Why Frank Muldowney is walking 6,000 km across Australia, pushing an imaginary figure called Harvey in a wheelchair.
6,000 km. On foot. While pushing a wheelchair carrying an imaginary person called Harvey.
Walking across the Nullarbor in Australia.
For Frank Muldowney, the Irishman who is doing the walk from Perth to Byron Bay in Australia, it’s the realisation of a dream. Frank suffered a brain haemorrhage more than 2 decades ago, which dramatically shaped his life. He is a big believer in dreams and personal aspirations and his own dream is to walk across Australia while pushing an orange wheelchair with Harvey in it. It’s a walk for world peace and one which has been getting more and more attention in Australian and overseas media.
Continuing on in our series of interviews with Travellerspoint members, we figured Frank would make an excellent target.... uh, interviewee, for our 2nd instalment. He was happy to answer a few questions about Harvey, world peace and the media.
For the uninitiated: What is the symbolism of Harvey and the wheelchair?
Harvey is the imaginary figure for peace. I created him - believe in him or not - because I believe the dream for peace is in everyone’s heart, that it is as real as love, you just can’t see it - just like Harvey. When I thought of all the peacemakers who were assassinated in history, I then loved the idea of a peacemaker who cannot die - so I knew I had to make him known.
The Wheelchair symbolises a world disabled by fear, racism, war and injustice. Every single person in the world has a problem, no one is perfect, so I use the wheelchair to show that there is equality in the world. We are all equal, and we are all disabled until we have peace, and Harvey in his wheelchair will remind anyone that you are no better than anyone else.
What’s the most common response you get when you tell people what you’re doing?
I hear I am mad, a nutter, that I am not going to make a difference to create peace. That is a small percentage of those who react to it, but after a brief
conversation, it changes. I just say, well if you don’t believe in peace, then why are you here, and why raise a family if the world is doomed anyway, in your own mind? If you say you would like to have peace, then why not try to make your own small difference? I’m doing my bit, are you making that little difference?
The vast majority of people I meet are very positive about what I am trying to achieve. Their positivity, makes Harvey bigger and the more it’s discussed, the
more real he becomes.
You have been receiving more and more attention from the media, especially Australian radio, television and print. Have you always envisioned this as an integral part of your journey? Or has it emerged as a by-product?
It was always about Harvey and creating him. The entire walk is just a vehicle to get Harvey known and nothing else. Yes, I aimed at the media from the
beginning, as the media is the most powerful weapon in the world, strong enough to begin or end a war, it depends on how much is reported. So now if I can have Harvey a regular figure appearing in all sources of media across the world, there is now a figure here for peace. Maybe for the first time there may be some more positive news in the media than negative, and to me that is the real war. I aim to challenge and change the mind set that the 'world will always be at war' as it is that mind set that is the root of fear and war. I like to challenge it, as I don’t believe in it.
So you were right, I wanted to use the sources of the arts, and the media to make Harvey known, and see what happens.
What have been some of the main highlights on the journey so far?
Reaching Adelaide and Melbourne, my 2 favourite cities in Australia. The friendship of the youth in the schools I was allowed to speak to, and the Australian people who despise war, and have supported me in so many ways. Australia is a stunning nation, but it is the people who live there who create the magical moments on this journey. It has been a privilege to walk across this country.
You suffered an epileptic seizure last June and ended up returning to Dublin for several months for medical treatment. How challenging was that time? Did you consider giving up your dream?
I was stuck in Caiguna on the Nullarbor when it happened, and I was afraid as I didn’t know what to do, my health was at risk now. I thought of giving up on one day, my darkest day. My driver Mick would then have to continue the walk for me. The next morning, I knew "that’s not going to happen, I will find a way to get better and continue this walk step by step if needed, as long as it takes." It came out to be a blessing in disguise as by going slower and safer I walked longer. It was always very challenging, but mentally rather than physically. I became a loner many times, as 7 to 8 hours on the road was taxing, but what carried me was my Father and the illness, Motor Neuron Disease, that he lived with before he died in 1993. He would have dreamed to walk across the room, and he sat in discomfort and pain for 7 years. How could I complain, being privileged to walk, and talk, and inspire others? It is an honour to live a dream for someone you love.
I was impressed to read that you’re planning to carry on with more walks for peace after you’ve reached Byron Bay. You are aiming to walk in some pretty hostile places, such as Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan. What made you choose these places?
It's is a test of my own belief that peace is inevitable, and if I do not believe in that, then no one will. So the best way to believe in this walk is to carry the same message through places which will be peaceful in the future. It would be an honour to see the last battle or war in each country on earth, my simple role is to walk through it, as I don’t believe in war, it’s only misguided people who are not educated enough to understand what it is like to live in peace. I hope to show a smile, and make friends with anyone, as I have no enemies. I only need the opportunity to show what it is like with peace in your heart, as you walk through a war zone which of course is temporary. Peace is lasting.
I end with the quote that I believe in:
Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited, imagination encircles the entire world - Albert Einstein.
That quote is lasting as it has the same meaning, now as it will in another 100 years. What we know right now, will be laughable in the future. I believe in this, and peace lies in our imaginations and thoughts.