious and adventurous, and in later years, as soon as you were allowed, you wez and grant would catch the train to stawell and ride your bikes to the grampian to catch lizards.

15 Year old Rich: bed, tape recorder, tapes, dog with specs, gecko cage, 

Those geckos were from a trip your dad took you on to broken hill where you collected and caught lizards that you kept as pets for years. You also made the cage, with a perspex front and a blue night light so you could watch them emerge at night time and feed them mealy worms.

15 Year old Rich: chair, amp, guitar bean bag heaps of school books, plants, (one meditating under a triangle).

Where does a 15 year old get the idea to get a plant to meditate under a triangle? perhaps it was from 'a country practise', where one of the characters was a bit eccentric, or perhaps it was from 'the curiosity show' where they demonstrated how meat would not rot as well under a triangle form. To this you were fascinated with the pyramids and archeology and its mysteries and are still an avid watcher of documentaries.

15 Year old Rich: Just got 'Place without a postcard' - Midnight Oil from Kerrie + Mark + Karen + Christian for b'day. Got Brut 33 from Sara. Kerrie's surprise party tomorrow. gonna be good.

Brut 33! How funny! Sarah is now a lawyer, and you met her years later. You had such diverse friends. I think its because you thought you were so different, that you could accept all sorts of different people.

15 Year old Rich: By god, tomorrows gonna be alright.

I like your optimism, and during your life, there is just this inner feeling of invincibility, that you will die someday, and that is ok. Even now, you accept that and really appreciate the buddhist view of considering your own death every day. Well, tomorrow speaking as a general rule WAS ok-you survived-one of your ex girlfriends always marvelled about how you would land on your feet. I'm still not sure if this is fate or a quality you possess. But to be sure in this moment, you are in a beautiful house, about to hold some drawing classes for marginalised people, (whom you always relate to in some familial way), sitting near the heater, with your faithful dog Steinberg and steve's dog Chopper-waiting for him to come home from work.

15 Year old Rich: I'll try and make ya great, Rich!

I wish I had remembered this slice of optimism in some points in my life young rich, but you have persevered through your mistakes and misgivings, and achieved a lot. Tomorrow was great-life has been worthwhile, and you were born into a time and a place and a reason in history, maybe not to be the greatest, but to keep being passionate about small things that you can do with honesty and greatness.

15 Year old Rich: Best wishes,

What a wonderful opportunity in self actualisation that I have been able to respond to this letter. What an incredible amount of themes that were taken through to my adult life, and what a ride since then! Its almost impossible to think that I had written this letter with so many synchronicities and so much meaning by replying. Young rich, I'm glad you considered me in the future. I can now more comfortably release the past with ease, and am so grateful for my life and its lessons.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

The Universal Embrace - Front Cover for the iBook Store

The Universal Embrace needed a front cover design for the iBook Store, so I put together this with some of the design work from the template and also a reference to a mandelbrot set design.

The manifestation and technical manifestation of the interactive ‘Universal Embrace’.

Starting out:

The Universal Embrace started out on paper and in my mind-so it was hard to foresee where it may have ended up manifesting even though I had envisaged it being on a web page. The candidature proposal was written, with the aim of the project appearing online for a maximum audience. As I started to piece together the way in which I record and publish narrative though, it began to be clear to me that I did not have the  technical skills to put a complex HTML site together online.

The online project however, was shaping up. I had decided on from google to be embedded in my web page for an ongoing narrative. This was quite easily designable to place into the template for my website that was put together under the auspice of

I had already had the building blocks of the project, indeed the candidature proposal was quite like a template to follow when designing and writing my work. I had my research question and statements of significance.

When I started to put together images and words on the website, I had anticipated that if I designed an interactive site, I could host it on one of my servers and place it within the website much like I had with my blog from However, there were other ways forwards.

