Second wave thoughts: Clinging to reality

I can’t remember a time this year when I didn’t want to start a piece of writing with….well this is not what I expected. The last time I was on here I was filled with ambition to document my lock-down experience, beginning with the observation that, at least as far as my environment is concerned, details suddenly matter in a way they never did before. Now, having spent endless hours in my little home office, which I know I’m lucky to have after meeting up with lots of colleagues online who are working around children, unmade beds, piles of dishes, my feelings are much the same. I think I’ve become more finely tuned to subtle details, even though many of them may not have much greater significance: I usually know where the cats are. I have a rough idea of what my wife is doing at almost all times. If the kids are around, I know what they’re up to as well. Outside of these walls, though, I feel more and more as though the world is becoming a kind of figment. Most of what I know comes to me from screens of one size or another and, as time goes on, the salience of all of that somehow becomes less than what’s happening outside my window (yes, I’m lucky enough to have one of those, too). Which children are on the street? Whose dog got out? What’s my hyperactive fire-juggling neighbour up to today (yes… I have one of those, too). I have not seen the inside of an airport in roughly a year, have not faced a live audience in that time, have not slept a single night lying on the grass in a wilderness nor walked on a beach (unless something unexpected happens, 2020 will be the first year in my life that has been completely free of beach-walking—an activity that has been absolutely key to many of my more useful thoughts and decisions in life). And don’t think for a second that I don’t know how lucky I am to have not been more affected by the pandemic. I haven’t been sick. Nobody I’m close to has died. I’ve maintained employment without having to go into high-risk settings. My long-term relationship is stronger than it has ever been. I know, at least at distance, how many lives have been lost or if not lost then wracked by this. My malaise has been different. I’ve been hollowed out in a different way.

Last spring, I was working on a book proposal that had to do, roughly, with how technology (and not really just technology perhaps) has changed who and what we are. That’s deliberately vague for now. As soon as I began to write, I realized that everything I had wanted to say had become obsolete. It’s as if, with the source of thelight moved to somewhere unexpected and strange, the shadows cast by the world were unfamiliar, eerie and often completely impenetrable. I read somewhere just today an opinion that futurism had become nothing but speculative fiction. I concur.

So even though I’m completely at a loss as to what happens next both to the world and the contribution of my own sorry bit of flesh to the mix, I’m going to try to write my way out of things. Or maybe it’s into things.  That’s it for now. I’m going to commit to writing here more often. Next time I jump in, I want to talk about a riot of thoughts I had last spring about complexity.

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