I have been here before

Gerringong, NSW

I have been here before, this much I do know, ever since the dream.

But how and why have I arrived into this fearful place and will it ever be possible to escape its dark and terrifying rooms? “Tell me little boy, tell me that together we might deal the huge dragon a mortal blow.”

Outside the early sunlight is bending through the cactuses. One can learn a lot from the improvisation of a cactus, but when pressing our flesh against its secret we must not be afraid of the stabs. Redemption is not a bloodless exercise. For those stubborn enough to hold out to the end they would hope the price of admission into this world was worth the cost. And that the need to understand was greater than the darkness. These are the deep mysteries which beckon us to search for the soul and like the private imaginations of a good monk, they will both fascinate and repel.

The one thing I must now do is to write. Write, Michael, it is your only way out of the abyss.

To keep on writing until the larger pieces to this puzzle begin to fall into some recognizable pattern or shape. How many times have I made this promise to myself? Only to see it broken when the story became too hard or when gripped by the dread that it would sound too improbable, if not unbelievable, to most. Maybe, too, it is the fear of writing itself, vox audita perit, literra scripta manet: the heard word is lost, the written letter abides. Then again, this ancient maxim takes on new connotations in the age of uberveillance.[1] The delete option will increasingly become one of those fantastic recollections of the past and the “heard word” too, is not lost. All will become video and uploaded to be re-run by the collectors, the controllers, and the hunters.

It has now been almost twenty years since my exile. An exile both forced and self-imposed for the crime of refusing to accept privileges and honour but also for daring to suggest that the “sheep” are not dumb. I cannot but recall those telling lines from Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground, “I have been living like this for a long time now – about twenty years. I am forty… [a]fter all, I didn’t take bribes, so I had to have some compensation.”[2] Unlike Fyodor Mikhailovich’s “bad civil servant”, however, I am now approaching my fiftieth year and was once a young and highly idealistic clergyman.

As for my own compensation? Hope. And only heaven and hell would ever know how much of it I would truly need. For, I too, am not entirely blameless. Yet even our ruins carry our legacy from which we pick up the pieces to rebuild. Nothing should be wasted. “There is always another story” writes W. H. Auden, “[t]here is more than meets the eye.” We are all looking to be saved by somebody or from something and so every last piece of this big heap of fabulous rubble will find its rightful place. Like great cathedrals and national monuments rebuilt after the bombings of war.

[1] Michael, M.G. and Michael, K. Uberveillance: Microchipping People and the Assault on Privacy, Quadrant LIII (3), 2009, 85-89.

[2]  Dostoyevsky, F. Notes from Underground/ The Double, (trans.) J. Coulson, (Penguin Books, London, 1972), 15.