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.