Monday 7 February 2022

'There is nothing about it...'

 If the past two years have taught us anything (and I don't suppose they have), it is that we cannot see any distance into the future, cannot know what is coming next.
On this date two years ago I would have been only  few days back from my latest sojourn with the family in Wellington, with the happy prospect of many more to come as the years rolled by. As things turned out, it was almost certainly the last I will ever see of New Zealand, a country now firmly closed to the outside world (in the interests of an insane, self-defeating zero-Covid policy), and no longer a place where my daughter and her family, who once loved it, can bear to live. Later this year they are returning to the relative sanity of England.
All of which goes to show... Well, that the future is unknowable. Here is Les Murray – 

The Future

There is nothing about it. Much science fiction is set there

but is not about it. Prophecy is not about it.

It sways no yarrow stalks. And crystal is a mirror.

Even the man we nailed on a tree for a lookout

said little about it; he told us evil would come.

We see, by convention, a small living distance into it

but even that’s a projection. And all our projections

fail to curve where it curves.  
                                                It is the black hole

out of which no radiation escapes to us.

The commonplace and magnificent roads of our lives

go on some way through cityscape and landscape

or steeply sloping, or scree, into that sheer fall

where everything will be that we have ever sent there,

compacted, spinning – except perhaps us, to see it.

It is said we see the start.  
                                          But, from here, there’s a blindness.

The side-heaped chasm that will swallow all our present

blinds us to the normal sun that may be imagined

shining calmly away on the far side of it, for others

in their ordinary day. A day to which all our portraits,

ideals, revolutions, denim and dishabille

are quaintly heartrending. To see those people is impossible,

to greet them, mawkish. Nonetheless, I begin:

‘When I was alive – ’  
                                      and I am turned around

to find myself looking at a cheerful picnic party,

the women decently legless, in muslin and gloves,

the men in beards and weskits, with the long

cheroots and duck trousers of the better sort,

relaxing on a stone verandah. Ceylon, or Sydney.

And as I look, I know they are utterly gone,

each one on his day, with pillow, small bottles, mist,

with all the futures they dreamed or dealt in, going

down to that engulfment everything approaches;

with the man on the tree, they have vanished into the Future.


  1. I am so sorry your daughter and her family's happiness have been ruined by Jacinda's zeal. I suppose at least they can leave - NZ citizens may not have even that option, poor souls. Re the future, someone told me the other day (it's probably something everyone else is already familiar with but I found it striking) that St Augustine said this: "Time comes from the future, which does not yet exist, into the present, which has no duration, and goes into the past, which has ceased to exist"

  2. Thanks, Zoe – and those are wise words indeed from St Augustine. Clearly time, like all the really big important things in our lives, doesn't really have any existence. And yet people agonise over whether God 'exists'...