During my journey doing my masters, I had published a book on the iTunes store, ‘Recent Drawing, Towards A/r/tography’, which had included within it some moving designs, and traditional art presented in a digital medium, much like the work I intended to do. This was a very interesting process, and although there was quite a lot of technical issues to go through, including getting my own iPad to test the book on, I persevered, and the book was published.

The software to put an iBook together for the iBook store is ‘iBooks Author’, and there is another program, ‘iTunes Producer’, that you need to use in order to finally publish your work to be considered for the Apple iBooks store.

The software is quite intuitive to use, and with an iPad, you can instantly see your work on how it will appear as an iBook on the iPad. It’s exciting to see words and images come to life on this contemporary new medium. So, why not consider putting a copy of ‘The Universal Embrace’, on it?

I considered the idea, and moved forward with the many technical issues that I was faced with. I had already put a copy of the Universal embrace online, so I would be repeating myself, that was problem number one. But there was another distinct advantage of doing this.

When I had put my visual candidature proposal together, I used Keynote, which is for presentations. Luckily for me I had become quite familiar with this software, and its potential for interactivity was there-I could easily design something with forwards and backwards buttons, or run a presentation and make a button to go anywhere on a document.

I had also started with the final design of the universal embrace. Like the proposal said, it was to occur on the template of a golden rectangle. So I had illustrated one for this purpose. Slowly, after a few weeks, I began to build a photoshop document in ‘layers’, items that I could turn off and on, to be guided through the complexities of the embrace whilst keeping it visually simple.

My problem was that somehow, I needed to animate the layers that I had saved in Photoshop. This is where keynote came to the rescue. I re-sized the photoshop file with the layers in it to fit an iPad dimension. Then, I placed all the slides into keynote whereby I could add sound, and an interactive forwards and backwards button that was simple and elegant in design. It was beginning to take form.

After putting together the information that I already had into iBooks Author, such as statement, candidature proposal, etc, I then had the option to design how this book would work. Without realising it, I had started to work on the final presentation of the Universal Embrace! It was not online like I had earlier anticipated, (well, finished anyway), but it still had the means to be electronically distributed for a wide audience through the Apple platform. I was excited that the publishable iBook idea was a very contemporary way of presenting a Masters piece, and had support from supervisors Maureen and Neil that this would be acceptable to present. I felt like it was a very cutting edge way of presenting what used to be presented traditionally, and was extremely exited by this.

I looked at ways I could reference my literature review and other quotes and this was acceptable. I had divided up my iBook into sections, and it all seemed to flow very nicely. I had left space to fill in on the major distilled narratives of subjects like Phi, Spirit, and Society as relates to my work. Then, I was able to embed my Keynote presentation, an additional interactive design, into the iBook itself.

When I showed this to my supervisors, I was thrilled to find out that I might be submitting the idea much earlier than anticipated for marking and assessment, cutting my study time down by nearly two years! It was thrilling to think it was moving so fast, and now the challenge lay ahead to produce more of the writing and references that I would need to do to fill out the body of text to go with my overall interactive iBook.

In terms of the website, this could still exist, and I could easily animate a movie of the embrace with a link to the anticipated finished iBook, so this was not in vain.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Notes and thoughts on Phi

Considering Phi, Spirit and Society; all broad themes and arrived at through intuition and a desire for storytelling in images and words.

Here in this section, I’m going to discuss the distilled themes in relation to the creative project, ‘The Universal Embrace’.


Upon explaining the creative component of the universal embraces concept to Neil Hooley, supervisor, he said he understood, but what does it mean, in broader terms? I forget what I said but I wish I had have recorded it. It followed along the lines of creating something macroscopic and microscopic, through divisions and references to divinity and banality, creating tensions between the two, and re-creating the self through an ongoing narrative. We were getting somewhere.

In my early twenties I would read the work of Paul Davies ‘The Mind of God’, about fractals and the genesis of patterns in maths, how this was extricably linked to the universe, physical matter and its outer worlds.

