With so much anger in the air at the moment (for example, Victoria's understandably exasperated Premier Dan Andrews often seems about to burst into flames when addressing COVID-19 issues) I ask: can the dummy spit sometimes be something much more than just a tantrum?
Can it be a thing of impressive power and flair and even, in its own raving way, sometimes be a work of art?
Yes, perhaps it can.
The great and wowser-arousing writer D. H. Lawrence was born this week in 1885, and to mark his birthday the online Literary Hub has just posted Lawrence's reaction after nervous, jelly-boned publishers rejected his sexually explicit novel Sons and Lovers.
"Curse the blasted, jelly-boned swines, the slimy, the belly-wriggling invertebrates, the miserable sodding rotters, the flaming sods, the snivelling, dribbling, dithering palsied pulse-less lot that make up England today. They've got white of egg in their veins, and their spunk [sperm] is so watery, it's a marvel they can breed. They are nothing but frog-spawn, the gibberers! God, how I hate them! God curse them, funkers. God blast them, wish-wash. Exterminate them, slime."
With Lawrence's magnificent diatribe (how cleansing he must have found it, venting his spleen against a whole pulse-less, watery-spermed nation and people!) ringing between this week's column's mild-mannered lines, we move on to calmer things - to matters of the ageing mind.
Your columnist is a gnarled, seasoned person of 75 summers and chances are that if you are you are reading this (for the spring-chicken flibbertigibbet generations seldom read newspapers, and would find a 900-word column a daunting challenge to their intellects and attention spans) you too are advanced in years.
And so behold, blessed demographic, I bring you what may be tidings of great joy. Some new research suggests that perhaps, contrary to what has always been believed, in some ways the mind becomes more, not less, nimble with age.
I will nimbly hop and skip to the research in a moment, after first confiding that it has often seemed to me that age sharpens some of the tools in the mind's toolbox.
So for example where once one laboured over the Canberra Times Quick Crossword, increasingly it seems so easy, such an insult to the intelligence, that one completes it in the twinkling of an eye, sighing at how undemanding it is.
Then there is one's sense that the fine things in life have never seemed so gloriously, fabulously fine. Always fond of poetry, plays and great big novels, I find myself doing more, deeper reading of them now than ever before, and always finding hitherto underappreciated joys and nuances and things to go "Gosh!" at as I re-read works (for example the aforementioned novels of Lawrence, the great author and dummy spitter) I've read many times before, getting much, much more out of them now that my mind is more grown up.
Then, kidding myself or not, I believe these days I see right through true charlatans and drongos (especially political ones) who once upon a time might have seemed opaque to me. These days one feels one knows intuitively who and what to switch off.
And now it doth emerge, according to a new study, that some mental agilities do improve with age. You can read all about the study's findings in the latest online Nautilus, in the piece "Here's where our minds sharpen in old age".
The magazine's Jim Davies reports that John Verssimo, of the University of Lisbon, and his colleagues, "looked at a large sample of people between the ages of 58 and 98 and measured their performance on a broad range of cognitive tasks to get a more detailed picture of cognitive aging. The researchers controlled for participants' sex and education, as well as declines in general thinking speed, motor control, and perception, and found some surprising and hopeful results."
We've no room here for granular details of the surprising and hopeful findings. Oldies, do nimble-mindedly read the piece for yourselves.
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But the Portuguese researchers found that while old people's minds do slow and become worse at "alerting" functions (one's vigilance and preparedness for responding to incoming information - important, say, for driving) they actually improve at the vital function of "orienting", the ability to allow relevant information to come in and, smartly, to inhibit and turn away irrelevant information.
The researchers found that tested ancients take more milliseconds (getting 6.3 milliseconds slower a year) to hit a button in response to something on the screen.
But then, Davies points out, so many of our important decisions never need to be made so fast that milliseconds make a difference (on the contrary, those decisions require an investment of ample time) and meanwhile research seems to show "that age tends to increase abilities in vocabulary, language comprehension, reading others' emotions, and knowledge".
Meanwhile, in a new, 1300-page biography of the eccentric Portuguese genius Fernando Pessoa (one of the enormous and complex books my improved-with-ageing mind now equips me to read and appreciate with oldie aplomb), we find Pessoa offering the following deeply illuminating insight.
If "conviction politics" (with politicians such as, say, Scott Morrison and Zed Seselja driven by their fundamental, fossilised, set-in-concrete, usually ideological/religious beliefs) drives you batty, then Pessoa is speaking to you when he observes: "Only superficial people have deep convictions."
For the truly intelligent minds of deep thinkers, the shimmeringly brilliant Iberian goes on to insist, are always in a state of doubt, of inquiry, of eager lifelong learning.
- Ian Warden is a regular columnist.