“I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself and falls on th’ other—”
— Shakespeare, Macbeth (1.7.25-28)
I’ve always counted myself as one quite vehemently resistant to change, perhaps in part due to my pathological sentimentality: an undying, smothering longing for Edens that I have lost—and that I lose every day. I think about moments that arrive, linger, and pass on, never again to be experienced again in their phenomenal immediacy—only as haunting phantoms in crude succession, like a silent opera in the amphitheatre of the mind. Never a day goes by without my peering out, rather forlornly, of the weatherbeaten window of Memory at the swathing vista of what has been—temporal fabric in folds undulating into the yellow of a perpetual sunset. I always go back.
But nestled in the coils of this recursive hindsight is always a desire to strike out against this sea of similitude. Ambition is a strange thing. It empowers and emboldens—and arrives in sporadic surges of gripping adrenaline; and momentarily, we are Herculean and all our labours become wit and strategy—the games we win in our heads. These moments flash by in comet streaks: in the privacy of a warm shower, through the dew-bleary windows of the morning bus-ride, at the deafening monotony of our work-desks. They, in their serendipitous passing, pull our thoughts in the trajectory of their trail—and jolted into a realisation faster than the speed of light, we contemplate the possible future. A want—an aspiration, its forward movement—is inaugurated.
But oh, how in two minds we are! Our steadier judgment anchors us to our resting place where we have been content to take root and blossom—and yet there is such hopeful dissatisfaction that makes our mind wander so far from home.
As I edge towards a certain future (in both senses), I can’t help but feel that all I’m doing is fulfilling a prophecy—connecting the dots, or walking through open doors. Like a passenger gazing wistfully out of a train fastened long ago to the rails of an ever receding track, I watch the nomadic pedestrians amble aimlessly, all going somewhere—and I wonder why I haven’t thought of getting off. I got on years ago wanting to get somewhere, but I think I’ve lost track of my destination—or else, I have set my mind on some other realm to which this train cannot run, or runs too slowly. There is an anxiety—for the first time, of youth and daring. We do not grow younger.
I’m arriving at the station soon in less than a year, to be exact. My feet have been set so long on the worn-out cobblestones of this straight and sure path; how then can I step out when the road home is so clearly lit—when the road itself is home? When is it ever rational to step away when the ground before us is so firmly trodden?
Still the more I wonder: what lies beyond the lighted way?
Road by Scarborough Beach, Perth, Australia.