I enjoyed that type of philosophy and have always had a fascination with shapes, mathematics, and free energy, as described in the animation accompanying this project. What I was really interested in was ‘the sweet spot’ of a cricket bat-the ideal resonant state of things that ended up in the manifestation of reality as we know it. Even to go further, as someone experiencing high levels of anxiety and a diagnosis of schizophrenia, I was interested in the mind and how it worked-so at that time I would leap from written work like Davies, and onto Carl Jung. I marveled at his theories of synchronicity and archetypes, and related it to the art I had studied-suddenly, every piece of art slipped into a dimension of an archetype, both visually and thematically. Art back then was a cathartic attempt and a method to understanding mind.

I felt like I had discovered a blanket ethos I could place over art-and further understand and push my own art to its extremities. In relation to phi, this old feeling that there is a base, a template, for everything that is and ever was and ever will be-fascinated me. As an avid observer of nature I saw this mechanism in the plants and the world around me as a child.

When I started planning this narrative, I came up with a drawing on which an interactivity would be placed, and because life experience has shown both the dark and light sides of reality and emotion, phi was something I felt I could work with because under that all encompassing template, I could construct or design anything at all, and it would fit comfortably under that all encompassing auspice.

In this way, metaphotically, anything was possible to describe in this space. Possibility was an is important.

What I chose to describe, is an embrace between two men, diaristically my partner and I. This was a real turn for me, in the many years I have made art sexuality was suggested, pained over, distorted and feared, yet here at age 40 I feel that a celebration of the narrative of my comfort in this relationship was a good way to keep the project positive and optimistic, and contribute to the well being and greater good of society.

I have had quite a few partners in my life, and the transient nature of relationships for me personally has happened over and over. Yet despite how solid I feel in my relationship now, the universal embrace focuses on an event-a thing that occurs in a particular environment, in a sliver of time. Interestingly though, the focus on this moment visually and philosophically has awakened the feeling of timelessness to all experiences.

Within this environment, there is a moment, and during the interactivity, different themes are pursued.

During writing my narrative, I have come across confronting the self, and also re-creating the self. Re-creating the self (Beattie) in terms of A/r/tography has been wonderfully liberating. This is a celebration of life and love, in all its dimensional qualities. It also pushes schizophrenia, to a lesser extent, into the past, to a degree lesser considered, which I feel very comfortable with.

Even in terms of the universal embraces structure, the genesis of the present is in the past, yet the unfolding past that results in the largest square where the embrace occurs fades into the background, a smaller, but all together necessary component.

Phi as relates to resonance is the celebration of love and commitment-a divine energy that has found its essence at this time in my relationship. However phi was not always celebrated as a sacred number. In his book ‘The Golden Ratio,’, Mario Livio describes pythagoras’ school and philosophy as the study of whole numbers and their ratios, and that the discovery of the magical number phi was considered a ‘cosmic error’; and was suppressed.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Blessing for myself, mindfulness from 2010

I wrote this text in 2010 and put it on my wall where I light candles every night.

I think its quite poetic and thought I might post it here as part of a narrative from around three years ago.

Take from it what you will!

I bless myself.

Leave the Ego behind, a prayer to spirit.

I have emotions; yet I am not the sum of those emotions.

I have shared creations, yet they remain a record of the time-I am not only those creations.

I have a body, but I am greater then my physical body suggests.

I have an illness, and I suffer, but I would not trade the pain for what I've learnt.

I have fears, but I am not those fears.

I have some money, but that money does not make me.

I will pass over, and I accept this.

I have an ego and identity, 'Richard William McLean', but the ego is corruptible and to be dis-assembled.

I ask for spiritual, physical, and emotional protection for myself and those I love and touch every day and give thanks everyday.

I am kind, and give thanks to something greater than myself for that kindness.

I have kinks in my armor, and accept faith to amend them.

I am sorry. As my toe touches the ground and the earth be my witness, and the reply is, you are forgiven.

I love you, and the reply is: 'You are loved!'

I am lots of things, but no section or element of them is me.

I bless myself.

Thank you.

