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One of my earliest memories is of the thought of my own mortality. The pink tiles in the upstairs bathroom, glistening from the steam of the bath, breathing in the hot air, feeling the warm water on my skin. Then goosebumps rising quickly as I’m lifted from the water and covered in a towel. Patted down and dried then left to stand in front of the bar heater. Its searing coils radiating warmth through the room. Then the thoughts. What will happen to me when I die. Will I remember being me? Will I continue in some way forever or will I simply cease to be?

Someone must have said something to me, one of my pragmatic, matter of fact parents. ‘You’ll live, then you’ll die. You’ll grow old first, so don’t worry.’ They were brought up by parents ensconced in faith. My grandparents may or may not have believed in the faith they were raised in, but tradition held great sway in their lives. It structured their activities, with a sense of obligation, community and natural compassion that was beyond faith. They truly cared for people and that is what drove them. My parents abandoned the religion and the tradition, but not the compassion. They favoured logic and rational thought which also gave rise to a fundamental respect for others.

So, when my 3-year-old self, asked about death I was told about death. I wasn’t pampered into thinking there was some kind of paradise waiting for me beyond this life and neither was I told that if I was bad I would spend an eternity being tortured in a fiery pit. Nevertheless, those ideas crept into my worldview by nature of the broader culture I grew up in, through TV, movies, school and my friendships with people from different backgrounds.

Fear sits at the heart of ignorance. When you are young, and you don’t know any better it’s easy to be scared of what you don’t know. For some, faith assuages fear and for others, it inflames it. Despite my parents’ pragmatism, I felt fearful of what I did not know. And rather than scaring me into belief, ideas of purgatory ultimately inflamed my sense of injustice. Armed with rational thought I gained the confidence to not fear unknowns outside my own experience. Rational thinking instilled by my parents told me that no one really knows anything. They only profess to know. They may declare their theory as fact, with heartfelt conviction, but uncertainty lies at the heart of all supposition.

Uncertainty might create fear for some but it helps me define what is truly important. Faith may be a driver of good deeds and bring fulfilment to many, but rational thought can also lead an individual to realise fundamental truths. For me, compassion is at the core of my outlook and my decision making. Doing no harm is logical to me. I can see it’s derived from a moment in my past where I knew nothing, where all I felt was the warmth of the room around me and the love of my parents. Enveloped in a snug towel, after a warm bath, I’m not entirely sure why my young mind leapt to the idea of mortality. Perhaps because it was such a beautiful moment and I didn’t want it to end and at some level sensed how transient and therefore how very precious it was.

Evan Shapiro
Author – Road to Nowhere

It’s a thin line between calm and chaos. I want to take that line and make it thick. Really really think. I want to make it so thick that chaos is held clearly and firmly on its side of the line.

As I write this I’m aware that I’m talking about chaos. It’s not going to be contained by a line, real or imagined. By its nature chaos is going to do its best to destroy the very idea of a line. Even when we feel we may have created or discovered some degree of balance, chaos is lurking. It waits patiently for the façade of calm to crumble. Or is there a means to conquer it and remain calm in the face of inevitable chaos?

When I examine what I go through in my day I can see where the conflict between calm and chaos arises. On one side I have my plans, I have a clear idea of how I want to spend my time. There are deadlines to meet and goals to achieve. Chaos sits on the other side poised to thwart, metaphorical spanner in hand, ready to be thrown into my works. It’s so simple for chaos to hinder my plans and by so doing unravel my calm. My calm is almost entirely based on my desire to achieve what I have told myself I need to do. Chaos is no more than the frustration of my desires not being met. And there is the solution lying at the crux of the problem. I am giving chaos all the power. The true chaos is the idea I have created in my mind, that if I don’t tick off my list today then I have failed, that my idea of what needs to be achieved is somehow so vitally important that if frustrated it will lead to calamitous retribution. Aiding chaos is the idea that when anything new comes along I immediately think I have to deal with it and drop what I think is truly important.

