27. Carlos Castaneda’s ‘The Power of the Night’.

‘Be ashamed to die, until you have scored some victory for humanity.’
Horace Mann

1. A report on Mr B’s excursion.
This scribe apologises for his late scribble. I haven’t long been home.

Last night, after the meeting at Speakers’ Corner had concluded, Mr B took 14 lucky grasshoppers to the Royal National Park for an adventure. This scribe was one of them. Our purpose was to experience the ‘power of the night’.

We certainly experienced that.

Carlos Castaneda-style, we were to run full tilt into the midnight forest, blindfolded. However, because we would be ‘at one with the night’ we would instinctively know where to run and which obstacles to hurdle. We would emerge from the forest an hour later, puffing and blowing, but unharmed.

At least, that was the plan.

At 6pm Mr B parked the hired minibus in front of the Art Gallery and the fifteen of us began our drive to the Royal National Park. Unfortunately, the heater wasn’t working. An argument then broke out in the back of the bus. I was in the front passenger seat, so the only words I heard (over and over) were “two polarity” and “Shuddup! You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

Two hours later we entered the park and the night was pitch black. Heavy rain began to fall. That’s when the argument finally ended; it was too difficult to hear each other over the deafening noise of raindrops hitting the roof of the minibus. Someone asked when they would be eating the pizza, they were hungry. Mr Bashful confessed that with all the arguments going on in the back of the bus he had forgotten to buy the pizzas on the way. It was too late to go back now.

Someone then asked if they could at least have a cup of hot coffee. Mr Bashful confessed that the four thermos flasks of hot Nescafe Blend he had promised and prepared were still sitting on his kitchen table. “No matter,” he said cheerily, “we will soon be experiencing the power of the night. And I’ve remembered the blindfolds.”

We drove down the same stretch of road five times, back and forth, until we found the required turnoff. Five minutes later we came to a gate that barred our way. The sign on the gate explained that the National Park closes at 8.30pm. It was 8.40pm. That news didn’t please Mr Bashful but neither did it faze him. “Our site is only five kilometres down that track,” he said, pointing. “We can walk.”

Someone protested, saying that they didn’t want to walk five kilometres in heavy rain just so that they could run into a dark forest. They wanted to know why we couldn’t experience the power of the night by running from here, from the minibus. Mr B said there were wire fences about, which would curtail our experience. We needed to be in the park itself.

So, in the blackest of nights and in heavy rain we plodded five kilometres to the site, feeling our way. This is probably when we lost one of our number. We heard someone calling for help but the rain got even heavier and we couldn’t hear them any more. We kept walking.

Someone asked Mr B why he didn’t bring a torch with him. Mr Bashful confessed that he didn’t think of it. “But it’s a good idea.”

We finally arrived at the site. The only reason we knew we were at the site was because someone walked into a signpost and broke their spectacles. The light from someone’s smartphone revealed that the sign prohibited fires. This seemed to dampen Mr B’s spirit, for he had planned to have us sitting around a campfire while he taught us how to capture the power of the night. Someone pointed out that the prohibition on fires didn’t really affect us: there was more chance of us being visited by a spaceship of aliens than there was of successfully lighting a fire in this heavy rain. Someone agreed, volunteering to keep a look out for them.

Then someone announced that “nature was calling”. We felt around for a while but found no evidence of a toilet. Or of any building, for that matter. We seemed to be just standing in a carpark. Three people said they desperately wanted to go to the toilet and would we wait a bit? We said we would. We assumed all three had wandered off to do their business, but pungent odours soon suggested otherwise. A little way off we heard two possums fighting. Well, we thought it was two possums fighting until a woman said, “That’s just my husband. I tell him he should eat more fibre but he won’t listen.”

The two that had remained close to us to do their business announced that they had finished, and the smell was too strong for us to hang around. We had only moved about a metre when the same woman said, ‘We can’t leave my husband behind.” So, we waited for her husband to return. Eventually we heard his distant cry for help. None of us thought to yell back. The cries seemed to get further away and eventually they faded into the noise of the pounding rain. It was about this time when Mr B said we should move to less odorous parts and discuss how we could all capture the power of the night. The woman again asked, “what about my husband?” and Mr B explained that as day follows night, day would follow night, and in the morning her husband would find himself in the dawn’s early light, refreshed.

