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Stray thoughts: Living by make-believe

  • 27 July 2022
Welcome to 'Stray Thoughts', where the Eureka Street editorial team muses on ethical and social challenges we've noted throughout the week.  If I have a day to spare in Sydney I spend it on the ferries. Standing spread legged in the bow of the ferry as it rocks along to Parramatta or Manly I imagine myself as Captain McWhirr on the Nan Shan or as Peter Duck on the Wildcat and other heroes of childhood reading, revelling in the absurdity of the comparison. 

My association of leisure activities with legendary figures of earlier reading is habitual. When setting out on a cycling tour I imagine myself as Laurie Lee leaving his Cotswold home for the first time. When cycling through the Scottish countryside  John Buchan’s Richard Hannay and Walter Scott’s Rob Roy were constant companions, as were Chesterton’s Arthurian knights when riding through the Vale of the White Horse. And in prayer at Anglesea Jesus and his disciples turn the back beach into the Sea of Galilee. It may not surprise you that on my wall hangs Daumier’s painting of Don Quixote.

In some ways this habit of association of ordinary personal life with the epic figures of literature or history marks a return to childhood. In it admired figures have a mythical status. I used to imagine that if, in my hand I had a Don Bradman bat, on my cap a Neil Harvey badge, or Mopsy Fraser’s number on my back, their skills would become mine. They never seemed to.

Is there any point to these confessions except to confirm how difficult it is to leave childish things behind? No, there is no point. Only the fluffy, expansive, unpointy stuff of connection: of past to present, of experience to dreams, of fact to mystery. In the imagination lie wellsprings of possibility. Where else might you find it? 



  Andrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street, and writer at Jesuit Social Services. Main image: Don Quixote in the mountains (Wikicommons)