The answer to what has seemed like an endless riddle to me might be to alter my perception of emerging priorities and rationally address them for what they are rather than seeing them as obstacles to my calm. Applying reason, I can either give immediate attention to the interruption or triage it. I also have to look closely at the things on my to do list. Who said I had to do all these things? Who said I had to make them all happen today? Who said I had to do them all at once? Turns out I did! Why exactly I don’t know, but it’s clear that the malicious force I personify as ‘Chaos’ is only a figment of my over active human mind, so too is my seemingly endless list of desires. Perhaps the best way to create calm is to remove the line between calm and chaos entirely, remove the very idea of an internal world of opposing forces. With that perhaps I can take away the power they hold in my mind and the affect they have upon my thoughts and actions.

Evan Shapiro
Author – Road To Nowhere

My daughter is in her last year of high school and as the final exams move ever closer I can see that she is well on the way to being an adult. The constraints of child-hood; going to school, wearing uniform, being told to clean her room, living by parental and school schedules, now all appear like ill-fitting clothes. Life is one size too small and she’s ready for bigger and broader experiences.

This has got me thinking about being a parent and about our roles in life. I’ve always aimed to provide her with a safe and secure environment as well as opportunities for development. I’m certainly very happy with how she has embraced those opportunities and become an interesting thoughtful human being. If there is hope for our species, it’s in the minds of young people like my daughter.

But soon she will no longer be my child and may well leave home to continue studies, to travel or work. She will go into the world and be an adult responsible for her own decisions. For many parents this stage is unsettling. For me it’s liberating and I’m excited to watch what she does with her life.

There are many ways to look at preparing a human being for life. We can build a nest or cage, that is both nurturing but constraining. Offering comfort, support and boundaries. When they leave we can feel empty, all that time and effort and then suddenly they are gone, all that remains is an empty cage. Or we can look at parenting as building a platform, a launching pad for the future. I much prefer the latter. I like to think I’ve given my daughter what she needs to dive into the world and make of it what she wants. She is not an extension of me. Her purpose in life is not to correct mistakes I or others in her lineage have made. Her purpose is to live the best life she can. Actually her purpose is up to her. From me she will always have the support and grounding to restart if needed or to keep flying higher. And I look forward to being a parent to an adult-child and sharing life experiences that don’t involve me always having the answers (unlikely as it may seem), sharing experiences between human beings, not just between father and daughter.

Our roles in life are what we make them and they change all the time. It seems wrong of me to resist that change and far better to embrace it.

Evan Shapiro
Author – Road To Nowhere

I love my country. It’s a wonderful blend of cultural extremes and unquestionable natural beauty. The natural environment feeds the national psyche but is quite possibly under appreciated by a majority of inhabitants. The contemporary, urban environment I call home is richly multicultural, spiritually varied and is underpinned by an ancient civilisation that existed for thousands of years before it was subjugated by western ideals. Sounds like a lot of other countries yet we all have our particular unique characteristics.

Much of my outlook has been shaped by the filter of my national psyche. There are parts of it I adore and other parts that I am ashamed of. I will defend it and then at other times criticise it for failing its citizens.

So even though I love my country, the idea of nationalism doesn’t work for me.

The main reason I don’t feel overly nationalistic is because I see national borders as divisions rather than unifiers. I see myself as human first and citizen of a nation as secondary.

Take a big picture snapshot. Looking at the history of space and time it’s hard to accept attaching my entire identity to something that has only existed for a very short period of time. It’s like going to the beach, picking a grain of sand and saying ‘I define myself based on this grain of sand’. It’s random, an accident of birth, granted, for some of us, a lucky accident. Just imagine if you had been born in a different country, or born at a different time in history. What you love suddenly becomes very subjective.

It doesn’t make sense to me to decide who I help, who I protect or who I care about based on national borders. They are arbitrary, completely subject to change and not nearly as important as the people in charge would have you believe.

