Readers, have you ever scuttled up and across the mighty, sacred, sandstone flanks of Uluru? If you've never done it is it something you've hankered to do?
If now, you never fulfil that dream (for the Uluru-Kata-Tjuta National Park board has decided that from October 26 the climbing of Uluru is to be banned, perhaps for ever) will that failure leave some aching void of unfulfilment in your life?
The news reports that the announcement of a coming end to Uluru-scrambling (deemed disrespectful to the place and to its Aboriginal custodians) has triggered a sometimes unseemly stampede of thousands of folk anxious to 'do' Uluru while they can. It's very easy to scoff at these stampeders (for convenience let us call them Uluruffians).
Yet I find myself somehow both appalled and intrigued by this behaviour of my fellow Australians. Their Uluru-besieging impulses are so alien to anything that goes on in my own heart and head (even if Uluru was just a short drive away, in Tuggeranong, say, I doubt that I'd be the slightest bit interested in going to climb it, especially if my climbing gave offence to the deeply sensitive and spiritual people of Tuggeranong) that I find myself marvelling, again, at what variety there is within our species.
Like me the Uluruffians are Homo sapiens (albeit perhaps of a sub species). And yet the impulses that are driving them to bustle to Uluru set them strangely apart. The climbing of Uluru has been high on their lists of things they feel they must do, but, for lots of us (your columnist included) is something not even on our must-do lists.
What is going on? What might a forensic demographic/sociological polling of these Uluruffians reveal about them?
Is there perhaps a typical Uluruffian with, say, Queenslanders, Liberal voters, homosexuals, Grey Nomads, public servants, climate-change deniers and Pentecostalists intriguingly over-represented in the Uluruffian cohort, in this vast migratory herd of beastly human wildebeeste now cantering to Uluru? It would not surprise me if such polling revealed that Uluruffians are overwhelmingly male.
The idea that something looming and gigantic, just like unhappy Uluru and just like weary, climber-molested Mt Everest, must be climbed just because it's there and because its very presence is a challenge, is a peculiarly, mindlessly, male instinct.
Appalled by human molestations of Everest and of Uluru and noting how I'd rather rise to the challenge of making artistic arrangements of flowers in vases (a passionate hobby of mine) I recognise that this is my very strong feminine side asserting itself.
In her wonderful autobiography Conundrum Jan Morris remembers how as dashing Times journalist James Morris (later to have gender reassigned) he accompanied and reported Edmund Hillary's 1953 first "conquering" of Everest. But even at the time, Morris muses in Conundrum, there was something about all this manly conquering that left her, then as James and increasingly aware of feeling female, unmoved. James felt that the imagined triumph was a hollow thing; that nothing of importance had been achieved.
I find myself somehow both appalled and intrigued by this behaviour of my fellow Australians.
I'd like to be able to enjoy a righteous scoff at the Uluruffians but it occurs to me that lots of the challenges that sophisticated folk (like your columnist) take on may be chips off the same neurological block that motivates Uluru's climbers, Everest's driven, queuing, selfie-taking summiteers.
At the time of writing I am taking on the (feminine?) challenge of reading (is it a form of conquering?) all of the poems of two great poets I blush with shame to admit I had never read a word of until earlier this year. Perhaps the poet Constantine Cavafy is my Uluru and the poet Tomas Transtromer my Mt Everest. It may be that the impulse that is driving the Uluruffians is, like the impulse to rise to arty challenges like ascending one's unclimbed peaks of literature, just the same admirable human hunger for lifelong learning.
Readers with past or present partners, where do you stand on novelist John Updike's observation in his novel Couples that "every couple tends to consist of an aristocrat and a peasant"?
Updike's idea is alive and fizzing for me because it is the latest theme of a lively poetry blog in the effervescent online magazine of ideas The American Scholar that I subscribe to and that the American president almost certainly doesn't.
The journal's poetry wrangler has presented readers with Updike's challenging idea, challenging them to agonise over it and then, if moved, to write about their own experiences of rank and station within relationships.
Poetry aside, the aristocrat-peasant idea is a thought-making lens through which to examine our partnerships.
Romantically, deludedly, couples may imagine they are democratic unions of soul mates (whatever weird and improbable thing a 'soul-mate' is, as likely a creature as a unicorn). In reality, though, most thinking people find themselves in relationships that bristle with differences and inequalities.
Today Updike's insight is haunting my every waking moment.
"Am I the aristocrat or the peasant?" I find myself wondering as with my wife (far, far better educated than me, her office festooned with framed degrees and diplomas) doing something cerebral indoors, I pause in my mucky labours in the garden.
Wondering where I sit in Updike's equation and in touch with my inner swineherd, I chew on a straw and wipe my rough, earthy hands on my smock. I lean on my hoe and hear myself recite my class's mantra "God bless the squire and his relations/And keep us in our proper stations."