Existential angst and carefree ants

1st June 2007 at 01:00
A life in the year of Emily Shark

"IS THERE hope for the future? You have 45 minutes to answer this question."

Blimey. What gorgeously twisted minds these examiners have. Here's carefree youth living for today. Let's grind their sunny faces into the hopelessness of existence, while implying that it is up to them to find a solution.

This was a cracker of a past paper to give Year 10 for their mocks. Here you go, kids: you've got less than an hour on the outlook for mankind.

Hmm. I don't know if I could fill 45 minutes with this. "Is there any hope for the future?" "Er I no. Sorry, there isn't."

I'm so tired. I wish I'd marked these at half-term instead of buying geraniums that I'm now too exhausted to plant. Oh well. I'm determined to mark three of the ink-stained prophecies before lunch. Should be possible: I have a comfy spot near the staffroom windows with nothing to distract me.

Hello, what's this? An ant has just walked across the question. He has stopped on the word "you", which is curious... Shark! Get on with it. You can watch ants at the weekend.

Yes, but not this ant. Look at that little body, shiny with intent, skimming over sunlit paper and biscuit crumbs. He doesn't know how easily he could be squashed. That's why he's so confident. He has no idea how catastrophic a wrong turning could be. If he sticks with me, he'll be fine.

If he turns left, he'll get lost in Marian Frond's pencil case. If he turns right, he'll be flattened under the jobs pages of The TES.

Being an ant, he knows none of this. He's pure purpose, untainted by doubt.

"Do ants have a future?" is not a question that troubles him. Ants have no self-defining choices. They can only grow up to be ants, so the notion of a future is pointless to them.

All right, let's see what Slicer McFadden has to say. "In the future, everyone will have mobile phones and this will make disasters easier. But people won't mug each other for their mobiles because they'll all have them." Cheery and terrifying in equal measure.

What does Shireen Tinker think? "This is our last chance. It is like an exam I think we will proberly fail. But then another kind of life creature will happen, like the ones that walked out of the sea before the dinosaurs.

So there is hope, but not for us." Gulp.

Shelley Ramsden, you usually cheer me up. "Everything that is alive has a future. We just don't know what." Thank you, Shelley. "I worry about bombs, but we don't know the future so we might as well hope and not waste life fearing."

Well, these spiky young prophets probably have a future. And look, so does the ant. Somehow, he's managed to find the window.

More from Emily in a fortnight

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