Dangerous Bus Rides Along Camperdown: A Letter To The Editor

Dear Sir,

Or is it madam? I want to assure you that I don’t discriminate when it comes to leaving dangerous items on public transport. And in the case of a thermoflask on a bus, it is a most serious matter. As I overheard this girl named Shirley, who was sitting in the back row say, “when you crinkle a wrapper in a silent study room, you become public nuisance number one.” She’s right. Dear sir or madam, when you left your polished gray metal thermoflask on that busy bus, you became public enemy number one. You may as well have left a bomb behind.

You might be wondering why I’ve targeted you or your innocent thermoflask. Dear sir or madam, I have no qualms about thermoflasks. I am quite content for thermoflasks to take buses or trains or ferries or trams. Sometimes I even cheer them on as they ride past on their Tour De P’arramatta, nestled snugly under their riders’ bikes. Which brings me to my original point. Thermoflasks are free to roam anywhere they choose just as my Woolworths free range chicken does before I eat it.

But thermoflasks like dogs, need to be accompanied at all times by their rightful owner. Else who knows whose poor lawns may be targeted next when your dog decides to redecorate the earth? Who knows whose poor ears will be split and deafened when your thermoflask decides to drop the beat? Those bottles seem to have a life of their own and struggle to stay up more than my dear wife after her stroke.

My dear, I love thermoflasks. But I do not love you. You have been a most negligent owner. And you are moments away from becoming a domestic terrorist in my eyes. So I write in an effort to assuade you from the path you’re on. I too, know what it’s like to be young. I was young once. Young man, or woman, listen to me. Or listen to my dear friend Shirley at the least. She sounded wise. As I sat resting my eyes and enjoying the conversations of young people, I noticed that you had left your thermoflask in the back row. Out of the goodness of my heart, I steadied it and popped it upright to give it the seat it deserved just as I steadied myself with my cane. Then the bus suddenly lurched. Again my cane was my stead. But my ears had no one and nothing.

The moment that thermoflask dropped, thunder broke, my eardrums were rent and you became public enemy number one. There is nothing irredeemable in that. With time and a good conscience, I am sure you will take wonderful care of your many thermoflasks in the future and spare many from the curse of lifelong deafness. But as I prepare to see my audiologist tomorrow, I want you to know that you don’t want to be private enemy number one. I am just as good at kicking whipper snappers off the bus as I am keeping them off my lawn. The next time you think of leaving your thermoflask on the bus think again. Sydney is a small place. And you never know where one man and his cane may be hiding.

Yours sincerely,

A Concerned Citizen

The Question Everyone Answers But No One Asks

The Question Everyone Answers But No One Asks

Should you snooze your alarm or kill yourself? Before anything else, before you plan your life goals, or argue about whether the world is understood in this or category, there is only 1 question worth asking…why not kill yourself? In a strange case of reverse engineering, Camus causes us to realize that the good life is an assumption that no one examines1. This is because people learn to live before they learn to think. But if they would think first, they would realize that working out how to live only makes sense if life is worth living.

It is strange to write this. In a time of a pandemic that echoes Camus’ own novel ‘The Stranger’, humanity is forced to grapple with the value of life and its meaning in way it hasn’t done so for a long time. But even before this there were creaks and strains under the weight of all this living. In those early mornings, as you clobbered your alarm clock and swiped across the pages of Google News, haven’t you wondered if it was all worth it?

When you become truly aware of this problem, it is like discovering a leech on your back. It has been there this whole time. But without realizing you had continued to walk on the same path. Now that you see it, you can’t forget its fangs or the fact that it’s slowly draining your life away. This is the ever present absurdity in all of living. This acute postmodern problem can produce heights of dizziness and nausea, disorientation and anxiety. But rarely does it surface to the level of consciousness. We’re too busy eluding it in every single pursuit, hoping that one person or promotion or experience will bring the desire of unity and transcendence and meaning to your life. We hope that we will eventually find joy.

Camus starts with this assumption that life is absurd. There is no rational schema, no grand narrative to understand the world and therefore no extrinsic meaning. Every single system that has tried to rationalize world has toppled under its irrationality. Faced with these facts, he believes that one must then ask whether or not the absurdity of existence means it is better not to be. The other options, to live apathetically and only for the sake of others is cowardice or to live with a false hope is dishonesty. Man then must construct his meaning from within knowing that it is absurd.

Whether you’re a Christian or a humanist, the same question remains. Even with the narrative of Christianity, one is faced with a world that is at present dark and filled with irrationality and meaningless suffering. No matter who you are, a leap is required; to have faith in the infinite Being (God) who transcends our comprehension and live, or to defy the absurdity of existence and live as a rebel. One is resigned the other is defiant. Both are courageous (for reasons that will require another article). But both cannot be right. Either way, Camus doesn’t leave us the option of escaping such a question once we realize that life ultimately escapes our grasp.

Note: the fundamental problem with the Christian leap of faith is theodicy, which Camus himself points out. The existence of a good and omnipotent God who permits suffering is a well known argument which I believe has been refuted time and again since Camus’ life (and even in eras before). But I think that it needs a new way of addressing which I hope to get to at some point.

