And together we shall dig graves for all that die in us,
And we shall stand in the sun with a will,
And we shall be dangerous.” from “Defeat“, by Kahlil Gibran.
One of the first conventions we learn as infants is that the difference between zero and one is the same as the difference between nine and ten. Who knows how many tens of millennia we took to dismantle the convention that the difference between zero and one is infinite? What is ‘country’, as I use the term, if not an attempt to restore the sacred awe implicit in that ancient convention? Of course, conventions have ever been challenged by the truth. If, after half a millenium, our horoscopes are still governed by Northern Hemisphere seasons, and we still have trouble recognizing the Zodiac because its Constellations are upside down, don’t blame me.
However, it is not truth, but convention, not righteousness, but compassion, which hold communities together, especially when they originate from all over the world. A lot of healing is in progress: it has been a summer out of hell across Australia, grief never far beneath the surface. Community resilience is not in question, or the courage and kindness of good neighbours from all over the country and the world, but in the debate worldwide about how to prevent a repeat, it is difficult not to hear the same divided bickering that characterizes our efforts to deal with the racist, sexist and colonialist conventions we were all made of.
Has not the extant population of Earth, like a forest held together by subterranean fungus, arrived at an optimism, a raison d’être, a motivation for getting out of bed, deriving from a sense of powerlessness normally associated with depression, which is invisible, and ultimately unbelievable? Are we not, like a wind turbine in a coal-driven economy, or an ego in a yoga routine, going through the motions? Does not the survival of humanity beyond the next generation lurk in the legacies of the beneficiaries of our last wills and testaments, framed and interpreted by nobody who ever understood or respected the pain we old ones put the world through?
Pessimism looks like another secret to keep from our grandkids. How much easier that would be if they just had partners who preferred refined white bread because they ate it as children, revered secrets because their mothers were narcissists, and also cannot wait to get the kids out of the house for the sake of some me-time. Pessimism looks like a race to see who grows up first, the coffin we need to lose a huge amount of weight to fit into, in the grey area between one and zero. Hey kids, the song of the magpie out there means another perfect day! Off you go now.
One day, we might agree that hope and heartache both start with the same letter as hallelujah and hell, but apparently not yet. In the meantime, it’s in country I need to recover some equanimity, lest I go conventionally mad somewhere between nine and ten.
Country is the body of my idea, the underworld of my zenith. Country is the bush, the planet, the sound of one hand clapping, the whirr of insects, the roar of surf and wind, bird calls, traffic, someone singing, silence, the underworld sky. It has been mortally wounded, not only by drought and fire, and fear of climate change, but by an enormous sadness which seems to weigh on everyone, no longer possible to ignore, making even hope heavy. But healing is in the nature of things. You could say that adaptation and evolution are healing processes. The present is the past healing, you could say, the idea of time’s body, perhaps. However, never complete or permanent, healing is definitely not the same as salvation. Is that what makes it so sad? Doctors, of flesh and spirit, heal their compassion by trying to alleviate human suffering, knowing that neither suffering nor compassion can ever be cured. And if anyone is to blame, everyone is to blame. Does the sad doctrine of original sin mean other than everyone is wronged and everyone is wrong?
Australia needs a doctor! We grieve the deaths of millions of animals who trusted the bush. We grieve the passing of a world in which the conflagration of bush-change was as inconceivable as the inundation of sea-change. Actually, there is a profusion of shingles advertising pyres for deniers of climate change, but proselytizers always abound in the projection of shame. The Healer makes no claim to timeless wisdom, but engages in what must change: understanding, tradition, discrimination, self.
Scene: The Healer’s waiting-room. Whimpers and groans issue from an assortment of shapes around the room, and all that is visible of most lowered faces is distorting disgust and anger, while they rehearse their soliloquies.