I am.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Animation design

I've been working on the slides for the concept of explaining 'The Universal Embrace', and its themes of the emotional, physical, spiritual, and political aspects of an embrace.

Today I put the frames into a multimedia program and animated it, and I really like how it presents, so I thought I would post it.

This YouTube video will most likely appear in similar form in the iBook version of this project as introductory media.

I hope you enjoy looking and listening to this ongoing project.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

New developmental image of The Universal Embrace

I am loving the process of this narrative visual document growing in textures, colours, and metaphorical concepts.

As I progress through the important step of playing, (Stasko), I am finding a richness of expression in describing the two men hugging.

It has taken on quite a cosmic quality, and I am finding elements of the relationship, such as its sacredness, is being described visually, and I hope other people can relate this to their own relationships.

I dont even know where the idea of the golden section came from-apart from starting with something thats divine, and contrasting it with the simplifying and complicating of which can happen within that plane.

Tonight, I'll animate another GIG to put on The Universal Embrace's website for some idea as to where it is going.

Also, I have been experimenting with presenting the final presentation as an iBook to be published on the Apple iBook store. In this, I will have to consult with supervisors in that it is going to be an accepted format for my Masters.

I have managed to work out some level of interactivity and sound on the iBook, and to this end it actually does consider and express the interactivity of the piece.

In an ideal world, I would have the skills to make this a total web based interactive design, but my skills in designing something more epic than I can do is limiting my creative expression. Perhaps I can do some courses or ask some tech savvy friends.

I have found that apart from the body of the work I am having to be the technical person as well in the online and / or iBook manifestation of this project, and thats the silent part that I engage with that is separate from the concept. It is important and absolutely necessary though, to be able to express the digitised work in this way.

Here is a still from the interactive design, which I am very excited about! I can't wait to develop this idea further and start adding the interactive component of an audio narrative.

I love how the seen and unseen worlds are starting to resolve visually in the sacredness of a relationship, despite sometimes stormy weather!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Early notes on resonance

There is something macroscopic and microscopic about my visual narrative that utilises a golden rectangle and concurrent spiral emanating from it.  It speaks of the moment of an embrace people at a Buddhist temple, as it has evolved. One of those persons is myself-the other is actually my partner.
It is quite a departure from other dark or disturbing art I have produced in the past. Gone is the angst and worry and isolation. Here it reveals something I cherish-hugging, and especially with my life partner.

In the past, isolation and sexual ambiguity were pivotal in my work, yet this is a celebration, of lived experience that is present. I’m literally re-creating something positive and rewarding in my life-probably the most rewarding thing ever, the affection between my partner and I.

I can not really recall in my artistic past the celebration of being queer in any form, I guess as you get older, you do grow into who you are and become comfortable with directly expressing gay lovers instead of meandering and symbolic frustrations and turmoil.

I have just turned 40, and I was having a drink last night with friends-I have to say that I told them I love being this age. I love to know who I am and its so comforting to be in a mature relationship that makes me whole.

I think the unfolding of the spiral in the interactive design speaks of the infiniteness from which you came from, the journeys and the experiences that led me to this point. It feels nice to be celebratory in this way.

The largest square in the design is the focus of this unravelling, in that the all important heart chakras of us are meeting exactly in the centre. This was pivotal to the design. It cemented the focus on all that’s good about a healthy relationship.

There is a fatalistic dimension to the design, where have these people come from to arrive at this point? The description does not need to be long, for the instant of the embrace is the here-and-now. It’s a dimension that I find myself in real life, and I couldn’t be more grateful. The spiral speaks of a winding past leading to the love sharing of the event, that makes it easy to consider the present more effectively, whilst still validating a long narrative in life and experience to this point. The emphasis though, is on the love between two people.

The self reflexivity and the growing more and more to the concept of self-actualisation has never presented itself more in a positive way in my work, its quite a joy to work on.

