It’s been a crazy season in what increasingly seems a world turning mad. Here in Australia we’ve had fire, we’ve had flood, and now we have pestilence in the form of the COVID 19 virus, which has caused extremely varied responses in different parts of the world, from the rapid, drastic and effective (China) to the inappropriate-verging-on-ludicrous (Australian shoppers fighting in the supermarket aisles over supplies of toilet paper.) Underlying all is the looming threat posed by climate change – odd how many people are super-stressed about the virus but give no thought to the fate of the planet. Human behaviour is indeed weird. At times like this, we see the best and the worst of it.
Writers are observers. We use our observations to put flesh on our characters and make them real, from the individual who responds to a crisis by becoming a hero, a guardian, or a wise nurturer, to the person turned by challenge into a shouter, a denier, blind to all but their own perceived needs or entitlements. Ever since the first tales of wonder were shared around the fire to keep the shadows at bay and to help people live their lives bravely and wisely, stories have grown from the raw materials of real life. And boy, do they contain the good, the bad, and the ugly.
What message would I put in a story to tell around tonight’s camp fire? Sometimes the shadows press very close. Sometimes those who bear responsibility for supporting us through our challenges – certain world leaders, I’m thinking of you – seem entirely inadequate to the task. Sometimes genuine wisdom is ignored. Often, fear renders people deaf to reason. There are fine human beings among us. Every day we hear wise words, see brave actions, discover unselfish, caring souls. Here and there we see shining examples of leadership. Balance that against a cacophony of voices fuelled by political or business agendas, entrenched prejudice, personal resentments or plain terror of the unknown. There should be a perfect story for this time in history. Aren’t those old tales all about facing the monsters bravely? Aren’t they designed to open our minds to possibilities and help us learn?