Driving back up the road after dropping my daughter off at school, I notice a middle-aged woman wrangling a blue wheelie bin into position outside her back gate. She looks miserable, the corners of her mouth turned down into a substantial, world-hating grimace.
She lives in one of those detached, airy, red-brick houses that have extensive back gardens, and she’s wearing expensive clothes and shoes (understated and classy). Looking at her I am immediately seized by the notion that it’s all futile. Human existence is pointless – we are nothing but ants, crawling the face of the Earth, enduring the incessant grind of slavish un-nourishing activity simply to feed the Queen. And look: this particular Queen isn’t even happy. Of course, I have no idea what is going on in her life, so this is all conjecture. Maybe her cat just died. Maybe her dead cat is in the wheelie bin. That would make anyone grimace.
But the lines on her face suggest that the smile is a rare visitor here; her troubles are more enduring than the death of Tiddles the ginger tom. She doesn’t look tired, as if she was caring for a demanding aged parent, or going through the wringer of sleeplessness and depression. And it’s not as if she’s all fur coat and no knickers: the area she lives in, the expensive clothes, the new code pad-controlled gate all point to sufficient wealth. Poverty is not pinching at her well-nurtured, yet toned, frame: she uses the gym, not the food bank.
If I’m reading her expression accurately, I’d say she looks dissatisfied, as if the world isn’t functioning the way she wants it to. It’s the same look that’s thrown down sometimes from those marble balconies by our pampered, selfish, parasitical monarchs. And that’s one reason why it’s all futile. What’s the point of accumulating all this comfort – inevitably by ruthlessly exploiting those further down the food chain – if we can’t even enjoy it? And why is what we have never enough?
At some point, probably in the nearer rather than the distant future – if we haven’t destroyed life on Earth by ourselves – Mother Nature will finally succeed in spitting us out. What then? The worms and cockroaches that will gain dominion over this planet have no need for poetry or music or grand buildings or golden carriages; we have no use for dinosaur bones. Mind you, compared to the dinosaurs we’re an insignificant little smudge on Earth’s timeline. We have no chance of sticking around as long as they did. We won’t manage another thousand years, never mind a few hundred million.
Note to self: Perhaps listening to Radiohead first thing in the morning isn’t always a great idea. Or maybe it is.