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The film crew followed me around for about six months. Not everywhere, of course. And not every day. But lots of places on many days. They filmed me at home. They filmed me in court. They filmed me on a train. On the beach. In a Vietnamese restaurant in Darlinghurst, slurping pho and talking forensic DNA and Australian rock music.

I’ve never liked being photographed much less filmed, but it was part of the job at Justice Action. Talking to the ABC about shonky expert evidence. To SBS about the need for needle-syringe programs in prisons. To channel nine about deaths in custody. To the documentary team about … me. They were making a documentary about me. I was going to be famous.

That was the insidious thing. The promise of fame. I knew it was poison but like the white powder that was once the centre of my existence it drew me in spite of myself. No. Because of myself.

When the case in Queensland was lost the financing fell through and the documentary was cancelled. I was more relieved than disappointed. I knew it would have destroyed me but while the bright lights beckoned I just couldn’t turn away. Why? Why did I want to be known to complete strangers? I can’t even make myself understood to those closest to me. The more who thought they knew me the less I would have known myself. I would have been trapped in their expectations like an ant in honey. Playing a role written by others.

There’s another word often used as a synonym for fame. Immortality. A myth. A craving for the unattainable. Terror of the utter extinction that awaits us all. Maybe as long as someone remembers you will never truly die.

But does anyone know you? Or do they just know a shallow caricature they have built in their own minds. Not you, but a puppet of you. Or a voodoo doll. Once they have captured your soul in image and expectation they can make you dance on the strings of their need. Of your need. Celebrities are to fans what junkies are to smack.

Even our nearest and dearest don’t know us, though they think they must. So they try to make us conform to the image they hold. It’s hard to resist. You can spend your whole life just trying to be what others think you are. Sacrificing the one life you have for the mirage of immortality. Not eternal life. Undeath.

Perhaps it’s a fair bargain. If you only live in the opinions of those who can never know you do you really live at all? And who can really know you? Your audience? Your friends? Your partner? Your mother? Who can possibly see the universe that hides behind your eyes? Who can live your life?

There’s only one person in the history of the universe who can do that.

Maybe that’s the key to true immortality. The eternity of the here and now. Liberation from the fear of death and the need to be what you are not.

There’s only one person you can know. You know who. No-one else ever can.

  1. Wwell done Cabrogal.
    As Emily Dickinson said it correctly:
    “Fame is a bee.
    It has a song—
    It has a sting—
    Ah, too, it has a wing.”

    Have a good one!


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