“If he hasn’t died of exposure,” said some wit in the darkness.

“If we all haven’t died of exposure,” said another bleakly.

It was refreshing to find that in these blizzard-like conditions people were still able to crack jokes and keep our spirits up.

In the pouring rain we stood huddled together like emperor penguins, while Mr Bashful spent the next twenty minutes patiently explaining how we could all capture ‘the power of the night’.

This scribe has to admit that much of what he said didn’t seem to make sense. In fact, none of it made sense. But no one else said anything so I continued to place my trust in Mr Bashful.

Apart from the frequent complaints made about having had no dinner, and no coffee, and being deathly cold, and shivering uncontrollably while standing in driving rain, and having lost two of our number, we were ready. Mr B sang ‘Puff, the Magic Dragon’ so that we could all find him again. He needed to give us our blindfolds. Someone asked why we needed a blindfold given that we couldn’t even see our hand in front of our face. Mr B explained, “Just to be on the safe side”.

Then it was time. With blindfolds on we all formed a circle, facing outwards. And when Mr B yelled the words ‘collective consciousness’ we ran as hard and as fast as we could into the darkness.

Your cautious scribe can’t go into the details of what happened next, for legal reasons. Besides, I witnessed nothing. It was pitch black dark and I had a blindfold on. Suffice to say that four of our number, including me, didn’t even make it to the forest, having tripped over the low wooden railing surrounding the carpark. We were the lucky ones, sustaining only cuts and bruises. Those who had managed to reach the forest reported broken teeth, broken noses, one broken eye-socket and a bout of concussion. Thankfully, one person had their phone working, because someone had broken a leg and had to be airlifted out by helicopter.

Only Mr Bashful remained unscathed. He is, after all, a seasoned veteran when it comes to harnessing the power of the night.

The helicopter medics didn’t look pleased. They couldn’t understand why eleven people in heavy rain had run headlong into a midnight forest wearing blindfolds. Mr Bashful tried to explain to them the power of the night but they didn’t seem interested.

I quietly mentioned to Mr Bashful that there should be fifteen of us altogether, not eleven. Mr B seemed unwilling to dwell on our reduced number. He doesn’t believe in focusing on the negatives.

Through the driving rain we still managed to hear the helicopter pilot cursing from having stepped in a mound of human faeces. With the aid of a medic’s torch Mr Bashful generously took off his jacket and used it to wipe clean her shoes. Ever bold, he then asked for her phone number. For some reason she refused to provide it.

When the helicopter rose and flew away with its two passengers (‘broken leg’ and ‘broken eye-socket’) the eleven of us slowly and carefully limped back to the minibus. It took some time because we still had to feel our way, and the one with concussion kept holding us up. When someone asked Mr Bashful why he hadn’t borrowed the medic’s torch he confessed he didn’t think of it.

It was five o’clock in the morning when we made it back to the minibus. However, we discovered that Mr Bashful didn’t have the keys. They were in his poo-smeared jacket he had abandoned back at the carpark.

He must have been as cold and as weary as the rest of us, yet gallantly he volunteered to walk back to the carpark to retrieve the keys. By this time, dawn’s early light was peeping through the trees, so it only took him two hours to make the return journey.

But when he turned the key in the ignition we discovered he had left the headlights on all night, and they had flattened the battery.

It took the roadside service man only an hour to come and fix the problem, but he couldn’t fix the heater. But at last we were on our way home! Nine of us were, anyway. The woman again asked, “What about my husband?” but Mr B thought there were more pressing matters to deal with. Three of his passengers were lethargic, slurring their speech, and falling in and out of consciousness: all signs of hypothermia.

The rain ceased the minute we left the park. As we drove back to Sydney there were no arguments in the back of the bus, no mention of Two Polarity and the like. Just silence. And the occasional moan. It seemed to me that our experience together had drawn us closer. Having experienced the power of the night we had become brothers and sisters, and had outgrown our petty disagreements.