Not believing in nationalism does not mean you don’t love your country. On the contrary, you love it for what it is, not what others tell you it is. How much do you allow borders to determine how you think, feel or love?

Evan Shapiro
Author – Road To Nowhere

Recently I saw a social media post from a teacher I know in Nepal. It showed two young children sleeping in the streets of Kathmandu. I found the image heartbreaking. I don’t know who these children are, if they have been helped or if they continue to live life on the streets. Having worked with the 108 Lives Project in Nepal I know I have helped some children and I know other people who have done and continue to do the same. But here in front of me was a picture of two children that I could see but have no way of helping.

One of the challenges of providing aid is coming to understand that you can’t save everyone. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and perhaps you can do better for the people around you even when you feel powerless.

When I was faced with divorce I had two young children. One thing that became very clear to me and their mother was that the kids had to come first. This turned out to be the best prism by which to focus decisions. For my part I chose to remain an active parent and over time my ex-wife and I have forged a strong co-parenting practice. I believe this helped fast track recovery from our own negative feelings brought on by the divorce, enabling both of us to provide loving happy childhoods for our children.

The news is flooded with terrible things happening to children, from unprecedented refugee numbers, famine, drought, poverty, ecological disaster, slavery, violence and sexual assault. Like many people I waver between outrage and apathy. The life I am living is filled with demands, responsibilities and distractions that often make me feel powerless in the face of human tragedies.

What I can do however, is offer an idea and that is to put the rights of children at the forefront of every decision. I ask it of myself, I ask it of you and I ask it of our leaders. Imagine if everyone truly put the welfare of children first? It sounds idealistic but surely it is something that as a species we could get our heads around. Children are vulnerable and deserve protection and nurturing. Our apathy gives them the opposite of what they should have and a future as bleak as their childhoods. We can start by combatting our own apathy and examining our choices through this simple idea. You don’t have to be a parent, just a human being, it is no more complex than that. Once you drop the pebble in the water the ripples can be far reaching.


At the end of 2007 I was feeling pretty miserable. I had a list of complaints including rejection, unfulfilled ambition and uncertainty about the future. Regardless I found myself on a last minute getaway over New Year’s with a good friend, eager to have some end of year reflection. As NYE approached I found myself considering the nature of resolutions.

As I thought about things I wanted to change I began to feel that perhaps New Year’s resolutions were not that great and were actually a means of confirming the list of insecurities I was carrying around. Why was I easy to reject? Was I getting too fat? Should exercise more, eat less, be more outgoing, less unconventional? And on it went ad nauseam. Not only would my resolutions confirm everything that was ‘wrong’ with me,  but when I inevitably failed to live up to these changes I’d also be able to ad that failure to the list of inadequacies. Not great for self-esteem.

Rather than challenge myself with resolutions reliant on my will power and based on subjective imperfections I decided to take on a New Year’s evolution instead. I wanted to change the way I saw myself and the world in a way that might be more productive and positive. We are, after all, a species that can adapt and change. But where do you start when it comes to evolving?

When I thought about it, all I had that I could control were the means with which I perceived the world. The five senses, and of course my human brain.

I later discovered this was called a mindful practice and it completely transformed my life. Over the following months I found joy in the smallest of moments by focusing on my different senses throughout the day. I’d take walks and alternate my focus, even situations that previously felt boring had elements I could uncover. Eventually my despair evaporated. When I added meditation a few years later things got even better.

A number of years later, however, and I’m ready to do it again. Over the last few months I’ve allowed the screaming demands of life to erode my regular practices. While I feel fundamentally happy, old patterns of frustration have re-emerged and I don’t want to be subject to them.

Here is what I said to myself in 2007 and what I’m saying to myself again today:


Look at the world in ways you don’t normally see it. Take time to examine objects in your every day life that you’ve seen thousands of times, but really examine their structure and construction. Don’t just look for the beauty in things, look past your initial observation and deconstruct your automatic responses.


