Geoffrey didn't take a typical career path: he started by travelling the world, then moving to an academic career, and then to a sea change that allowed him to connect deeply with nature.
Q&A with Geoffrey Berry
Can you tell us about your time at Deakin? Is there anything you especially remember?
During my MA I had two wonderful supervisors. I felt very lucky, because one was an expert in creative literature (Professor Brian Edwards) and the other in the kinds of philosophical frameworks I was utilising (Professor Ann MacCulloch). So, I got very helpful feedback from both directions!
What has been your journey since finishing your course?
I went straight from the MA with Deakin to a PhD with Monash. Brian had retired by then so I wanted to learn from someone else and Professor Kate Rigby at Monash was in the field I wanted to enter, the environmental humanities. Within a year, I was tutoring and in another year I was lecturing. Then I started lecturing at RMIT University too, in their Creative Writing degree. There I really got to utilise my original BA from Deakin, where my Literature major was in Myth, which they asked me to teach at RMIT.
In 2012 I was honoured to be chosen for a Postdoctoral research year in Ireland. This was funded by the EU and I investigated utopian ideas about the environment and how we might better live in relation with nature.
Upon my return, I began as Director of Studies in a small private college in Melbourne. This was a real academic position, my first full time one, and for those two years (2014/2015) I taught the therapeutic applications of Myth and Symbol to counselling and art therapy students. This was another way of using myth and symbol in everyday life that I had long been interested in, so it was wonderful to be able to teach it there. But the college was sold and my wife and I wanted to make a sea change before our children started school, so we moved to the south coast of NSW where I live in close contact with nature, exactly as I wanted to. Now I have just launched the world's first ever "ecomythic" documentary, called City Living, Nature Calling, available freely at www.naturecalling.org/film.
Now I run a small business teaching ecotherapy and offering consultations with people who want to deepen their connection to nature. I also work with their dreams, skills which came directly out of my MA with Deakin, where I learned so much about the meaning of our dreams in terms of personal history and connection to a larger, more mysterious world beyond the rational mind. To be able to do this while employing well-grounded logic and reason is a very valuable skill to be able to share.
What has been the biggest influence on your career?
The profound books I have read. My BA with Deakin was a double major in Literature and Philosophy, so I enjoyed the Greeks as well as Shakespeare, the Celtic tradition alongside Freud and Jung. All the way through, from the first year of my BA to the end of my PhD and postdoctoral studies, I felt incredibly enriched by the words of those masters old and new.
What do you believe Deakin University has shown you/given you as a person?
Deakin gave me my first break. When I left high school, I was a disaffected young man with no interest in a university education. After seeing the world and getting some life experience, including a lot of work, I saw what higher education can do for your mind and future. Upon my return to Melbourne from Europe, I found that Deakin offered a few places for mature students, whose life experience would make up for their lack of high HSC scores (as they were called in those days). This seemed eminently wise to me and sure enough I settled into study with much more enthusiasm than I saw amongst most school leavers, regardless of their high school results.
From there I was rewarded for my hard work and dedication. Good marks and lots of questions led to more knowledge from my lecturers and tutors, which further inspired me to learn more and more all the time about humanity and how we relate to each other and the world. And having a really amazing Literature major in Myth and Ideology was the special ingredient that sent me off in what has turned out to be a deeply enriching journey of meaning and teaching.
How would someone describe you?
Irrepressible (like Monkey from the classic TV show!).
Is there any advice you would give to a person who is starting out in your career?
Again, my journey has been so atypical that I would not know where to start, giving advice to someone who might think of following a similar path. But if you want to be successful in any field, concrete skills in time and data management, knowing what you are capable of and making sure you deliver a good product or service on time and in a way that satisfies the customer, always trying to keep improving and learning … these all seem keys to a good life, to me.
What’s your favourite website?
Because it communicates everything I care about. Then NASA, because I love to see what we have discovered about the universe. After that the AFL one, as I love my Aussie Rules footy.
What’s your least favourite word?
Irregardless, because it is not a word and it sometimes get used by people who are trying to sound impressive. It’s just regardless, OK?! Don’t get confused by irrespective (which is a word and quite a useful one).
What is something that amazes you?
The enormity of the universe, the scale of time, and the mysteries of the soul.