  1. https://www.amazon.com.au/Myth-Sisyphus-Penguin-Modern-Classics-ebook/dp/B00GEDD3ZG/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Be Careful What You Pick

Old habits die hard. Unless of course, they kill you first. S, was a logistics machine. She worked 3 jobs while studying at the tender age of 25. At any day of the week her roles ranged from entrepreneur to manager and consultant. She woke up on the 1st of March like any other day, full of life and hope. Her phone flashed 7:30 AM. Perfect. Boring. Boring was good. It was just like any other morning. And she needed that routine. After all, what were humans if not creatures of routine, secured amidst the storms of life?

As she stumbled to the bathroom, she was greeted by a pristine white glow. This was a rare occurrence. Just 2 years ago she had married one of those rare creatures capable of withstanding any living conditions either out of necessity or a blatant lack of self awareness. She thought it was probably the latter. But the glow this morning made up for it all including the hour she spent cleaning the toilet bowl, attacking it with every household tool imaginable, just to erase the brown skids from her memory. She shuddered just remembering it now. No, she had to put it out of her mind. Quickly brushing her teeth, if you could call it brushing (it had more similarities to nail filing), she downed an ironed polo shirt, jumped into her pressed tracksuit pants, grabbed a boiled egg (done just right at 80 degrees from the steamer) and in one fluid motion just like she rehearsed it countless times, she was out the door. Pure efficiency. S was a logistics machine.

At the nursing home, S caught up with her colleagues, ate lunch, organized assessments for the residents and caught up with some much needed paper work. It was a day just like any other. But she was itching to get home. The desire had been bothering her all day long and she needed some relief. She just couldn’t do it in front of all her colleagues. S after all, was a cold, rational, logistics machine, an example of no-nonsense leadership.

It was late when S got home. She threw her handbag onto the couch and proceeded to make dinner on the kitchen bench top. It was a marble top, with a silver sink next to it. Everything had a smooth sheen on it like the type of kitchens you only see in the movies. As she cut the cucumbers on the rustic chopping board, she would reach her finger towards her face. Dig, dig, dig. The finger penetrated the nostril, plowing through a thicket of nose hairs and then latching onto a soft, round ball of mucus. She picked it and then flicked it into the kitchen sink. Relief at last. This was the highlight of her day. She smiled to herself. If only her husband and colleagues could see her now. It would be her dirty little secret and no one would ever know. She continued to chop the cucumbers, each chop accompanied by picking and then a flick. By the end of the night, S had accumulated a warm, soft mound of mucus laying dormant and still in the middle of the kitchen sink. An unknowing bystander might mistake it to be a baseball as they had all melded into one. She ate a cucumber salad with grilled chicken, placed side by side on the plate and perfectly garnished. Finishing her meal, she proceeded to wash up but when she approached the sink, she discovered the mound of mucus had disappeared. Shrugging, she washed the dishes and thought no more about it. Things had a habit of cleaning up after themselves in her life. Except her husband. After he returned home, she greeted him and they both prepared for bed.

It was around 1 am when S felt a gentle nudging of her foot. It stopped and then started again a moment later. ’Not now,’ she whispered, thinking it was her husband’s attempt to either play a prank or be affectionate. But she wasn’t sure. Couldn’t he see that she was too tired to do anything? She rolled over. Her husband was fast asleep on his side, with his back facing her, amidst the occasional snore. Her foot was nudged again and she felt a sensation of warmth envelop her leg like shower water streaming down one’s leg. This time it felt soft yet there was something firm about it like play-dough. Unnerved, she shrugged her blankets off to see what was causing her foot to behave in such a strange way. A pale yellow and white mass lay at the foot of her bed, half of it on her ankle and the other half on the bed sheet. It pulsed with a steady rhythm and climbing steadily, snaked its way up her shin. S’s eyes widened and her pulse quickened. But she couldn’t speak. Perhaps she didn’t want to because it would mean what was happening really was happening. She knew she had to do something but she was frozen, in time and in fear.

The coagulated mass of white and yellow continued climb up her legs, leaving a dried sticky trail behind it. It was now on her hips. Now more than ever, was the time to act. She struggled to kick it off but her legs caught on the blankets, entangling them even further. She moaned in frustration. As she attempted to get up she realized the stickiness of the mucus around her legs had pinned her to the bed. She had one last resort. ‘Hel-‘. It was too late because at that point the pulsing mass, now resembling a melted baseball, had reached her face. Its tendrils enveloped her, muffling the last desperate gasp of a woman full of life. And then – silence.

The bedside clock read 1.00 AM. S laid at the head of her bed, her face blue. Her eyes were vacant. Her expression remained caught in the midst of surprise and fear. One of her legs stuck out of her blankets as it lay half draped over the bed and the floor. Her apartment lay as it did 30 minutes ago, before the last vestiges of life drained from her face, a silent observer to the life it had once housed. Silence filled the corridors. Beneath the blankets, her husband snored away and the white, yellow pulsating mass was nowhere to be found. It was just as it had always been. Perfect.