When you wake in the morning listen for sounds in your environment you may have previously heard but not acknowledged. Quiet moments are not always made from the absence of sound. There may be things in your environment that you are hearing but not consciously perceiving.


Savour not only the foods you enjoy but examine what it is about things that initially disagree with your pallet. Food is not all you can taste. Examine what properties make things taste good to you.


Breathe in the aromas of your world. They are abundant, pungent, delicate and multi layered. Detect the layers, ad fragrance to your environment. Walk through the various environments in which you live and acknowledge the delightful and the not so delightful odours that waft in and out around you.


Touch everything you can. Caress surfaces, feel textures, enjoy skin, bristles, clothes, bench tops, steering wheels, food, soapy water. Remember your entire body can perceive touch. Exploit it.

By Evan Shapiro

© 2014

I’ve become invisible to her. She moves through the life we’ve built together as if I’m non-existent. I watch her as she readies herself for bed. She doesn’t seem to notice that I’ve stopped reading and that I’m just watching. She sits at her night table and removes her makeup, her actions almost automated, her routine entrenched and systematic. She stands and moves towards me, but it’s not me she sees. I’m just part of the bed to her. She turns down the sheets, drops her nightie to the floor and curls into her side, her naked body turned away from me. I feel the gentle warmth of her skin begin to radiate across the sheets and know I’m no longer permitted to touch it. Her hand extends from the bed and she flicks off her bedside lamp. She whispers, ‘Good night.’

‘Good night’ floats in the empty space between us. She wasn’t really talking to me. Saying ‘good night’ has just become part of her routine. The only light now is my bedside lamp. I’m so invisible to her that I also want to be invisible to myself. I turn my light off and stare into the darkness.

She’s gone when I wake up. She’s gone every day when I wake up. But in the light of day that pours in through my window, I’m still here.

As I make my way to the lab I wonder what she does when I’m not there. Is she ignoring my presence when I’m around or is this how she really is when she is alone?

We are working with pigment neutrality in the lab. If I can find a way to make pigment translucent, to allow light to pass through it instead of reflecting it back, then a new era of stealth will open. Not just objects, like my military employer’s jet planes and drones, but organic matter. Imagine what information an invisible spy could obtain moving unseen through enemy lines.

As I’m looking through the electromagnetic microscope, seeing cell structures the human eye alone can’t perceive, I think of her. How did we get to this place of isolation, where she no longer sees me? 10 years, no children, professional careers. Is it just boredom that makes me invisible to her now? Is it because she has seen me so many times that her brain has decided not to bother constructing that part of the picture? Knowing something is there but choosing deliberately to exclude it?

Suddenly I realise the answer. I have to make light work the way her mind is working. Not through boredom or apathy, but through reprogramming. Whatever part of me that reflects or blocks light must be told to allow it to pass through. Then it won’t only be her that sees through me completely, sees past me, sees a world that exists not simply absent of me, but one constructed around me, one in which I only exist as an echo. And in that world I can observe her. The part of her that thinks I’m still in the room and worthy of ignoring will not longer function. When I’m truly invisible to her then I can observe what her life is like without me.

I delve into the DNA structure with purpose and determination. A labor of love or perhaps lost love but I’m driven nonetheless and find a structure I can manipulate.

I attach my sequence of genetic reprogramming to a non-lethal virus. I inject it into my lab rats and watch them vanish before my eyes as the virus spreads through their systems. I pat their invisible little bodies and don’t forget to feed them just because I can’t see them. Strangely their fecal matter remains visible. It’s a little disconcerting seeing a tiny rat poo appear a few inches above the floor of the cage and see it drop, seemingly out of nowhere.

A few days later and their antibodies have kicked in and my virus and its effects are cleared. My little fury friends are now visible again and none the wiser. But I am, and I am ready to discover just what goes on in the world my love and I have created, when I’m not around.

