A tide in the affairs of men

'If you could travel millions of miles fuelled by clean, self-renewing, zero-emissions energy, you'd be an albatross' (Carl Safina, National Geographic, Dec 2007).

These ‘grandest flying machines on earth’, some of them with wingspans of eleven and a half feet, use gravity to get up speed and wind to glide for hundreds, thousands, of miles.

Safina seems in a sort of ecstasy as he describes what we know of this bird which once caught the imagination of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner) even though he, like most of us, never saw one.

The arrival of Simba Makoni on our scene has brought a rush to the brain in several quarters. People who did not bother to register are suddenly hurrying to do so. Everyone is talking about him. Does he have a chance? Is it all some sinister machination? Has there been some behind the scenes deal?

And behind all these speculations the hope that maybe, just maybe, this could trigger a breakthrough. People are weary, so weary. We long for simplicity, for concentration on the work to be done (rather than staying in the job). Are we going to get it? We long for a straight contest on a level playing field between rivals who vie to serve the public. We long for leaders who can rise above their own interest, and the endless calculations of those around them, to that of the nation.

I lay awake last night thinking of the albatross circling the southern seas in search of food for its chick. Yes, its chick, for it only has the energy to produce one a year so much of its time is spent aloft. In the wind and storms, far out in the ocean this bird is at peace, master of its world.

And you, every bird in the sky, O bless the Lord.

(The Canticle of Daniel)

Such a creature raises mind and heart to see the expanse, the variety and the beauty of our fragile little planet. It prompts us to rise above our local interests, our own desires. Could it be that in this moment of opportunity our candidates for public office could take to the skies? y

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