As I try to understand more about the spiritual world I am learning that it is not as separate from the natural world as is commonly believed. In particular, I find that the Lord has been working to win me throughout my past life, using the most ordinary of experiences to reveal himself to me, and even often protecting me from danger so that I would arrive at the place I have reached today.
This means that one aspect of my investigations must be the exploration of my own history, in order to identify his hand there. This is why I have decided to begin this chronicle of my life, and will write down anything the Spirit brings back to mind as I do so, assuming that if he reminds me of something then it must be significant, even if its importance is not obvious to me at the time of writing. I will attempt to write chronologically, but make no guarantees. So, let’s begin.
I was born in 1949, to wonderful parents who gave me a great start in life, with enormous advantages, despite having almost no money. The few memories I have of early childhood are memories of love, security and happiness. There were undoubtedly moments, as in anyone’s life, that were best forgotten, and I seem to have generally done just that.
When I discovered, half a century later, that I am a baby-boomer, it meant little to me. Everyone else might be labeled as ‘this’ or ‘that’, but I am just ‘me’ – normal of course (‘normality’ being, by definition, what I am, with everyone else deviating to a greater or lesser degree from that). I sometimes hear people talking about a person’s IQ as ‘only average’, as if this means they are somehow deficient in intelligence. But most people are average, with an IQ of about 100. That is what average means – it is what most people are. Similarly, I am normal – though my IQ is certainly not average, as I was to discover during the 1970s when I had a brief fascination with such things as empirical psychology and IQ tests.
My father had great persistence, could turn his hand to almost anything, and could improvise with remarkable creativity. All of the houses we lived in were either built or extensively modified by him. He did this at low cost. I remember trips to Wheelan the Wreckers where he would spend what seemed like hours sorting through second-hand windows and doors, and structural timber. I once saw him arrive home on his bicycle with several lengths of spouting 30 foot long balanced on his shoulder. You could get away with such things in those days. I have either inherited or learned from him this love of improvisation, along with the less admirable hoarding streak that goes with it.
Dad is a deeply spiritual man, with a thirst for knowledge and understanding that made him a habituee of numerous second-hand Christian book shops. I have that same love of reading and learning, and also am addicted to books. I once said to him that if he left me nothing else, I would like his books – the thought of them going to some of the other ‘scroungers’ in the family was horrific. And as for them being thrown out – blasphemy! Well, by the grace of God Dad is still with us, but he has already given me the books for safe-keeping.
Another passion I inherited from Dad is a love of aeroplanes. Unfortunately, apart from a brief excursion into flying light-planes and sailplanes, and a lot of fun designing, building and flying model planes, my eyesight precluded thoughts of a serious career in aviation. I did begin a mechanical engineering degree, but an interest in all things electronic, sparked by my uncle Jim, who was either an electrician or electrical engineer, my brother-in-law Bill who owned one of Melbourne’s first transistor radio repair businesses, and a relatively unsuccessful excursion into early radio control of model aircraft, I switched to Electrical Engineering. I have a suspicion that Dad enrolled me in Mech. Eng. as part of fulfilling his own dream. His own studies were interrupted by World War Two and he spent the war and the few following years as an aircraft engineer.
I did not do well at my initial degree studies, not from lack of ability, but quite the reverse. I had found secondary school studies at Williamstown Technical School so easy that I never learned how to work. When I bombed out, Dad encouraged me to try for one of the new traineeships with the Department of Civil Aviation. I was successful and spent four years of day release study at Collinwood Technical College obtaining an Electrical Design Drafting Higher Technician Certificate (what they now call an Associate Diploma), and 13 happy years with D.C.A. helping to build and then maintain the electrical, communications and navigations systems of Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport. It was as close to a career in aviation as I was to come.
Before this I had obtained an Amateur Radio licence. During one Christmas holiday our family spent at a rented house at Milgrove, on the Yarra River near Warburton, I read through the Radio Communication Handbook, published by the Radio Society of Great Britain, Teach Yourself Electronics and Teach Yourself Computers. I then sat the Theory and Regulations sections of the Australian Post Office exams and obtained more than the 70% pass mark required for a licence. I became, and still am VK3ZDD. I took to electronics like breathing.
While working at Tullamarine I took advantage of the generous Australian Public Service study provisions and commenced a degree in mathematics at RMIT. I applied to do degrees in Maths and in Physics, and was accepted for both. My choice of mathematics was not because I was particullarly interested in the subject. I really wanted to study Electronics and Communications, but found these subjects fairly easy to learn on my own. However, I had always struggled with maths; at least until fifth form when I was given a marvelous teacher in Charlie Green, who managed to spark a latent interest. I knew that to do electronics really well I would need maths so I decided to tackle the problem head-on and do a whole degree in it. I loved it, and spent seven years of part-time study learning how to think clearly, reason accurately, and wonder at what God has made. I received a Diploma of Mathematics in 1983 and a Batchelor of Applied Science in 1984. By the time I received the degree I had left DCA and was working in robotics and vision systems with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). That’s in the next part of my story.