I was out looking again today. I was out on The Edge looking round.
It’s still only just August but my breath floated on the air in front of me today, caught in the early sun at the top of the wheat field. The boots were sodden with the dewy damp before I’d been out more than five minutes and I know that it won’t be long before I’ll need layers again. I expect that the shorts will stay for most of the winter. A leaf fell in front of me as I walked along the lane. The trees form a tunnel and the sunlight that filters through catches leaves like coins. One fell, still green and too keen for autumn. Not ready for it yet but I’m preparing.
I’m going to have to think what I’ll do when the mornings hold onto the dark until the day’s well in swing; when the night falls before I’m done with the day. It’s easy to get to The Edge on summer days like this and the lockdown has allowed better access than ever. It’s just there: I see it shimmering from the back windows and the tall poplars at the top of the field are waving all of the time. Waving to me and calling me out. But what about when it’s dark, wet, icy? Will I still lift up the plastic wrapping and venture out onto the ledge, the ledge at the edge of things?
It’s time we talked about this place a little more. People have been asking and I’ve been thinking about it. I can let you in some more I think. I mean, we’ve come this far and it’s possible that you’ve started to understand that The Edge isn’t so much a place as an acceptance. Call it a bubble, a saran wrap or clingfilm or whatever you will, it’s the invisible barrier that lets us see the clouds but not breathe the fresh air. It’s the cocoon that shields us from our part in the great web of things and encourages us to deny our memento mori. In here we’re braver and tougher and invincible and even when it rains we can scamper home or jump in our cars.
Reading this, the chances are that you’re a bit like me. You know that we need all this; you know that there’s a lot to be said for the world we’ve made and we could spend as much time praising it as trying to bring it down. But let’s leave that to the politicians and the mainstream media. Let them justify themselves and their constructs with the material accumulations that have become the measure of all things. Reading this, you’re probably sensible enough to know that all this circus is an inevitable by-product of the whole progress thing, but you probably don’t buy into the importance of it like they want you to.
Some want to bring it down – they see the bubble that we all swelter under and they want to pull it down. It’s the means to an end and there’s no real consensus about what comes after they’ve toppled the towers and burst the banks. It’s the ones with little to lose that follow this train of thought; who simply want change at any cost. And then there’s those who think that it’s all about the money. That it’s about the next promotion or the next new car. I’d guess that reading this, you’re quite a distance from both of those and that’s good. I have no business with either, either.
There’s never going to be consensus on either side for very simple reasons on either side of the fence: 7 billion sentient minds will never form a common idea for the eutopia that one side thinks is possible and by its very definition, the capitalist argument will always be a competition.
But we need the bubble, people like you and me. We need it there where it is and we need the vast majority of people to be lulled by it; hypnotised by the promises and dazzled by the lights. The last thing we want is for it to all come tumbling down. Love it or hate it, the bubble of the towns and the cities and the motorways and all the rest of it, they do well the job that they have evolved to do, and most importantly: they keep people in a place where we can see them and know where they are. Imagine a great dismantling of the bubble – where would they all go? The whole world would be edge. And The Edge, well that’s for me and you. That’s where we go when we’re no longer willing to play along. That’s where the magic is.
It’s best to think of The Edge as a state of mind as much as any geography. There’s no need to drive to the mountains or move to the sea; it’s not even necessary to live next to open countryside or a thick forest. You just need to be able to take a step away from the telly, put the phone on mute and strap on a pair of decent shoes. There’s an Edge in every town and city and I’m pretty sure that you’ve found yours already. The Edge is on the outside and it can be rocky underfoot. It’s a ledge that skirts the bubble; sometimes wide and sometimes the width of a footstep.
And beyond The Edge? Well that’s something else. We’ll have to deal with what happens when the land drops away some other time. And it does drop away to place where there’s no foothold and no rules; where there’s no boundary and no limit.
It’s over The Edge that the real magic happens.