“Human languages have evolved away from their original capacity to communicate with inanimate objects, and have limited things within a vocabulary of peculiarity, e.g. sick man, old man, dead man, holy man, which negates their subjectivity, and masks who else it is doing the dependent co-arising. Making universal gods of the vital elements of human experience, the inner voices of paleolithic biochemistry, should have led to something other than abstraction, objectification, copyright and forgetfulness. It should be the birthright of every human child to grow up in a world of interwoven spatial and temporal languages: mathematical, chemical, linguistic, gravitational, ecological.”
“What would happen to terrestrial tides and nights if there were no Moon? What would existence be like if there were no Earth? What might the gods be discussing with you if you weren’t demanding they inhabit the detritus of your attention-span? What community might we belong in if we could overcome our recently acquired faith in an immortal society?”
“What being actually feels like is uphill and downhill, like a subway elevator on our way to and from work in periods of growth, learning and self-actualization, utility, creativity and self-assertion, or harmony, withdrawal and reconstitution. For reasons best explained by storytellers, elevators get no mention in the sequence of these periods which may form a lifetime, a year, a day or an hour, but suffice to say, nobody likes to think of themselves as going around in circles, regardless of how many others are employed by our need to do so: ‘Shut up, or I’ll nail your other foot to the floor!'”
“Linear narrative has come to bestow on its proponents many seductive advantages, such as property and common law, historical grievance and the justification of war and terrorist reprisal, but above all, narrative has sacralized the hippocampus as the altar of knowledge and expertise. Narrative is primarily responsible for the curse of our age, identity, and our horror of the mental illness we define as dementia, its collapse.”
“Time tries to heal too. The moment is oppressed by memory. The future cannot come into being until versions of the past are forgotten. Snippets of music from the past, golden oldies, are private property anchoring their celebrant in the past, to the extent of encouraging regret for the passing of the moment. Ultimately, not only must private property be abolished, but also the wellsprings of avarice and envy, the human spirit. Any amount of educational experiment is welcome in place of the abolition of flesh and blood. Since rationality is the invasion of the moment by the past, children must be taught to cease any effort to understand.”
“Think about this, think about that. What belief are you pushing, Healer? What is wrong with you anyway? It’s your job to fix things, but you never! Your altruism consists of dog whistling the fools who think people like you are somebody. Actually, your compassion is pitiless. Hello? Wake up to yourself! There’s no time left for you to understand the darkness in which we feel less alone, to let the stars in, and acknowledge the Moon as the poor healer who killed himself in your waiting room!”
She has licence for hyperbole, dear soul, after what she’s been through. And the Moon does seem to be seeking a different way to heal. The heat has quite gone out of his competition with the Sun. Indeed, the deities of each are withered on dead placentas, their genders archived where salvation doesn’t shine. Humanity is its own body within a body now. Long live the Earth in the Zodiac of Moon Country! We don’t know enough of our planet’s companionship! Earth’s terrors are reduced at Moon distance to a human fingerwidth at arm’s length, and the disjunct of Sign and Constellation is healed in the absence of seasons. The geographical location of the overhead Moon is the centre of the planet’s disc at lunar zenith, during lunar daylight and terrestrial night between First and Third Quarters, lunar night and terrestrial daylight between Third and First, and equal in geographical latitude and sidereal time to the Moon’s declination and right ascension. Precise calculation of Earth’s position is one of the most difficult problems facing lunar mathematicians, but ‘among those stars right above us’ will do for now, until a fully-fledged astrology evolves.
“Let me in,” cries a voice in the stone-age bicameral mind, in the Pacific Ocean 460 kilometres off Colima in Mexico. Didn’t a mysterious stranger get hauled out of this sea once? In fact, there is nobody in the Healer’s consulting room but someone closer to the head of the queue, an old man aimlessly brushing sand from the hieroglyphs he occasionally unearths under the plaque of his wandering. With bewildered effort he can remain vertical, this encrusted column sinking into the sea in line with the others where once there may have been a causeway.