I drive into our garage and park the car. She’s not home yet. I texted earlier and told her I would be working late, maybe into the early hours. I was on a breakthrough, that was true. She replied with an emoticon. She’s been replying with lots of those lately. A happy face. Does that mean she’s happy I’m not coming home? Does it mean she’s happy to get a message from me? If she’d sent a frown would it mean she was upset that I wasn’t coming home or would it mean she was irritated to have to look at her phone and see it was just another text message from me? I guess, all things considered, I was reading too much into her emoticons. But they were after all emotional.

I close the garage door. She always parked on the street so wouldn’t see my car. She would just come home as usual and enter through the front door. It was only ever I who came into the house through the garage.

I take off my clothes. My genetic re-sequencing wasn’t going to work on them. I retrieve the syringe with my virus from my brief case and jab it into my arm.

I feel the virus working almost immediately. A slight tickle at the back of the throat, like the onset of a cold, then a few aches and pains in my legs, my arms and then my shoulders and back. I flip down the sun visor and pop up the mirror flap. I see my hands fading before me; then as I look at my own reflection my mildly transparent skin suddenly vanishes. All goes black.

I can feel the car seat. I reach out and I feel the steering wheel. My other hand touches my face. It’s there, I’m there, but I can’t see anything. Everything is black. I retrace the steps in my mind up to the moment I see my own eyes vanish before me in the reflection of the sun visor mirror. Then it hits me and it hits me hard. Reflection! Goddammit why didn’t I think of reflection? How can I see if I’ve genetically programmed my cells to pass light? How will my retina operate its basic functions without the ability to reflect light? Without reflection I’m blind.

I take a few deep breaths. My mission is not a failure. I’m in a familiar environment. I can get myself inside and I can still monitor my lover’s life. I can listen, I can feel, I can smell and taste.

But quickly, I have to move quickly. How’s she going to feel if she sees a set of keys floating in the air? I feel around for the keys in the ignition and pull them out. I clutch them firmly and begin to feel through them to find the house key. But first where the hell is the door latch. I must do this every day, why now can’t I find the car door lock. I close my eyes, not that it matters, and breathe again, my hand feeling along the inner door. Finally I find the latch and pop the door open. It smashes into the side of the garage and I hear something break. Damn it, that piece of glass I should have just thrown out instead of keeping; as If I was ever going to reuse it myself; as if I was every going to take it to a glass cutter and get it cut to size. No I just had to keep it against the wall all this time, not so it would be of use to me but so it would be a son of a bitch hindrance.

There must be glass all over the floor, but it’s safety glass, it will be in clumps, maybe. I feel around the car and find my shirt. I throw it on the ground hoping it will cover anything potentially dangerous and gingerly put a foot to the floor. It seems ok. I take the other foot and drop it down.

The pain is immediate. My foot throbs at the point of entry and my fingers instinctively find the piece of glass and pull it out. I grab what feels like my boxer shorts and wrap it around my feet, satisfied I’ve stopped any bleeding. Still clutching my keys I hop to the door and pray I don’t land on any more shards of glass. A few fumbles with the lock and key but I soon marry the two and once I’m inside I rest a moment with my invisible back on the door to the garage. I imagine what it must look like. If another human being were in the room they’d see a bundled up pair of boxer shorts bobbing in mid air.

Then I hear her car pull up. Hiding places quickly run through my head. I could lie behind the lounge or just sit in the armchair. She wouldn’t see me. But now I’ve got this goddamn pair of boxer shorts tied to my foot. If she hadn’t trained me out of being a slob it would go unnoticed, but ten years together and now I’m some kind of neat freak my former self wouldn’t recognise.

I hear voices approaching the front door. She’s not alone. It’s that dickhead boss of hers. Dickhead. I hate that dickhead. What’s he doing here? Why isn’t he on the train home to his wife and three kids in the suburbs. Dickhead.

