Beauty A Eulogy for Laman St – Paul F. Walsh OAM

Posted: 01/03/2012 in environmental activism, laman street figs
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Beauty

A Eulogy for Laman St

Paul F. Walsh OAM

[Beauty, A Eulogy for Laman St, was written by Paul F Walsh OAM and delivered by him at the Baptist Tabernacle, Laman St, Newcastle, Australia, on Sunday February 26 2012.]


The trees were budding, the birds were singing – the grass was wet – the whole earth was shining. And suddenly I was the trees and the flowers and the birds and the grass – and there was no I at all.

– Kahlil Gibran from Mary Haskell’s journal, May 23 1924.

I am Ignoramus.

We are Beauty.

La Man, a sexual paradox in Laman St, a place where the masculine and feminine aspects of each of us stand either side of a contraceptive barrier erected by fear:

fear of the truth; fear of a hidden Anzac agenda; fear of a genuinely independent assessment; fear of non-independent, dependent, ‘independent’ consultants; fear of the great lie within our chamber of secrets; fear of insurance-driven lack of assurance; fear of mediation; fear of collaborative oneness; fear of the mal in maladministration; fear of the loss of an ethical and moral compass; fear of manipulative blindness masquerading as vision; fear of non-representative representation; fear of institutionalized deceit; fear of unregulated regulators turning a blind eye; fear of a lack of genuine parliamentary oversight; fear of oxymoronic government neutrality; fear of the fig leaf covering our cultural ugliness; fear of Beauty.

I am Ignoramus.

We are Beauty.

Beauty:  December 27 1930: ‘In one of the first utterances after his election as Mayor of Newcastle Ald. Parker made a welcome statement of his intention to use his energies for the beautification of the city. He spoke of the beaches, but the most interesting feature of his statement was his reference to trees.’

Ignoramus: ‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop chop!’

Beauty: December 27 1930: ‘If he does nothing else but inaugurate a new era of tree planting, he will leave a name that will be honoured and sung in the years to come. A memorial erected in stone in recognition of civic services cannot be compared with the memorial living in the hearts of each succeeding generation. And it is the latter kind of memorial that will be the Mayor’s reward…’

Ignoramus: ‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!

Beauty: December 27 1930: ‘A young tree in a park is an invitation to the rude destructive hands of boys and girls, and sometimes the parents witness the work of destruction unmoved. If spoken to, they remark with surprise that it is only a tree.’

Ignoramus: ‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!’

Beauty: December 27 1930: ‘In the case of ill-treatment of a dog or cat or some other animal they would be instantly stirred to action, but a tree does not cry out: it submits silently to destruction. Where there is no poetry in the soul, this view can be understood, but the city should have poetry in its soul, and it should deal with those who would either crush beauty or despoil it.’

Ignoramus: ‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!’

Beauty: December 27 1930: ‘With the younger generation there should be special efforts in the schools to promote a tree sense, and this should lead to the protection of trees already planted…’

Ignoramus: ‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!’

Beauty: January 6 1931: A sentiment attributed to Alderman O’Neill: ‘He agreed with what had been said, that a “tree spirit” should be inaugurated.’

Ignoramus: ‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!’

Beauty: January 6 1931: A sentiment attributed to Alderman Gibson: ‘What has been done in a few months on the barren block of land facing the Town Hall showed what attention could do. The trees were already nearly 2 ft in height. They were beautiful.’

The trees of Laman St were equally beautiful, and Ignoramus killed them.

Ignoramus killed Beauty.

Ignoramus declared Beauty to be dangerous.

Beauty might attack his tenuous grip on the tail of Simpson’s donkey. But a strong wind event from the back of the beast might cause Beauty to swoon and fall.

‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!’

Ignoramus cannot imagine do-gooders at Anzac Cove. Nor can he see tree-huggers at Lone Pine. His grand revitalization vision can see only himself, the past universal I reflected back to him from every superficial non-reflective surface.

Ignoramus wears his Pyrrhic victory like a borrowed raincoat to protect him from a torrent of contrary Newcastle Voices. In his limited limitless mind Ignoramus is the community. Anybody else is a passing storm of something other, and that other must be a noisy thunder-clapping, lightning minority, no matter how majority that minority may be.

Ignoramus does not recognize the Anzac spirit in the Laman St pickets. He does not recognize unity in community. He does not recognize victory in apparent defeat.

Ignoramus does not recognize what he seeks to commemorate.

Ignoramus destroys what he seeks to commemorate.

‘Chop them down! Crucify them! Chop, chop, chop!’

I hear the choir of birds singing in the canopy at dawn as we nervously await the approach of the centurions. I take one last lingering look: these beautiful figs have fashioned an arboreal cathedral, a sacred grove, a living memorial; they are a parable of unity in community: fourteen living as one. I want to tell them to run away, to uproot themselves and save Beauty for another day.

But Beauty does not run. Beauty is too deeply rooted in the poetry in our souls to run. The wisdom of 1930 still rings true. Beauty does not cry out: she submits silently to destruction.

Ignoramus crucified Beauty on the cross of her own wood.

And yet Ignoramus and Beauty live within each of us.

We are all responsible. We are all one.

Where is Beauty’s burial place from which hope might spring?

There is no resurrection of this crucified Beauty in Laman St but there is surely a resurrection of Beauty in our hearts.

We are the figs!

We are the figs!

We are the figs!

Let us shade and comfort each other.

And when next we enter the polling booths in the Novocastrian Spring, that time of new life, a new dawn, a newer world, let Beauty cast our ballot, let us uphold an electoral mirror so that Ignoramus may see Beauty reflected.

I am Ignoramus.

We are Beauty.

‘The trees were budding, the birds were singing – the grass was wet – the whole earth was shining. And suddenly I was the trees and the flowers and the birds and the grass – and there was no I at all.’

Kahlil Gibran from Mary Haskell’s journal, May 23 1924.

Beauty, A Eulogy for Laman St, was written by Paul F Walsh OAM and delivered by him at the Baptist Tabernacle, Laman St, Newcastle, Australia, on Sunday February 26 2012.

Mr Walsh thanks:

Susan Harvey of Tusk Productions for creative editorial support and research assistance; Gionni Di Gravio, University Archivist, University of Newcastle, for research advice, research contributions and creative assistance.

Mr Walsh acknowledges quotations from:

‘I Care About Your Happiness, Quotations from the Love Letters of Kahlil Gibran and Mary Haskell, selected by Susan Polis Schutz; designed and illustrated by Stephen Schutz; Continental Publications, 1975 and Coolabah Gallery.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate, Saturday December 27 1930, ‘Trees and the City’.

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