Written on 8/04/2020
I last went to work 147 days ago. Nearly half a year, living in the United States of COVID-19.
It has been just under four years since Trump was elected President of the United States. Four years of a descent into insanity that has now accelerated rapidly to the point that our nightmares have become our day terrors.
It takes a substantial mental effort to acknowledge that I have been living in shock. But how else can this time be described? When I try to think coherently over the events of the last few months, much of my memory is hazy.
And now, with the COVID deaths at well over 100,000, it is like living in a time of war. I was too young during the Vietnam years to feel that my generation had been decimated, although, lord knows, I was effected. And, on reflection, I was effected through my parents by World War II and the Holocaust. And they were affected by the Depression and the First World War. And their parents felt deeply the effects of the Civil War and the Industrial Revolution. And the generation before them were still feeling the effects of the American Revolution and back and back and back it goes. Our ancestral memory is long and lives in us more than we often realize.
And the times we are living will determine the inner and manifest lives of our descendants for at least a century. Our crises will live on in them.
In the midst of historical hurricanes, it is not always easy to grasp their intensity. But I think all of us must surely be feeling it now. We are in a whirlwind that is winding faster and faster. And Covid-19, I begin to suspect, is just a squall in a coming storm of scarcely imaginable dimensions. (Think Climate Change.)
Evangelical types who speak of the end times don’t seem so crazy as they did even a year ago. Crazy, yes, but not as bat shit crazy as I used to imagine.
Humanity will survive, but I suspect technology as we know it will not. There will be a return to older, slower ways of living. Mastery of simple tools will be important: planting a garden, cooking a meal, telling a story, sewing a coat, building a house, meditating in solitude.
All of the historical events of the day fill me with doubt. I suspect they are beyond my understanding. Certainly, they are beyond my control. I feel them. I acknowledge that they are meaningful. But I do not feel connected. I did when I was a young man. I haven’t forgotten how to care. But when I look for connection, grown old as I am, it is to the stable things I reach.
Honestly, nothing seems to matter more right now than the creation of a little garden in which to sit, or the mastery of a new recipe. Writing this column as well as I am able seems to matter. Ironing my clothes. Reading books, old and new. Polishing a poem and sharing it with you.
In crisis, our lives both shrink and expand. I feel the force of huge events more than I ever have in my lifetime till now, but, also, at the same time, the force and meaning of the smallest things—the delight of the frozen grapes I ate just before sitting down to write, the smell of the dirt I shoveled yesterday, preparing the way for a patch of grass, the moments I spent reading ancient texts in the early morning hours of today—also seem of greater import than ever before.
I guess I want to say: pay attention to the world and the politics, the demonstrations and the coming elections, feel their importance, do the necessary work. But don’t think for a moment that tomorrow’s breakfast, prepared with care, even if for yourself alone, is any less important.
Breakfast matters. Seriously—I mean no disrespect. It matters. The little things are our lives, not just the big ones.
Love yourself, punks. Be the great love of your life.
Written on 8/04/2020