A few of my Rants

The ultimate temptation.

When I was young I was often acutely unhappy, and on many occasions I have gazed down the barrel of a loaded rifle, and been very tempted to pull the trigger.

In 1995 I got an attack of acute diverticulitis, and about 10 o'clock at night on a Friday evening my bowel ruptured. The pain was excruciating -- far worse than anything I had ever experienced before -- and as Sally rushed me to Sandringham hospital I noticed a sign for a veterinary clinic and thought ruefully "I don't think I'm quite ready for the vet!". The business was just starting to expand, but I was still the systems architect, and the whole team was totally dependent on me. To my surprise I experienced a totally unexpected determination to recover, and fought strenuously for my survival. There was a frame over the bed with a handle to help me sit up, and I spent hours doing pullups using the handle.

This episode led to several more stints in hospital, but I never again experienced this tremendous urge to overcome my illness. On several occasions when bushwalking I had had to bash up hill through wet scrub in pouring rain, and in my nightmares I could see myself condemned to struggle up an endless spur through wet scrub, until eventually I died a lonely death. But in 1999 we sold the business, and I felt that I had achieved the impossible dream -- to sit in the sun on the summit, and watch the sun set. Sadly my wife Sally died in England on our first real holiday. I then married our old friend and neighbour Pat, and we had 10 good years, but in 2010 Pat suffered a recurrence of cancer.

I thought I had overcome the temptation to suicide, but early in the year Pat & I had made our final trip together to visit my son Adrian and his wife Kazuko in Tokyo. They had taken us to the fish market, and on a whim I bought a large Japanese knife. The stallholder had spent a surprising amount of time sharpening it on a grindstone and it was incredibly sharp. When I got home I looked at the knife and thought "If I find myself in an untenable situation this knife will provide me with the answer."

I have always suffered from a cranky digestion, and not long before Pat died I had done our old friends Jack and Joan a favour, and prepared the invitation to their 60th wedding anniversary (to be held at the Woodlands Golf Club) for them. Unfortunately the golf club had mixed up the bookings, and they had to redo the invitations. Jack was extremely embarrassed about this, and when he came round to help me reprint them he brought a large yeast bun for me. I love yeast buns, and during the day I ate a large portion of it. However my digestion did not approve, and that night I had the most atrocious pain in my tummy -- just about as bad as the pain of the acute diverticulitis all those years before.* By then Pat was largely dependent on me, and I thought "if it busts again, I won't be able to do anything for Pat, and she won't be able to do anything for me." So I resolved that if it did bust I would make use of the Japanese knife. Fortunately it didn't, and I was able to comfort Pat right to the end, when she died peacefully in our bed.

In recent years I have become more and more disgusted with the appalling state of our country, and our politics. Nobody gives a damn about anything beyond their end of year bonus, or the results of the next election. I am convinced that the human race is moving inexorably towards disaster, as we continue to breed like rabbits, and burn our irreplaceable natural resources at an ever faster rate. I believe the inevitable result of this will be the melting of the polar ice caps, resulting in a rapid rise in sea level. Bangladesh will disappear, as will Holland and large parts of most of our major cities.

The resulting massive swarms of displaced persons, together with the failure of our social systems as we run out of fuel to power our transport, and grow our food, will produce a disaster of unimaginable dimensions. Our politicians are blithely talking about climate change, and carbon taxes and similar irrelevant placebos, but there is nothing I -- or probably anyone else -- can do to avoid this disaster. As I was thinking about this I realised the ultimate temptation.

Nothing I can do will make any significant difference to the fate of the world, but, so far as I am concerned, in a few years the whole universe will simply disappear. I will never know what happens after I have gone, and I certainly won't be watching from some heavenly grandstand (or penalty box), so why should I worry about the fate of the Earth?

My logical mind tells me that my children, and my friends children, will have to cope with the impending disaster, but I know that I cannot do anything about it and I won't be here to suffer it. I was talking about this to a friend one day and she said "You don't really believe this, or you wouldn't be doing what you do for charity." In one sense she is right, but in another sense I am shirking my responsibilities. I believe that I know what we should be doing, and if I were younger and more enthusiastic perhaps I would be fighting to spread my knowledge, but I have long since learned that nobody gives a damn what I think, and my abilities are rapidly fading, so when I try to fight I simply cause myself endless frustration, usually without achieving anything at all.

So as I potter on with my hobbies, and my obsessions, and do what I can to help others, I accept that there is nothing I can do about the impending disaster, but I won't be around to experience it.

Roger Riordan (77, and feeling it!)

(Originally written in 2011. Revised 2017)
* After this experience I changed my diet, and I now only eat wheat products in relatively small quantities. As a result my digestion is behaving better than it ever did before.
 © Roger Riordan 2004-2017

The ultimate temptation