One of the joys of travelling is being slightly out of the loop. Especially when you are spending a week settled into a place like Byron Bay. News comes slow, things seem less important. Fluctuations in the Australian dollar seem slightly trivial compared to what type of day it will be. Will it rain? Do I need to take a jumper out with me?
One of the unsettling things about travelling is being slightly out of the loop. Because when big things happen in the world you lurch from this happy little bubble of isolation back into this complexity and confusion. So as I walked through Woollies with my groceries and noticed the headline of The Australian screaming “Crime Against Humanity” with pictures of three smiling children, my stomach turned. It’s never good news.
The scale and sheer senselessness of what happened to MH17 hits you as a human being – but there is an added dimension due to what we are in the middle of. We are fellow travellers, we will be passing that part of the world, we will be boarding planes. I got that chill of responsibility and the obvious, nagging thought that creeps in…”Why are we doing this again?”
Surely it would be safer to stay at home. Surely this madness that has been unleashed would be better weathered in a familiar place. Surely the world is too dangerous to go out into. What if? How could I live with myself if anything happened?
But thinking like that just sends you into a tail spin. As does trying to rationalise the madness of it all. Because when you burrow down into it all perhaps there is no sense. The mind boggling, incomprehensible lottery of this world just defies logic and rationale. One of my oldest and dearest friends has a strong theory of randomness and how completely unavoidable it is. So even as a father of two small children he still rides his motorbike because he firmly believes that when randomness strikes – it strikes. You can’t control all things. And you can’t allow the fear of all things you can’t control to keep you hemmed in and paralysed.
One trader can send the stock market tumbling, one politician’s words can panic a nation, one small vein in your brain or valve in your heart can give way. One man’s confusion between a passenger airliner and a military plane can plummet the world into madness and create so much unimaginable pain and suffering.
So I hugged my daughters tight that night. I watched them sleep. My heart ached for those affected. I stared into the blackness of “what if” and then crept back from the edge knowing that staring into it for too long just makes no sense. It just serves to make me realise how much of this world is to be seen, soaked up and wallowed in before our brief time is up.
When I was young we had this ritual before the car left the driveway on any road trip. We would sit there and say this prayer:
Dost thou on a journey’s speed
Pause and kiss the feet that bleed.
Bruised feet that yet kept pace
With the sin of fleeing grace.
Kiss these feet, then go thy way
Danger shall not near thee stray.
Now I may not be a religious man anymore but I still believe that a good prayer or contemplation or whatever you want to call it is still worth something. And I reckon I might just roll that one around my head when we drive out of here next week.