- This dance of social distancing echoes attending a silent meditation retreat.
The social contract (and explicit contract, written on a small broadsheet of blue paper handed to you along with a map leading to your room, the only words you are given to read for eleven days) extended to all forms of non-verbal communication. Avoiding all eye contact. It’s a more extreme experience here and now on the pathways and sidewalks for exercise, and less binary than out in the high mountain trail below the meditation hall. But similar. Giving a wide berth, without communication. Sometimes afraid to look or speak, judging their internal states of being, yet grateful they are here, a reminder to keep going.
While here and now we don’t have to keep a vow of silence, in some respects I think it would make the distancing easier to abide.
- There are two effects — valances, signatures, footprints — of the virus: how it attacks the individual, and then how the collective built up of those individuals responds to those attacks. They are both symptoms. A scarcity of air begetting a scarcity of everything. Maybe the second is something different. There’s probably an epidemiological word for it. Maybe that is the word, the pandemic.
- The virus, as I understand it, travels as a short strand of RNA surrounded by a layer of fat (and a few other atoms and molecules) — not really alive, like a bacteria or other nefarious microbe, bound to consumption. Nor is it inert and stable. The small focused set of chemical instructions striving to replicate itself before blipping back out of existence.
But I don’t really understand it.
- Information is alive insofar as it also wants to self-replicate.
- Not all information is beneficial, in its creative destruction.
- There is some aspect of my personality that is illuminated and apologetically prefers a disaster scenario or fire drill.
For its clearer sense of purpose, a stripping away of the unnecessary, of the distractions, of the uncertainty of choice in the very moment. For its change in scope and permission. For a five minute (and only five minute panic) before the curtain rises on an unrehearsed, unscripted tragicomedy of errors. A silent creditor exchanging ambiguity and unease now for a larger, more untenable debt of suffering at some future compound interest rate. As there is only so far that the dreadful adrenaline of abrupt change can extend.
Not for its pain, and suffering, and unease.
- The shared, natural, or otherwise communally experienced disasters that one endures over a lifetime are often abrupt and jarring.
A car crash — one instant, from a normal timeline into a ball of wax thrown across and open flame, to be slightly reformed.
An earthquake — one afternoon peacefully exploring the backwood of childhood upended, shook into the relief. Here once were all the things in your life made steady, now strewn across the kitchen floor.
A break-up — a party of two split into separate yet equal, dimensionally-distanced universes, the sky falling forever away from each other.
- There’s a second familiarity — one I’m perhaps too intimately keen on — the atmospheric sense of that the sky falling. Earn the opportunity to build a business and quixotically-or-perhaps-self-destructively keep it alive beyond the actuarial tables of the silent majority of failed startups and their leather-bound museum of ancient corporate books, and the sky is always in some state of gravity. The sky is at least falling for us all equally here (although not evenly distributed in its weight) — and there’s a kernel of something space-aliens-invading-we-can-prevail-and-help-one-another-through to-the-other-side about this. Together. Against tiny space alien things from Earth.
- Resistance or procrastination against being creative, as in, “what could I possibly write about that is worthy of this moment” isn’t any more legitimate or valid under a time of crisis.
I’ve been noticing that the measures and qualities of the resistance that I’m experiencing are exactly the same when put under the microscope of mindfulness. The same as these last nine months of limited output, as I returned to organizing my economic life back into focus.
There’s perhaps a great lesson: you think there are emergencies and priorities and agendas that are clearly more important than whatever deep purpose you might be called here to generate upon the fabric of the universe. But they may actually just be further obstacles.
- Although, some of those obstacles are very legitimate.
But they’re just obstacles, not universe-collapsing contradictions against a sense of creative purpose.
- I sipped from a mug of wine on Friday night, in an after-work-group-video-chat-party-social-hour.
I was invited to participate early on, and then through the grace or mercy of the video platform’s algorithm kept off-screen and easily muted, strumming a guitar and only thinking about performing a thematically relevant song toward the end. It was disorienting to be at something akin to a party, but without the ability to have a one-on-one side conversation of the introverts retreat. Instead; a windowpane of four people all on stage, with microphones, and the mic is passed around instantly to those who speak. Our personalities still operate, even and especially under new digitally altered circumstances. I felt as socially awkward there, sitting in my room physically alone, as I would have had we all been in one room together. The anxiety just didn’t manifest as directly.
- I drank two mugs of wine on Saturday night, after a day of chores and (mostly) essential errands.
They were good chores. The ache of work and the wine pushed me further away from any deeper retrospection, of reading and writing, my not-so-secret retreats and perhaps good habits, which seem as lately now as they ever have like both strong shelter and a black chasm of a pool with unmeasured depths.
- I poured myself zero mugs of wine on Sunday night.
It was still easier to work on any project other than writing.
- Much of this situation (I think) illustrates the power of belief in the context of uncertain, partial and persuasive information.
Do you trust governmental institutions?
Is scientific fact filtered through and refracted back behind the lenses of bureaucracies and journalistic entertainment still fact?
How do we collect evidence for ourselves without the opportunity and means — and instead have to rely upon a sense of intuition and collective protection?
There are clear guidelines, without clear duration or efficacy, and that is a microcosm for the rest of our time here on Earth.
- In previous isolations, self-exiled from all the people I wanted to see, for long periods of time, across thousands of miles, we bridged that continental gap then as we bridge the epidemiological gap now — talking, texting, facetime cooking shows.
It may, in fact, brings us all closer, out of the slumber of complacency.
At least out of my own unexpected self-distance.
- What is important to you? If it at all lights you up, keep making strides toward that constellation.
- A meaning of life is about finding purpose, in whatever way that connects and works for you.
The meaning is about discovering that purpose, not necessarily the purpose or the outcome or the destination itself.
- It might not answer your great questions in the way you had hoped, but perhaps changes you entirely such that you don’t need to ask great questions.
- The meditation centers, in their diaspora, began twice-daily virtual group sittings a week ago.
The first evening I sat, there were over seven hundred humans on the call.