Issue 39 - 40, September 2006 A u s t r a l i a n    H u m a n i t i e s  R e v i e w

Travelling in a caravan ? *

by Peter Boyle

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Travelling in a caravan towards the World Capital where the Great King had invited him to speak at a symposium on the four elements, the philosopher let his mind drift from topic to topic, seeking an adequate response to present. Already they had crossed many lands and for some time now the unbounded sea ran alongside his meditations. The philosopher wanted to think of how we are in the world. The words "violence" and "loss" seemed essential to him, the words "cherishing" and "holding back". The sea the caravan journeyed beside stretched all the way to the island of dogs, the island where dogs cast aside by sailors had established their own community ­a space little more than a sandbank where an immense loneliness ranged for here lived the dogs who had been cast out by humans.

On the sandbank where the dogs lived the wild closeness of the stars generated the music of grief. Eventually the resonances of the music sealed the island off and, like many things that become too strong for human consciousness, it flickered inside and outside time, appearing and disappearing across the void, indifferent to the changing names of the millennia.

He wondered in turn what would become of the people without dogs, those who sailed on to make new lands abandoning everything once cherished. Deciding that speech and closeness robbed them of marketable time, they developed a thing language to replace the old creature languages. Instead of talking, they held up objects and compared one with another, and so stillness was banished to the remotest distance.

*From 'The Apocrypha' – an unpublished manuscript that is a mix of prose and poetry in the form of fictive translations of imaginary classical texts.

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