13th Beach a Postpositive is a little video I made while staying with family after returning home from a long Indian field trip for my Ph.D (I write about the circumstances of creating the video in more detail in the BTS section below).
For now, some prefatory remarks if I may. I am slightly reticent to say too much about the ideas to follow before you have a chance to watch the short-film. That being said, I would like to make a small comment about the use of the grammatical term “postpositive.” First, its important to know I am using this term as a bit of a play on words rather than in any traditionally correct grammatical fashion (I apologize to the English teachers in advance).
Second, as you probably know articles on blogs and websites are often called blog”posts” and the sub-text of this one is of course “positive.” This sounds awfully cheesy I know but I mean this in a rather different manner than you might first imagine. For more accurately a postpositive is an adjective that modifies its proceeding word. As one dictionary states: Postpositive: (of a word) placed after or as a suffix on the word that it relates to, and this is important to understand for what will come. For now, if you can, please watch the video (with headphones) before reading the article (although it is not critical to the ideas below that you watch it at all).
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Note: if you are reading this via email click here to watch the video.
Do childhood memories impact adulthood? Of course they do but, what I mean to ask is, do happy memories of childhood experiences (what John Locke called direct memory experiences) play a large role in what we find enjoyable as adults? If so, to what degree are our “choices” not really choices at all? These may seem unrelated questions given the title of the article, and on the surface the subject of the short-film, but they are not. Now, I will not try to put forward a reductionist explanation as to why or how memory may render free-will a non-starter for the truth is I have no idea whether this is the case or not. However, I can tell you a little story (and a tiny bit of theorizing) about my own experience in this regard if you care to listen?
Like many Australian families Christmas meant packing enough gear into a caravan to last four weeks and heading off to our favourite holiday destination. I was only six months old when I had my first Christmas family holiday, and in my case this meant travelling ten hours to Pambula beach holiday caravan park. My first Christmas holiday was spent paddling in the shallows of the Pacific Ocean held securely in my mothers arms and watched over by a proud new dad. Not a bad start I’d reckon.
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But even before I was born my father (pictured above) was into surfing. This was well before surfing was super popular as it is today, and it was back in the day when everybody had to surf those old style 12″ boards. In fact, now that I recall, my first surfing lesson was on his surfboard. Of course my father was the instructor and he would also lay on the board so it was probably more of a ride with dad than a lesson. Nevertheless, we were a “beach” family and this was a family tradition that would last for the next two decades (until I thought I was too cool to be near them!). It goes without saying this was a time I now look back on with great fondness. However the question remains: do good experience based memories impact adult life in any significant way?
While I have not spent much time near the water in the past twenty years, for me there is still to this day, something quite special about the sea—the way the ocean meets the sky and the sound of waves lapping the sand draws my mind out allowing it to become more expansive than usual (a little bit like some types of meditation). It is such a joy to simly sit by the ocean and look out to sea. In fact, I can recall that as a young man on those family holidays I would lay awake at night listening to the sound of the waves crashing over the sand, and recently I found myself doing the same. This brought back memories of my youth, and helped to focus the topic of this article. So, I can say without exaggeration that in my case memories of those summer holidays marked me, in a good way, forever.
Nevertheless, for some the ocean does not have this effect. For them the same positive affect comes from being in the bush, or climbing a mountain, or perhaps camping beside a river and other such places in nature. Now you may think this article is all about nature—that I am going to say there is something “special” about nature, and if we could all just get back to nature everything would be alright! Or you might think I am suggesting that if one spent time as a child near the beach then this will become your magnet in adulthood. But I am not. While nature is beautiful, no one can doubt that, what I think is going on here is pretty simple but perhaps unnoticed.
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I believe our fondness for the beach (or mountains) as an adult has more to do with human to human communication than anything about the places themselves. For when we are young our parents are communicating with us in a manner that is devoid of disappointment, or resentment, or any other issue that can build up over years of parenting. Children can be pretty horrible to their parents and there is no doubt the same can be true in reverse. People can be hurt by the simplest of things and this will often effect communication moving forward. This then builds up over time so that the simplest of conversations is near impossible. Think, teenagers!