I feel my way around the walls and make it to our bedroom door. If I linger here I can easily make it to en suite for refuge if I need to. I suddenly wonder what will happen if I take a piss. Will my urine be visible as it streams out of my body, a midair flow of yellow liquid arching from nothing into the bowl? Or would it be like my rats. After a few days I could see their insides working before the outer layer became visible again.

She’s at the door and I hear it suddenly fly open and I feel a gust of air across me. They fall into the room laughing hysterically and slam the door behind them. My body shudders with the sharp sounds but then my knees buckle when their laughing continues. How come she doesn’t laugh like that with me anymore? They are drunk, I can smell it. Vodka. Transparent but potent, always her weakness.

The hysteria dies down but it’s replaced with soft short breaths. What are they doing? No they can’t be? Not kissing?

‘Are you sure he won’t be back tonight?’ the dickhead says.

‘I’m sure. He’s geeking out with his geek ‘friends’ at his geek work on some geek project.’ She replies breathlessly between kisses.

I’m not sure what hurts more, the constant reference to geek in the negative, or that she’s being unfaithful? Or is it that she knows so little about me that she can only refer to what I do as geekish. My work, my colleagues, the things in life that bring me joy all lumped into a single misused verb or noun depending on which part of speech you want to focus on.

‘Can we do it in your bed?’ dickhead says.

No. Not our bed I think. I crawl into the room and slam the door shut behind me. At least I hope I have. She’s pushing at the door now, wondering what slammed it. Was it the wind or some supernatural force stopping her from having sex with another man in our bed? My body is blocking the door as she shoves against it.

‘Something must be blocking it.’ She says.

‘Let me try,’ says dickhead. He shoves his weight against the door and my fingers get caught under the base and burn against the carpet. I roll out of the way, cradling my broken fingers and biting my tongue. I move my head forward to sit up and it pounds into the wooden slats of the bed. Without realizing it I’ve rolled under the bed. I use my hand with the unbroken fingers to feel out the space I’m in and check if any of my body is exposed. I pull my leg in to avoid any further injuries. I feel safe for the moment, if somewhat claustrophobic. For the first time I’m grateful I can’t see. I hate small spaces, but at least I can’t see it.

In their drunken state they have concluded it was the wind that shut the door, that nothing was blocking it. Perhaps to her mind it was the last remnants of our connection?

‘I want to use you,’ she says, ‘to fuck away what’s left of him in my life, the invisible stain he’s become on my existence.’

‘I can do that.’ dickhead replies as they fall on the bed.

I feel the air under the bed diminish as their bodies sink into the mattress. Their kisses turn to moans and I feel the air oscillate as the mattress goes up and down. Her moans of passion, almost forgotten by me fill my invisible ears. Is this what I expected to find when given a doorway into her private world? No, I just wanted to see her sulking, pining over our lost love, not trying to fuck it away with some smarmy dickhead from her office.

The movement from the bed gets faster. I can’t see the bed moving but I can feel it. If I can just slide out then I should be able to make my way to the bathroom. I can nurse my invisible wounds in solitude. I’m resigned to slinking around invisibly until the virus runs it course.

I keep my hands on the bed slats, feeling them move faster as their climax builds. Her moaning is like a dagger to my heart, his pounding driving it deeper. Faster, less space, I can hardly move, faster, pounding, moaning, yelling, no air, no space then bang, the bed slats pounding my head with their climax. Unconscious oblivion.

I wish I could tell you that it ended well. That I had an out of body experience, that I floated over those two as they tore my life to pieces, my life that was already in shreds. That I floated joyfully away, uncaring into a blissful realm. But it didn’t end well. I lay there until I could be certain they were gone. Hobbled almost, beaten, bruised and bleeding I tended my invisible wounds as best I could. Three days of sightless dragging along the floor between bathroom and bedroom, fearful of her return or the presence of any other human being until my sight returned: until being invisible no longer robbed me of my vision. My fingers, still broken, would probably need to be broken and set. My foot, infected and painful, would heal, but how long until my pride, my invisible unseen feelings, how long would they take to mend?