My place. Sunday, 8.40pm
‘I think it’s really presumptuous of people to say the world is f***ed, when this is the only reality we have. How can it be f***ed?’ I ask.
I know this will trigger her. She’s feisty. And it does.
‘Oh right!’ Her short hair bristles. ‘So with governments and industry changing the planet’s climate, with groundwater being poisoned by a corrupt state government, with huge dumps of plastic swirling around in the oceans… everything is alright, you reckon?’
With a look of disgust, she sucks on her wineglass, which is half empty. Her face flushes cabernet sauvignon. She fingers the neck of the violin on the table. Even in a dying world, there’s music.
I sip from my glass, which is half full.
‘I agree with you,’ I say. ‘It’s really depressing – even though you left out species mass extinction.’ My humour falls flatter than a shock jock’s Earth. ‘But really, how can the only reality we know – this life, this existence – be wrong? Compared to what?’
‘Compared to a world where people respect the environment,’ she says. ‘Compared to a world not run by complete morons whose ignorance is only matched by their bloody smugness…’
The other dinner guests feel a bit awkward.
One tries to calm things: ‘Well, Bentley was a win. It shows that things can get better.’ Calming One smiles and raises her glass.
‘Yeah, Bentley is saved,’ says Feisty One. ‘Just so people can feel good while the Pilliga forest is ravaged, the Great Barrier Reef is choked, Tasmania is razed and Australian farmlands are laid waste so some fat shareholders can pay for their kids’ American education.’
She looks at me. ‘But S thinks that’s the way it should be…’
Her sarcasm is heavy, but I detect a sparkle in her eyes.
Despite her reaction – or perhaps because of it – I like the Feisty One. Like many smart people, she’s frustrated in a world where stupid men make stupid decisions that result in an unhealthy future for the planet and all who sail on her.
And she sure can play that fiddle. Earlier, she’d played along to the Calming One’s ukulele and sweet voice. It was beautiful. Humans aren’t bad.
‘I don’t think it’s the way it should be,’ I say. ‘It’s the way it is. Anyone with a functioning neuron can see that state and federal governments in Australia are the obedient digging tools of corporations. But we can’t say this reality – the only reality in town – is wrong. What is happening must be natural. How can it be otherwise? Was the Big Bang wrong? There must be a big picture we can’t see.’
All eyes are on me. Outside a bat shrieks. A moon shines. Hell, I’m diving in.
‘It’s like the fetus. It has a groovy environment. Warm waters to lie in. Plenty of umbilical tucker. Mum all around. It thinks, “Ah, this is living.”
‘Then around nine months, its environment crashes. The water disappears and it is being forced towards a hole that is obviously way too small for it. ‘It thinks, “Oh my god, everything is f***ed”.’
‘The fetus cannot see the bigger picture. It cannot anticipate the amazing future after the “crisis”. We don’t see the big picture either.’
Calming One and Feisty One look at me. Both smile in a way I imagine they would smile if I told them about the unicorn that lives among the ironbarks behind my shack.
‘Oh really?’ Feisty One says, a smile breaking through. ‘That’s your justification for your happiness in a f***ed world? A fetal fantasy? A bigger picture we can’t see?’
‘Actually,’ I say, ‘I have seen the big picture…’
… to be continued