Small girl walking down colourful path lying ahead
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Ethereal Conversations

Graphic: David Liu

Humans are beautiful.

Perhaps many readers will disagree. As the world becomes ever more media-saturated and we are increasingly confronted with images of gun violence, terrorist attacks and wars, some may believe that humans – contrary to Rousseau’s concept of the “noble savage” – are, in essence, flawed.

Okay, so maybe I should clarify my view. Humans are flawed, but the interwoven stories and marks each individual leaves on each other and their surroundings are mystical.

The holidays are a time for reflection, where time slows for some. Some of us travel, exploring different cultures; some just do things we don’t have time for during a busy semester. Some simply take time off, playing RuneScape and pausing from work.

For me, these holidays have been one of reflection.

Last semester as a casual retail assistant, I served a man buying a present for his wife, to give to her at their wedding in Lake Macquarie. Trying to prolong the conversation, I continued to chatter away and remark on how far Lake Macquarie is from Canberra.

“It wouldn’t be too bad if we didn’t have to drive through Sydney,” he replied solemnly.

I attempted to relate by commenting on how much I hate Sydney drivers and their impatience.

A small conversation sometimes has the power to open Pandora’s box.

I am transported to 20 years ago. The man is driving back from Sydney with his boss on an empty road. No car in sight save a lone police car. There is silence — BANG. Car tumbles. Crashes.

The man takes the police to court alleging that they had shot the car causing it to crash. However, the shot car is “lost”; consequently the judge rules in favour of the police due to a lack of evidence.

“All this time when the judge was talking about a lack of evidence… No one acknowledged the fact that a six-month-old had died in the back seat.”

I am brought out of my reverie back to the store.

I will probably never see the man again. And I will just be that girl who served him once at PANDORA if at all I linger in his memory.

But isn’t that beautiful? That, after all, is the bewitching oddity of human nature. We are all just the background characters to another’s story.

So, this semester, whether you are a shy introvert or an outgoing extrovert, seek out the wondrous stories. For the first time, talk to that person at the reception of the gym who lets you in. For the first time, talk to that person who you’ve seen around the college kitchen or in your tutorial. Because you may be surprised and delighted to find out that they are more than happy and want to share their hidden stories.