This is an excerpt for my performance this month at the Bondi Feast Festival.
The stoics would meet on a covered porch and philosophise. They thought there was nothing good or bad in this world, but rather our judgements colour our beliefs and this determines how we feel about what happens to us. For example, someone you don’t know asks you to do something you don’t want to do. In front of a whole lot of strangers in a dark room. It’s not the request that makes you feel anxious, but rather the process inside you that first decides the request is bad. Your anxiety is caused by your judgement and not the request itself. That’s their first theory.
They had two theories.
The second theory is what they called the premeditation of evil. There’s two aspects to this theory. Holding onto anything in this world is dangerous because everything is finite. If we hold onto anything too dearly we will one day have to deal with its loss. The more accustomed you are to the idea of this loss, the easier it will be when it eventually occurs. So if you were my child or a partner I should imagine you dead or gone every day and eventually, I will be correct.
This is a bit of an exaggeration. I have to do that some times for theatrical effect.
The point of this exercise is to remind yourself of just how precious those things are. It’s an attempt to resist the leveling out of our lives, when everything we love kind of bleeds out into the background, like a watercolour with too much water. If you imagine something dead and gone, then you can imagine what it would be like to loose it and you are reminded of just how important it was to you in the first place.
The second aspect of the premeditation of evil is the one I want to revive tonight. When things go wrong, they usually go less wrong than what you were afraid of. Forcing yourself to experience a taste of something you’re anxious about will help you realise that it is not that bad. For example being naked in public. Your ass doesn’t fall off if people see it by accident. Most of the time the worst case scenario is something we are able to handle.
Which brings us to Bondi.
Ordinance No. 52 established in 1935 set exact dimensions for swimming costumes. It decreed that men’s and women’s costumes must have legs at least 3″ long and completely cover the front of the body.
Beach inspector Aub Laidlaw enforced Ordinance No. 52. He would patrol the beach and measure the length of swimming costumes on both men and women. If Aub decided that the length of the fabric was inappropriate, the offender would be taken to the changing sheds at the Pavilion, just below us, and ordered to put on some more clothes. If the piece of clothing was particularly offensive they may be arrested or escorted to a tram via the back door of the Pavilion. From a lot of the interviews Aub seems a little put out by the ordinance. He was a trained safety professional, and he was forced to become what was effectively the fashion police. There are some suggestions that he liked the attention.
Beach inspector Aub Laidlaw will make stoics of us all.