Winter 2011 #4
Booking an on-site appointment with the architect who is designing our new accessible bathroom (henceforth to be known as ‘The Colosseum’) was unreasonably complex. Stupidly complex. Being unable to simply ring his office, I found myself exchanging a string of SMS messages that were going nowhere fast. Then my correspondent began calling my mobile phone; which, of course, I could not answer. Sensing a rise in the ambient annoyance level, I typed a point blank question: are you an architect? The unequivocal answer: “No.” It was the wrong number; a complete stranger; to whom I bade an awkward SMS farewell.
This is just one example of the daily complexity of life in the margins!
Nothing succeeds like success. For good reason, from which we all benefit, our world is largely geared towards accomplishment. It is delightful to see the tortoise trounce the hare, but in the broadest terms the race must belong to the swift; it’s just the way the world works.
As I write, my Favourite Wife and I are train-bound for adventure. The highlight of our weekend away will be Rachmaninov’s 1st piano concerto with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Almost certainly the soloist will be Simon Trpčeski, a Macedonian pianist of international renown. There is, however, just the remotest chance that I will be called upon to dock Bugger behind the Steinway’s ivories instead. A chance as remote as the Crab Nebula, I should think, because Trpčeski is considerably swifter than I!
1. Never saying never.
2. An emancipist movement founded in the early 21’st century.
3. An ideological refusal to be sidelined by life.
It’s the recurrent details of everyday living that marginalise the less-able. A little shifting of furniture to freshen up a room for the able-bods can make it virtually inaccessible to the likes of I. Creeping difficulties with food and drink – essential social lubricants – makes social exchange dry and awkward; a squeaky wheel. Changing the method of communication with friends can alter the essence of friendship itself – more than you might imagine. Sometimes when the train arrives at the platform in our city it pulls up with the accessible carriage door perfectly aligned with a particular bench seat, blocking off the ramp. When this happens the neighbouring carriage door, which I can also access, opens neatly onto a pole; and so the train’s doors all have to be closed and locked, guards gather and confer, walkie talkies are brandished, whistles blown, and a few hundred tons of train chug three feet along the platform, just for me. You’d be surprised how often this happens. Booking tickets for the Tutankhamun exhibition (another leg of this weekend’s escapade!) with a keyboard and a computer generated voice was an exercise in angst. “Are you still there Sir?” … “I can’t hear you Sir” … “Can you answer please Sir?” And so it goes on, little by little the margin-ward pressure mounts. All of these issues can be addressed, of course, and help is always at hand. But the price can be an attrition of soul, and the temptation to slip away and hide in the margins is intense.
Is it so unreasonable to think that life can go on in the fast lane? Or should one make a dignified withdrawal and stop imposing on the world? We all know that centre court cannot be played forever: each of us will be sidelined sooner or later. What it is that makes the middle-of-the-road, the norm, the main-game, so attractive?
We sometimes visited a waterfall, years ago, where we would watch the mesmerising, valiant progress of tiny inch-long shrimp as they scaled the immensity of a sheer cliff a thousand times their size; only to be repeatedly dashed on the rocks below by a torrential deluge from above. We would cheer as an heroic crustacean surpassed the throng of his peers, making a solo ascent to within a claw’s-breadth of the rim … then down he would plunge once more, doubtless to try again, driven to find the lush breeding grounds upstream.
The simple fact that there are shrimp at the bottom of the waterfall is proof that there are also shrimp at the top: at least one amorous shrimp-couple must have conquered the falls last season to nurture their brood of shrimplings in some quiet pond. Is it an overstatement to say that life flows from achievement? Can relentless endeavour consummate our very existence in such a way that a new generation is born? I’ve never penned so many metaphors, or posed so many unanswered questions, and it all sounds a bit esoteric I’m sure; but there is something going on here, I’m certain of it! I want to believe that all this struggle, all this self-focused survival, is not just my own, solitary race against the inevitable. I want to know if there is a purpose in perseverance, something bigger than just Bugger and me. I want to know with certainty that antidisenfranchisementalism is valid!