Back in Sydney, Mr B thoughtfully dropped our three unconscious passengers off at St Vincent’s hospital. Two others got out as well and limped inside. Mr B dropped the remaining three of us off at Speakers’ Corner. However, after letting us out of the minibus he seemed reluctant to leave. He seemed to be stalling. I thought it was because he didn’t want to break the strong bonds we had forged between us in our search for the power of the night, but I was wrong. He said to us, “You might remember a request for a gold coin donation . . .?”

I had forgotten about that! I felt bad. Mr Bashful had put a lot of effort into making our experience a powerful one, yet we had failed him.  I handed him a dollar coin but curiously, my two companions responded differently. They looked incredulous. Their response was a colourful one and no money changed hands. They staggered away, grumbling.

But Mr B is a forgiving man. He simply smiled at me and said, “I’ll be organising a scuba dive/spear fishing expedition soon. I’ll let you all know about it.”

He’s a good man, that Mr B.

It was pitch black in the park. We were all so glad to get back to the minibus.


2. During the week Mr B made this video, and he begged me to include it in ‘The News’. I guess if I want to go spear fishing . . .

Now a report on yesterday’s meeting:

3. One grasshopper asked how will we gain satisfaction in years to come, when most jobs have been automated? What will we do with our free time?

The speaker boomed across the park, explaining in detail how our species evolved to be diverse, and that each and every one of us has an inclination. (Not ‘gift’, because some people suck at what they like doing, but ‘inclination’.) By doing what we feel we must do, we gain satisfaction.

4. We had our jokefest, and as usual the jokes were met with hearty laughs. Here’s another joke. It’s more cerebral than the chortlers we heard today.


5. The subjects of weight loss and exercise were also discussed, but they were given a different slant to the usual comments you’ll hear elsewhere.

But just in case you’re hoping to lose a few kilos, the information in this meme might help.

6. We discussed the imminent 2% increase in politicians’ pay. The speaker suggested, counter-intuitively, that the increase might be a good idea, and he gave his reasons why. However, reducing penalty rates? Uh uh. No way!

7. The ‘Something Nice’ segment. To charm some and irritate others. (It’s a postcard from the postsecret website).

8. Today’s regrets were about a primary school girl sweetheart, a foregone opportunity to be an actor, and a man oblivious to womens’ advances. All good stuff.

9. Other topics discussed:
– One speaker claimed that political opportunists are more interested in reviling Senator Pauline Hanson instead of calmly addressing her concerns. Has Pauline inadvertently brought to our attention a genuine problem with regards to the teaching of autistic children, or not? Either way, let’s focus on making sure that we’re doing the best we can for our kids, instead of focusing on gaining political points.

– Christian terrorists.

– The shenangans of Karl Marx.

– Is it a good idea to try to be in the ‘here and now’? Or is it better to be in the ‘before and after”?

– Is it worth trying to change the world?

10. Speakers’ Corner legend Steve Maxwell’s has written another article for his popular ‘Passing Parade‘ series. Enjoy!

Steve Maxwell’s Passing Parade

The Speakers’ Corner in Brisbane.

Morton Bay (Brisbane) was a convict colony until convict transportation to the place stopped in 1840. After that, Kanakas (workers from the Pacific Islands) were lured to Queensland under the pretext of indentured labour, to replace the convicts.

Queensland was administered by New South Wales until 1859, and then Queensland became a self-governing sovereign British colony with its own army and navy and immigration policy. Its first parliament met in May, 1860. Morton Bay had a small white population of 25,000. A tiny elite of powerful graziers controlled parliament.

The graziers favoured coolie labour and wanted the land clear of Aborigines.

The Queensland army occupied Southern New Guinea to stop German expansions in the 1870’s, and in the 1890’s was preparing a war against striking shearers. The shearers objected to the coolie labour and were preparing for a rebellion. In 1893 Mother Nature intervened just in time. Three cyclones hit Queensland at once, causing one million pounds worth of damage. The revolution was cancelled.

Queensland’s boast is that it had the first Labor government in the world! It lasted one week in 1899.

Under federation in 1901, the colony ceded its power in foreign affairs and trade to Australia.

Free speech in Queensland was hard fought for, and not guaranteed until 2010 when the Queensland government dedicated a Speakers’ Corner to celebrate 150 years of parliament in Queensland. It is in the George Street forecourt, just outside of Parliament House.