If it’s a choice between building character and being a Barbie doll, I’d choose Barbie.


Image: Mike Emmett*

It’s two years today since the terrible Black Saturday bushfires started in Victoria. They went for weeks, and the scars they left are still raw and deep.

I was listening to the radio this morning. The news started – as it always does at the moment – with warnings: today’s critical events are bushfires on the outskirts of Perth and flooding through Gippsland and northern Victoria [the after effects of last week’s cyclone thousands of kilometres away]. The newsreader ran through today’s list of communities and townships being requested to evacuate. It has to be since before Christmas that we’ve had a news broadcast that hasn’t mentioned natural disaster as first, second and third items of news.

This is a hard country to live in.

I remember thinking last week, as I heard people talking about living through the cyclone in Queensland, that these last few years have changed our public vocabulary. We talk about fear now much more readily; being scared no longer equates with cowardice. It is humbling and moving to listen. And bloody hard too.

I know i’m about to contradict myself, after talking so rabidly about knowing our fragility and humanity – and i don’t even know who my prayer is to – but enough. Facing fragility every day is too hard. Humanity on show is exhausting to watch, let alone live. Mortality under question for too long is too, too sad to live with. And the scars these moments leave are raw and deep.

‘It’s character building’ we say too commonly and flippantly of hard moments. I think if you asked most people who live with fragility and mortality on a long scale, they’d say they’d rather be a Barbie doll. It would be lovely to be given the choice.

Peace to those reliving memories today; to those grieving people and communities they loved and naivety lost. Love to those for whom nightmares are being created right now. And courage to those who are living the cost of being human.

* The bowl is one of two created by Alistair Whyte, which are part of waiting spaces we installed in the temporary accommodation village at Marysville and the bushfire Recovery Advisory Centre at Kinglake – reflection points of waiting and gratefulness in the long now…


  1. Blair

    Thanks Cheryl,

    i. I agree, too much character-building is a grinding way to live. I don’t think we need to be confronted with continual crisis in order to be beautiful, life-giving people.

    ii. It was only on a second take that I noticed the scale of the bowl, once I’d seen the tea-lights floating in it.

    iii. I love the image. I hope you give it to Craig.

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