Good News, Bad News

I drove to work one bleak and dark morning early this week and listened to the news. Big mistake.

Over the coming couple of days I glanced at the papers. Another mistake.

The news was full of reports of the depredations of a dangerous species that spoiled its earth, that sacrificed its young, that snatched and killed the young of rivals, that poisoned, bombed, burned in the name of a god, that raped and killed a defenseless woman in the garden. Geniuses in government decide that indigenous people in regional communities need poker machines, a human right.

That wretched species was our own, the human.

I glanced at The Daily Nausea this morning. The wretched chiefs we chose to lead our island nation dream up ever crueller, more wicked ways of throwing away human supplicants, now offshore, now at sea, now in our gulags. Tight of lip, narrow of soul, bereft of remorse, we succeed: we turn back the boats.

I try to avoid this sort of surfeit. I rise early and spend my reading time on poetry, secular and sacred. The truth, the beauty, these endure. They inspire me, build me up.

I can read these and after reading them I am able still to believe in the goodness of humans.

Yesterday morning with no time for the papers, no time for radio, I joined the commuter crush, took the train to work. At the terminus an oldish bloke debarked, limping, his age-dried eyes tearing and bleary, hobbled towards the gates. A broken-backed sort of bloke, stocky, his face lined, grim-looking, evidently gritting against some pain. A young woman, tallish, plumpish, running, chased after the man. The crowds impeded her, she had to weave. After two hundred metres she tapped his shoulder: “Excuse me, you dropped this.” The young woman handed the older man a disreputable-looking hanky.

He gazed at the grotty cloth:” That’s noble”, he said and thanked her.

I was that old man.

Rod Moss and “One Thousand Cuts”

Rod Moss is a Ferntree Gully boy, a whitefella who found himself in Alice Springs thirty years ago and who stayed there.

In all the moral disorientation of the Centre, in its beauty, its grandeur, its squalor and its mystery; in the perplex of making and losing marriages, of fathering, of teaching, of reading deeply, of engagement with the dark cinema of darkest Europe, Rod Moss found friends in a clan of blackfellas living in Whitegate, one of the town camps.

Moss differed from most of us whitefellas who come to the Centre. He stayed. He painted (in a distinctive genre of his own creating) the lives of his friends. And through all the years of his staying and his painting and his friendships, Moss kept a journal. That journal gave birth to his first book, “The Hard Light of Day”. The book won the Prime Minister’s Prize for non-fiction. More significantly, the book won the praise of Ray Gaita, who described it as one of the best books he had ever read.

When I say Moss found himself in Alice Springs, I mean he found himself in ways most of us non-indigenous people never do: he found who he was, what he was doing here; he came to be in country.

When I say Moss found friends I also mean he lost them.

Those losses are recorded, drop by drop, blow following blow in Moss’ first book, and in the second, soberly titled, “One Thousand Cuts”.

I believe that in its swelling lament and its growing clarity, “One Thousand Cuts” surpasses even “The Hard Light of Day”.

In a remarkable sequence of events “One Thousand Cuts” will be launched at Readings in Carlton on Wednesday 9 October at 6.30pm. And a retrospective exhibition of Moss paintings will be opened at Anna Pappas Gallery two days later.

If Moss’ paintings are luminous, his writing a prolonged jazz riff,  the photographs are something else.

I invite readers of this blog to attend one or both of these events. I will be glad to see you.

Podcast of interview on Radio National with Waleed Aly, Howard Goldenberg and Rod Moss 8.10.13image