Tugun. Friday, 3pm
Stress. We live in stressful times, I hear. People are dying from stress-related issues, I read. Stress is wrecking families, causing crime, and costing the state a fortune.
Modern life is stressful, they say.
Well, it’s true. I’m stressed right now. I have every reason to be stressed: I’m on the Gold Coast and was stuck in traffic for – oh, I don’t know – 10 minutes. How inconvenient. 10 minutes! I have an appointment, you know. I’ve been waiting for this appointment for weeks.
Finally, I find a car park (jeez, we need more parking spaces), and park the Superoo. My phone beeps. Oh, what now? I haven’t got time for this. But one cannot ignore a message, can one? I lock the message and check the car – no wait! – I lock the car and check the message. It’s a reminder: I have an appointment… now.
I’m walking as fast as possible. I avoid stepping on the cracks in the concrete footpath. (I don’t know why.) I would run, but I don’t need people looking at me as if I’m a sort of running weirdo. And I have a dicky knee. The knee isn’t a war wound from a Turkish bullet in a sandy trench, or from hours of digging in rocky fields to plant dinner, or from fleeing sword-swinging Mongols on horseback bearing down on me from the steppes. No, I’m pretty sure the dicky knee is stress related. These are stressful times.
Sweat blotches my shirt. It could be the walking fast, but it’s probably the anxiety. Oh great. Finally I get this appointment and I show up in a blotched shirt. What will she think? I have Valium, but I left it in the car. The phone message interrupted my concentration.
It’s a clear day – hot, of course – but a salty zephyr tickles the perspiration on my face. Nice. I speed walk past a flower bed. It looks pretty in that anal, super neat, Gold Coast way, a floral rainbow, but I haven’t time to smell the roses – I’m late.
I live in a modern world with every convenience. There is nuclear medicine, digital education and Snapchat. I have fought in no war, never been hungry, and have no melanoma. I do have a full tank of cleanish water, endless solar electricity, 500 Facebook friends, and ineffective government – what more could I want? Why the stress?
There is tension in the world. Despite Netflix, Jetstar and personal spas, an anxiety taints our civilised atmosphere like carbon. In our age of ease, stress is growing. Our privileged life is an uneasy one. Nothing lasts forever, we know. Something is about to happen, we feel. Evolution is not a linear development but, rather, moves forward in quantum bursts. What made the hominids, after millenia of quiet living in the trees, develop tools and evolve to humans? Did they feel stress before their awakening?
Okay, I’m sick of rushing. I slow down. I’m already late.
Sure, there’s climate change looming like a funeral. And there’s overpopulation, species depletion and global pollution. And Trump. And Trumbull. And The Bachelor… That’s got to be stressful.
But, maybe, like a foetus in the womb surveying the destruction of its environment after nine long happy months, maybe behind these apparent disasters lies an evolutionary leap we cannot possibly imagine. Maybe the stress signals the time is near. Maybe there’s a guiding wisdom greater than Wikipedia.
I turn a corner and am nearly at my destination. I’m not hurrying now. I’m ambling, purposely stepping on every crack in the concrete footpath. It’ll be all right.
The concrete turns to grass. I look up:
A Monolith! In Tugun!
A new chapter begins.