The New York Times described Cormac McCarthy's play The Sunset Limited as 'a poem in celebration of death'. I read the play in an hour and a half whilst sitting in a bookshop in Newtown last month. At first, I wasn't sure what McCarthy was getting at. Was it a statement against orthodox religion? Was he saying something about the ultimate loneliness of all men? Was it a take on narcissism? Was he preaching that life is hollow and there's no point in looking for meaning? I think, ultimately, McCarthy is offering up a meditation on self-determination and freewill. His work is saying that we have to give our brothers ultimate respect - this can only come from harnessing objectivity, divorcing yourself from your opinions and not telling someone how to live their life.
The Sunset Limited brought to mind a week I spent in Balgo Hills in Western Australia back in 2003. Balgo is a mission, near where the Great Sandy and Tanami Deserts converge, run by the De la Salle Brothers. I was there with two other teachers and twenty-five kids from Oakhill College in Sydney's north-west. At night, some Aboriginal teenagers would drift about with soft drink bottles filled with petrol attached to their faces. A colleague and good mate of mine would tell these young people they were messing up their brains when sniffing and they should give it up. They paid him little attention. I said nothing to these drifters. I didn't want my silence to condone the petrol abuse, but I was well aware of self-determination and freewill; who wants to hear a fortunate, spoilt know-it-all from Sydney on a soapbox?
LJ, September 7 2010.