Saturday, 20 March 2010

this is us

I am not a scientist. Those guys are interested in the truth -- they want to know what things are. As a teller of stories, I want to know what things are like. A picture, rather than a definition. And I came across the best analogy or picture of the human condition the other day. I didn't know whether to laugh or shudder.

I was talking to a friend who grew up in a farm community, and she was describing how country kids learn to drive early. Tractors, cars, whatever. At ten years old, she said, her brother Stevie would spend the weekend perched high in the cab of a gigantic combine harvester, moving with calm precision up and down the north field, perfectly happy to be in charge of a quarter-million dollar machine. Except, she said, when it came to the hedge at the top of the field. Stevie would always speed up when he got there, and steer a little wild, because he was afraid that the hedge was haunted, and that ghosts would leap out at him as he drove by.

It's a great picture, isn't it? This boy driving a super-powerful machine, so in charge of things, so competent, so grown up -- except that he is just a little kid inside, and still afraid of ghosts. Reminds me of, well, all of us.


Marilyn said...

That's a great picture.

One summer I was at a cottage and out on a boat with some friends. I decided to swim back to the cottage, which was farther away than I thought. Far away from the boat I imagined all kinds of things grabbing me and pulling me down. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I remembered that this was how people drown, by panicking. So, I slowed down and breathed and kept swimming. But still, the things under the water were waiting.

Richard Scrimger said...

The adult laughs at the kid she was. But when I think of humanity steering its way around the north field of existence, I can see a little kid driving a too-big machine it doesn't understand, afraid of ghosts.

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