Resonance is a concept that is integral to this event. The whole dimension of the interactive frame is underpinned by the golden rectangle, which is realised of the concept of Phi. Philosophically, this means that this instant, this moment, is perfect and complete-it is also the sum of its past, and an affirmation for the future.

I just love the idea and strive to be more mindful of my thoughts as I go about my day, in that I try and catch negative thoughts, record them, and turn them into positive ones. Worry is such a wasted emotion - which I grapple with, but this reflection relies on thinking about the self in all its dimensions.
It is quite startling that in the animation in which I can ‘turn off’ my partner, the image of me hugging no one looks ridiculous! I read an article lately of when research comes to a halt because of a subject being lost. My partner knows my paranoias well, ‘No, Maureen is not saying we are going to break up!’, as Maureen my supervisor had suggested the article.

Being resonant with each others thoughts, so close, is something I have experienced with select people in my life. My partner does not consider himself spiritual, but whenever the TV is on, or I have a slight look in my eye, sometimes he guesses the thoughts I am having at that moment. Its quite funny and extremely intuitive. I want to talk more about intuition later, in where do ideas come from? How are they stored/caught-where do your thoughts go?

The concept of resonance I think also relates to the way how reality unfolds, the unfurling ‘spirit spiral’, you can see across nature in things like fern trees and in ammotite fossils. For example, I was considering a background that had to be exactly half sky, and half earth, to fit the dimensions of the design, representing earth and sky, maybe dark and light, or ethereal and tangible.

I was looking through some photos I had taken on my iPhone from this year and the Buddhist temple struck me so solidly as the one to use! There was no need to go to an airport and take a photo, as I originally planned to represent the transient nature of relationships over a lifetime. There it was on my computer! I love Buddhism and its poetic Zen nature, and although not religious, use the Dalai Lamas words, ‘Don’t use Buddhism to be a Buddhist, use it to better what you already are’.

In all the event is a positive one, and I cant wait to begin analysing it with creative intuition that is yet unmapped.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Meeting with Maureen and Neil (Supervisors)

I met with Maureen and Neil, my supervisors again and was excited to gain the impression that Maureen thinks my whole of Masters work and writing will be online. Neil asked if this was for the purpose of marking and presentation, and Maureen encouraged that it should be.

I think there is a cutting edge way I am studying and recording my narrative because it is live, unfolding, and unfettered, albeit with some problems about the discourse of revealing all scribblings publicly.

There arose the issue that and were problematic in that if they were hacked or fell offline, is there a way to back up my work? We all would not want it to be for nil, so I will try and send an email to gague how secure these platforms are should such an event occur, and how to 'back them up' digtally.

I am already aware that HTML5 is the 'new way' of the web, and that the universal embrace site will last longer in this format which is why I chose

I'll have to look into it.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Development of still interactive layers...(cont)

I love playing with the endless opportunities to express this moment physically, emotionally, spiritually, and politically while playing and having so much fun with it. How will I ever get the complexities of the interactive design to work!? Bring in the programmers perhaps?

Experimenting with laters of interactivity

Here is an image from the final interactive slide which could change over time. After my last post of talking about the Dalai Lama and his views on practicing love and compassion, I came up with this image.

The image is a combination of 'layers' that can be turned off and on in Photoshop. In it, I have described a few things; firstly, there is the Buddhist temple, so relavant to this week. I've also included the 6 chakras described in popular culture and spiritual teachings, for simplicity. This is heightened by what might be the currency of heat radiating off my body, inviting the viewer to construct and deconstruct the image in their mind to see the visible, and also the invisible.

The Playing part that Stasko describes and a philosophy I adhere to is very much happening here, and it's quite exciting to see it unfold before my eyes.

More on this later but for now here is a still:

Its a delightful construction in my view, with the 50% land and 50% sky, all in tune to a mathematical fibonacci spiral, and the buddhist temple just seems to fit nicely! I love how the invisibles I'm wanting to describe are coming to life visually.

His Holiness on Education.


Hearing the Dalai Lama speak.

