Reflections on a River Crossing: Our Collective Journey from Despair to Hope
“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time? That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
Over the festive season, I’m staying in the river city of Brisbane, capital of the Northern State of Queensland. This warm city boasts a beautiful river and a popular ferry service which transports commuters, tourists and gagglers like me from one side of the river to the other or from the University of Southern Queensland into the city. Its a wonderful way to start or end the day.
There’s nothing like a river crossing to stimulate thoughts of where you have been and where you are going. Even more so at this time of year when we both individually and collectively, consciously or not, reflect on the last twelve months of life.
It’s been quite a journey for all of us since we woke up on January first. I could focus on some of the big events of the year but instead, I’ll reflect on why its been the best of times and the worst of times (to borrow the phrase from Charles Dickens) and why every year offers us a choice of taking the journey from the point of despair to the new land of Hope if we can but change our perspective.
Riding these Rivercats, as the ferries are known, is a pleasant and soothing experience. Its summer down under and the weather is warm though humid, as the boats move smoothly across the surface. Occasionally there is a little swell caused by another ferry or wash from a jet ski. It’s sufficient to remind you that you are on the water. The patrons are happy to sit inside or out and see the city from its most scenic perspective. As we cross under each of the many bpoolridges spanning the river, I cant help but look up and think of the bridges I’ve driven, cycled, walked and flown over in this third year of my hobohemian (now the name of a funky Brisbane shop) lifestyle. Some bridges I’ve crossed with great deliberation, others almost unconsciously. Some were smooth and timely crossings, others fraught with every obstacle and difficulty like my journey from Canberra to Brisbane in September when the flight was delayed, I arrived in a storm and my phone of 4 years died. Why are the challenging journeys easier to remember than the smooth ones? It seems to be how our minds work. Every day we are besieged by media telling us what’s important, what we need to be fearful of (just about everything apparently!) and what will happen next. But if we look at some of the collective journeys we’ve been on, we can see that we have made tremendous progress.
It wasnt so long ago that bear-baiting and cockfighting were considered harmless sport. In Australia this year, thanks to the remarkable effort of Rosy Batty, a tireless campaigner who became Australian of the year, our understanding of domestic violence has exponentially increased and a real shift has occurred in changing our cultural values.
We forget sometimes, as we are subsumed by the tsunami of negativity considered the norm in modern life, that we have evolved and will continue to do so. It helps to look up at bridges we’ve built and congratulate ourselves for having the courage to keep travelling.
Wishing you all a happy holiday season and joyously wonderful 2016