The Australian Society for General Semantics


Our Founder:

     Laurie Cox  

Mr Laurie Cox, MA , Founder of the Australian General Semantics Society Inc, in 1991.

See also:
  * Laurie's Publication:
"Self-Management in Difficult Situations"
  * Laurie's Keynote Address at the AGS National Conference in Melbourne 4th July 2009

Laurie Cox Obituary

12 June 2014
Robert James

Laurie Cox met my father when he joined the Air Force on 7th December 1941 (Pearl Harbour day).  They were good mates during their time together in New Guinea.  After the war, Dad found employment as an accountant with Norman (later Sir Norman) Rydge, who asked him to do some promotional writing.  Dad said, “I can’t do that, but my mate can”, so Laurie was employed writing materials at Rydges.

In 1952 Laurie worked as a court reporter in Canberra, using the shorthand script that was to fill many notebooks over his years in GS meetings.  This was when he fatefully encountered a copy of the General Semantics Bulletin in a waiting room, became excited about the contents, followed up with one of the Australian contacts listed, and got into reading “Science and Sanity”.

After my father’s death in 1968, Laurie would have rather liked to marry my mother.  They had a mutually profound respect and affection, but Mum reported that Laurie was “too intense” for her.  They went out quite a lot together, and while Mum thought that there should be some times for “whispering sweet nothings”, Laurie would be intent on analysing life via the Structural Differential, or contemplating Weinberg’s book “Levels of Knowing and Existence”.

This struggle to use General Semantics for real life enhancement, rather than just intellectual edification, remained a challenge for Laurie and for the rest of us, to the present time. 

But Laurie was not a bookworm - he engaged with great effect in the lives of his family, friends and colleagues.  He introduced me to Phillip over 45 years ago, at Repin’s Cafe in King’s Cross.  We had marvellous conversations with various friends above the noise of the street and the coffee machine.  Years later, Phil married Lynn and I married Jeanne – we went on to some strange and marvellous enterprises, made some money and lost some money, made some more friends, played some squash, had some children and some grandchildren, and a great many GS meetings.  So the outcome of that introduction was monumental in the life of our family and others.

In his many visits to Canberra with Betty, Laurie would maintain his daily exercise regime by skipping with a rope or riding a bike.  He was an affectionate companion of our dog Bibs, which to me is a strong indicator of someone’s compassion and integrity.  Our three children held him in the highest regard, and he took the time to talk with them seriously and respectfully, always with a sense of humour. 

He was a veteran of our three children's weddings near Sydney and Melbourne all in 2009 – at age 91 dancing with the bride and enjoying every minute.  When driven to the railway station late at night after Adrian’s wedding, the train driver insisted that Laurie ride with him in the driver’s cab.  Even last year, Laurie enjoyed some dancing with Judy at his 95th birthday party!

Laurie’s daughter Judy has had some good times with our daughter Karen, sharing exploration of the sights of Sydney and stories of the quaint and curious.  Judy and Jeanne’s interest in art and later, grandchildren has been a strong common interest.

One of the issues that was sure to rouse some passion in Laurie was that of divinity – in which he professed no faith.  But I would sometimes catch him out when, in a moment of shock he would proclaim “Oh Ghost!”  When pressed on what he meant by that, he would sheepishly confess that he must have been referring to the Holy Ghost.  

I think that his very first meeting with Ted Holmes was a rather turbulent affair, when Laurie asked, as usual, “What motivates you?” and the issue of the Holy Spirit arose.  Observers labelled it “The Battle of the Nonagenarians”!  However, over subsequent engagements, it became clear that their interests in common were far stronger than their differences, as evidenced by Ted’s commitment in coming here from Melbourne today.

The GS meetings before 1990 were rather haphazard, in various locations, with no corporate identity as a group, but an increasing network within Sydney and with the international GS community.  Laurie and Betty were married in 1984, and Betty was a most loyal supporter of Laurie’s passionate GS engagement, adding her own touch of wisdom, humour and style to our sometime pompous confabulations.

Following the founding of The Australian General Semantics Society (AGS) by Laurie Cox and his friend Andrew Lohrey in 1990, we became more systematic by maintaining a library, meeting in Gavan’s house at Sefton, and formalising our status with the Institute of General Semantics in the USA.  Laurie made a number of trips for study and conferences there, accompanied by Betty. They also met GS contacts in Spain and the UK.

Laurie’s effectiveness in bringing together people with a common interest was demonstrated by when Dave Hewson decided to come from New Zealand to join the GS community in Sydney.  Dave had had several GS trips to the US, and was able to share much with Laurie. 

Laurie was a great conversationalist, but took his conversations rather seriously.  After a long exchange with Jeanne’s brother Frank, for example on the sacking of Constantinople, I would observe that Frank was exhilarated and Laurie was exasperated!  Frank would call us back days later to exclaim that all his aches and pains had gone away because of the intellectual stimulation, while Laurie would report that he was still fuming about Frank’s errors of reasoning!

In 2010 two AGS members, introduced by Laurie, Pauline and Gavan, took the plunge and consummated their growing attraction in holy matrimony!  Many of us shared that joyful celebration.   They have continued Gavan’s tradition of graciously hosting the AGS seminars at their Bonnet Bay home ever since!

So although the AGS group is defined by a common interest, the power of social interaction cannot be ignored, much to Laurie’s chagrin.  Laurie was generally dismissive of “inconsequential discussion”, but he came along to almost every one of our monthly GS seminars in the last 20 years and engaged vigorously.

Talbot Winchell Award

In 2003, at age 85, Laurie was invited to Las Vegas to receive the Talbot Winchell Award, which was particularly meaningful for him.  He was rather proud of the smart wooden plaque engraved as follows:

*** * ***
Talbot Winchell Award

The Trustees of the Institute of General Semantics
present the Talbot Winchell Award to
Laurence "Laurie" Cox
in grateful recognition of his
ongoing efforts to significantly further the
understanding and application of General Semantics
through his energetic work as co-Founder and Director
of the Australian Society of General Semantics.
We honour his commitment as a teacher
and innovator for the alleviation of
social and personal problems.

With deep appreciation and warm thanks.
General Semantics Institute of Nevada
November 1 2003.

*** * ***

I remember when people congratulated him, he emphasised that he saw this not as recognition of achievement, but as an expression of support for his future work.  Contemptuous of any notion of retirement, Laurie was busy making ten year plans, as he still was ten years later at the age of 95.

One of my many parental deficiencies
is my failure to provide our kids with grandparents.

My parents both died before they were the age that I am now.
This gives me a sense that each extra day of my own life is a bonus!
But it has been by privilege and pleasure to provide our children
with contact with other adults of quality and integrity.

It is my greatest joy to see how they have assimilated
many of the standards, virtues and qualities of these people,
as they have grown into adult relationship with them,
certainly including our dear friend Laurie.

Laurie has outlived my father for 46 years
But he has left us now.
It has been a formidable journey for him,
sailing alone into the darkness
where family and friends cannot follow.

But he has borne this experience with a courage, serenity and humour
that I can only hope to emulate when my time comes.

One of the impressions he leaves behind, unlike Betty,
is the refusal to accept his own mortality.
This is rather closer to home for some of us, of course than others.
I have regrets about not having known Laurie
as well as I could have ... or should have ... or would have ... if only ... etc.

But it's too late for that, now.
Let’s celebrate the gift to us of Laurie’s life -
We say that "The true tomb of the dead ... is in the heart of the living."

Farewell Laurie - you were a huge part of more people's lives than you thought,
and we miss you terribly.


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