In those early years before the resentment creeps in however, our relationships were based on a strong sense of being cared about. As I said in The Writer “caring about” and “caring for” are fundamentally different in tone. This, I think, is the reason why I am drawn to the ocean. To be clear, I am not suggesting some type of Freudian mother obsession. No. I am simply suggesting that people respond to empathetic communication far better, and in ways that we are not fully aware of. And because of the circumstances of holidays (parents are more relaxed than normal) empathetic communication is the basis of much of the communication (verbal and otherwise) that occurs during these times. We then associate this experience with the holiday itself and for that reason, for me, the beach is inherently calming. This of course happens under the level of conscious thought, and it is only through introspection that this can be teased out.
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More generally, what I am suggesting is that when there is no resentment or any other underlying issues communication between people is easier regardless of age. For when communication is based on an open attitude that cares about the future of the other genuine communication occurs. This is true of all kinds of relationships, not just child and parent.
I know I keep banging on about this but I believe the importance of empathetic communication is vital at an individual, family, community, national, and international level, and should not be underestimated. But now is not the time to muse about such things.
What is the point of this post then? Well, as I mentioned in The Writer, if you want a good life, if you want to be happy, find out what makes you tick well and do that (as long as it is supporting your life and of course not hurting others).
I surmise, therefore, that our past can act like sign posts for a new future that leads us in the general direction of a good life—eudemonia as Aristotle put it. Hence the use of the term postpositive. That is to say, we can transform our past, mend broken relationships, and make good ones better, if we understand the relations between out past and the present.
Geshe Loden once said to me that even for a yogi in the mountains communication is important. What he was pointing out, I believe, was what motivates a yogi to spend years meditating in isolation, is not to remove themselves from society, but rather, to garner the conditions to communicate with sentient beings. One might say that compassion and wisdom are the ultimate tools of the Bodhisattva—the greatest of all communicators.
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Behind the Scenes
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I was hoping to have a new Canon 50mm 1.4 USM II lens by now but alas no luck on that front. So the technical section of this post is the same as the last few and that is, 13th Beach a Postpositive was shot on a Canon 60d with a 28mm 1.8 USM II lens. I then graded the short using Magic Bullet Looks.
There is quite a bit of moire in this short. I did not really notice until the final color-grade. However, I am not sure there is anything I could do about it regardless. Hopefully the 5d MkIII and next generation cameras will sort this issue out.
After arriving back in Australia I have been staying with my family as I work out my next move. This video was shot during this stay. So, while I grew up in the Northern suburbs of Melbourne (the capital city of the Australian state of Victoria) the family home is now situated in a beautiful little beachside town called Barwon Heads (for those Australians in the audience it is the town featured in the popular TV program called Sea Change from a decade ago). Barwon Heads is a quiet and somewhat sleepy country town. The perfect place to arrive home to after spending 6 months in India.
Close to the sleepy little town of Barwon Heads is an even sleepier stretch of coastline, which fifty years ago my father surfed as I did when I was young. It is a beautiful piece of coast with sand and reef breaks that stretch all the way from Black Rock to the Barwon Heads bluff—about a 15 kms stretch of coastline. Besides the wooden steps and lifeguard lookout (which you can see in the shortfilm) 13th Beach remains almost the same as it did when my father surfed it all that time ago.
Knowing I would spend some time at Barwon Heads when I got back to Australia I decided, even before I left India, to shoot 13th while there. So, to the video.
It was shot over the course of two afternoons. The first afternoon I walked the 30 minutes from my the family home to get to the beach. The second my father drove. I edited the two days together.
Day one was spent mainly on the sandy area of 13th just near the club house. While on the second day I spent more time near the bluff shooting the rock pools and other stuff that did not end up in the film such as the rock formation pictured below.
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During the second days shoot, at some point I walked out to the further most rock-ledge I could find and was starting to set up for a shot of some rocks when a wave come in and totally soaked me right up to just below my knees. As I do not always feel the need to “advertise” my vocation I was wearing civilian clothes and so my shoes, socks, jeans, all get totally soaked. Here is the moment captured!
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if you are reading this in an email please click here to watch the behind the scenes video.
Needless to say this was an enjoyable little video to make. The area is just so clean and quiet. Actually, Australia is full of beaches just like 13th, and could make for a wonderful documentary about people and their relationship to those beaches. Now there is an idea!