On Tuesday 18th of June, I went to see the Dalai Lama speak in Melbourne.

His teachings on the relationship to education and non violence, compassion and a secular society bought comfort to me, while I say t there, my usually jittery legs quiet as I concentrated on the screen, and watched him stand up, to talk for over an hour before he answered some questions.

What I liked about the talk, is the compassion I felt, the resonant feeling of the willing audience to listen, the welcome to country from an indigenous elder.

It filled me with a sense of hop, that in the direness of the planet and the problems for people worldwide, that someone, whom did seem very humble, and ‘like an old friend’, spoke with such elegance and simplicity.

When he did not know the answer to a question, he imply stated, ‘I don’t know!’. How wonderful if our politicians oozed the same honesty, instead of trying to save face.

In the Universal Embrace, the location is at a buddhist temple, a place of worship, and symbolising the state of flux of change, and also past history, of building, and of the link in the photo between the symbolic bridge in Footscray to an ancient past and a celebratory moment in the present.

His holiness was very present, very confident to speak, light hearted, often, he giggled and cracked jokes, which delighted the audience.

My project describes a loving present for me personally, and celebrates compassion, and tolerance, and follows in the expression of this in terms of its queer ideology. The description of tolerance in a secular society, especially in terms of education, was paramount to his speech, and although he jokes ‘people call me a buddhist’, as if to throw that idea away, he teaches beyond buddhism, beyond religion.

He spoke highly of christian, muslim, and hindu faiths and said the core of those religions was love.

In my project, it focusses on love. I like to think that a gay embrace can be used in a secular way to exhibit all love between people, and across faiths.

I have had a lot to go though in my time as a person on the planet, including schizophrenia, drugs abuse, some bad decisions, and sexuality issues, including the many philosophical/metaphysical ones.  I have just read in some of my notes, that to practice forgiveness leads to tolerance. I feel a lot of the time I beat myself up for mistakes in the past, and that I should learn to be tolerant of my own past actions. He was saying too-that karmically, when you become aware, you can change actions that have negative outcomes by the practice of self forgiveness and forgiveness of others. In this context, he refers to taking responsibility for who you are and where you are. Its quite a heavy philosophical statement, but the way he described it was simple and easy to understand.

Be kind to yourself, and kind to others, for it is always possible.

He described that across religions, that the secular ethics of human values is strong, and that everyone can contribute to a better world. It was quite funny when he said ‘raise your hands if you’re under 15’, and a few hands went up. Then, 20-50, and lots of hands went up.

He jokingly suggested that the last century is past and that the people inhabiting last century are ‘on the way out’, and you cannot do anything to change it, and that the young people, through the secular values of society via the base of world religions compassion and tolerance, that peace is possible this century-with good education. 

I delighted in the word. Education. For a long time, without realising it, I have been an educator, and also someone whom has made a lot of mistakes! Still, you learn through these, and although my narrative will follow through with a snapshot of my unfolding fibonacci spiral life until now, its nice to know that metaphorical bridge is there between the past and the present.

He reminded us that the Buddah clearly stated that ‘You are your own master!’. I find some excitement and also some fear in this. I’m reminded of two buddhist quotes too: ‘After enlightenment, the laundry’, and that ‘If you are on the path, things are as they are, if you are not on the path, things are as they are’. It seems no matter how enlightened you are, of course there is much work to do! I am here now with what I know and feel, doing what I do, recording a narrative in words and art.

This narrative is a sort of a symbolic path, that will eventually distil themes from my life and through my research that crystalize into new knowledge, and for that I’m most excited.

I'll definitely write some more notes on this soon with reference to the talk. I feel very lucky to have attended-it was a 40th birthday present from my parents, bless them.
The nosebleed section!

A seagull came to visit me whilst having a coffee while waiting to attend the Dalai Lamas talk. I was waiting for a friend, and the seagull landed to look at me, most likely wanting food-but I did not have any. By the time I got my phone out and took a pic, he was flying away, in impermanence.