The wrong side of the tracks

One of the perils of the web is booking hotels online. The facilities look good, the price is cheap and the photos of the rooms look nice and clean. But what the web doesn't do is remind you what a rough area of Sydney Kings Cross is.

I should have remembered. I have passed through before but it still came as a bit of a shock just how down at heel it is around here. Strip joints and prostitutes abound and there are way too many people striding purposefully round the place muttering to themselves and occasionally yelling out at the rest of us.

Sitting in a roadside cafe having breakfast as I just did reveals a whole underworld of waifs and strays, drug addicts and hookers all dodging the street cleaning machine that winds its way along the road searching out the detritus of the previous night. The struggle to survive is in stark contrast to the optimism of the bright blue sunny sky above and I founds myself musing, yet again, on our ability to create hell for ourselves here on earth.

Sure some of it is out of our control. Things go wrong - life spirals downwards and it is not everyone who can pull themselves back up. Sometimes people have to contend with more challenges in a day than others face in a lifetime and go down under the strain. I think most of us have at some time stared over the edge at the abyss, wondering what would happen if we let go, if too much conspired at the same time and we gave up the fight.

But then isn't this partly because we have been conditioned to see it is a fight? To see the world through a scarcity model focussed on material acquisition. Yesterday I heard of someone who spends their summers cutting grass in Shetland and then the winters working as a waiter in Thailand. Sure he's not going to be able to own property or buy a flash car but it sure as hell sounds like a way of life that could make him happy.

It is not always easy to remember when bombarded with images of a particular kind of success but I am more and more convinced that real happiness is a choice, a way of being and not something you get. Maybe those intense guys wandering the streets of Kings Cross might have ended up somewhere else if someone had told them that more often.

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