You know those times when you roll your eyes in scepticism as you listen to someone claim that something has happened because the universe is trying to send them a message? The universe has just sent me a message: Hey, what’s up Andrew? How are you enjoying the cooler weather of late? Did you see the latest cricket score? Been hiking around Cairns recently?
I didn’t ask for a lesson in philosophy, I just wanted to learn something of personal significance. Personal significance, hmmm, ponders the universe, technically that doesn’t really exist either. Despite the fact that humans like to believe things happen for a reason, nothing that happens is reasonable, nor is it unreasonable, it just is.
Okay let’s concede that life is meaningless. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth living though. Surely the quest for knowledge, the beauty of life and even the pursuit of meaning in a meaningless world are all worth living for?
Can’t we appreciate the beauty of sport, for example? Maradona’s goal of the century; Israel Folau receiving a perfectly weighted cut-out pass From Quade Cooper, before sidestepping an oncoming defender, gracefully accelerating, sidestepping a couple more defenders, then gliding over to touch the ball neatly beneath the goal posts; Roger Federer at his exquisite best, mesmerizing with his impeccable footwork and timing, giving off the impression that he is floating around the court in a display of elegance unprecedented by mere mortals.
Or how about listening to a masterpiece such as Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata or Liszt’s Liebestraum in A flat? Even the satisfaction of a slow cooked curry after a rough day could be considered worth living for? Perhaps one can obtain a sense of contentment whilst sitting around a campfire drinking billy tea? The natural curvature of an athletic female is surely something beautiful and worthwhile? What about art and culture? How about the relationships between people and all the differing opinions and ways of life?
Of universal consensus is the beauty one can find in the natural world. Watching mist rise through mountains; or the sea wash over a pile of rocks; lying beneath a stretch of palm trees as the leaves are subjected to a gentle breeze; sitting behind a waterfall and observing the water trickling overhead before rushing down in a turbulent frenzy to join the bustling river below; an orange sky textured with cloud amidst the backdrop of a majestic mountain range; water sparkling beneath a sunlit sky; the vibrant greens of the rainforest contrasted against a stark blue sky; the abundance of stars observed on a clear night in a remote region devoid of light pollution.
Surely life has so much to offer, without requiring an objective purpose? Well how about this, says the universe, if life is so interesting, what are you doing sitting in a small office in Cairns all day? A man’s gotta make a living, I suppose. I mean, I can’t just get up and walk away from it all.
So here I found myself on January 28th 2013: Sitting in front of my computer browsing another random employment website. Graduate engineers? No. Five years’ experience required. Scroll, click, click, scroll. I apply for whatever seems somewhat relevant. Here’s one. And another. I get to the point where I’m sick of submitting cover letters. My resume will do.
January 29th 2013: As was my routine, I check my email to see how many rejections I’ve received this morning. Colefax Associates Consulting Engineers [CACE]: Andrew, if you can give me a suitable time I will call you tomorrow, or you can give me a call on (07)4051xxxx. Regards, Bob Colefax. Sounds promising. A short phone conversation later, after 22 years in Tasmania, my life had been picked up, shaken firmly and thrust a number of kilometres north to the tropical wonderland known as Cairns.
The only thing in life that one can be one hundred percent certain about is the fact that one will never be one hundred percent certain about anything in life.
For three years, my boss has taught me how to run a business: Always spend a little more than you earn; make your finances as convoluted as possible through the running of multiple entities, trust funds, superannuation arrangements, directors loans, (so-called) business related expenses, etc.; continually change the filing system – certainly incorporate multiple folders and sub-folders of ambiguous content (if operation is becoming too efficient, permanently delete a few relevant files); be generous with your employees, but allow yourself no respite (work seven days a week, 364 days a year); work for clients who consistently fail to pay whilst ignoring those who pay promptly and treat you admirably; but most importantly of all, rebel against the system.
And here is why my boss was perhaps the greatest boss of all time: He was an individual, a maverick, a man who felt it his duty to rebel against the system. His quarrels with the professional governing body, and his unconventional approach to engineering resulted in a divisive reputation amongst his fellow professionals. He is a man of great integrity who doesn’t do things by half measures. It had to end eventually. That things ended in such a dramatic climax was inevitable. Bob was never going to go down quietly, slowly decreasing his workload before blissfully retiring to a healthy bank account and a secure future. No, this is not his way. The only plausible conclusion was a great struggle against a crushing workload from a relentless society, augmented by a traumatic head injury incurred from a bizarre car accident.
And so, after 1225 days working for the greatest boss of all time, my employment has concluded just as suddenly as it began: With a short conversation, simple and to the point.
Bob Colefax, you truly are a living legend. I sincerely wish you all the best for a long and happy retirement. I certainly believe happiness to be entirely possible for someone as honourable as you. After all, in a meaningless world, it’s not the possessions that you amass, or even the professional legacy you leave that really matters. What is really important is to define your own moral code and to stick to it. It is plain to all that you have done this. I hope that the beauty of the world will really open up to you as you begin the next part of your journey. Remember that happiness is an attitude.
Yes, the mug has finally broken, but the legacy of CACE lives on…