Here & Now with S Sorrensen - Dec 3

Hanging Rock, Sunday 10.45am: Unlike last time I was here, the water is not freezing cold.

It’s cool for sure – not cold enough to stop a heart but cool enough to kickstart a fuzzy brain.

And unlike last time I was here, there’s a pleasant vibe today as locals, lots of them, cavort at their hole in the middle of a sweltering day.

The bunch of imported louts that was here last time celebrating a government-imposed car rally in a slurred yahoo of beer and testosterone is long gone back to its suburban anaesthesia.

After a big night at Shay’s Festival of Love at my place under the nearby cliffs, treading water is tiring me. (Thinking is tiring me...) But there’s a sort of pebble beach on the far side of the waterhole so I breaststroke towards that past a blow-up dinghy overflowing with kids.

It’s a vibrant scene.

There are brave kids and foolish adults swinging off a high rope attached to a tree that leans out from the highest part of the rock wall that encircles this waterhole. They let go and smack into the water. Look out below!

Younger kids are diving off the lower rocks into a froth of swimmers waiting to exit the water via the only rock ledge that allows you to do so.

A young big fella with bright Hawaiian board shorts tucked under a premature paunch jumps from a higher ledge, holds his knee to his chest and creates a splash that rains across the whole waterhole and a tsunami that makes the kids floating about the exit ledge bob.

I swim past friends who are also attending Shay’s Festival of Love. (She has plenty to share.) One of them throws me a plastic football. I catch it and am about to throw it to someone else when I discover just how much easier it is to float when you have a plastic football under you. The football disappears from play.

This waterhole scene, seemingly chaotic and certainly unregulated, shows that when people come together to share common wealth (like this waterhole) without a hierarchy of rules and regulation, anarchy is not the inevitable result. Social etiquette prevails. Like Asian traffic, it works. Sure, it is chaotic, but that’s humans for you.

There are no signs declaring you cannot run, dive, jump, smoke, eat, drink or breathe.

Civilised people need few rules. Prisons need a lot. And Australia is an old prison with a plethora of rules that entrench bureaucratic power and erode people’s confidence in taking responsibility for themselves.

The beach nears. I throw the football to a woman I know. I won’t need it anymore. I’ll rest on the little pebble beach for a while before I swim back.

I can touch the bottom now. Good.

As self-serving authorities disconnect with reality and become a menace to the planet and its lifeforms, I resent the rules they impose. They take away our ability to adapt to a changing world. Perversely, it’s rule-makers who have made our world unsafe.

I feel something on my foot... Ouch! A bite! Repeated attacks!

I quickly push back into deeper water.

Lifting my foot above the surface I see blood where a catfish (probably) has defended her nest against my marauding foot.

I swim with a limp across the waterhole evading boy bombs dropping from the sky and an out-of-control plastic dinghy with too many shrieking captains.

In life there’s no guarantee of safety no matter how many rules you have.

Though you probably won’t get bitten by a catfish in the Lismore Memorial Baths.

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