We all want to know “what’s next” but seriously; if someone had told us in, say, November of 2019 what 2020 would hold would we have believed them? And right now? I don’t now if it’s even possible NOT to ask that question, having (all of us) balanced on the edge of 2020 for so many months. It’s a useless question, though, unless it pertains to a project one is engaged it because we can’t ever really know.
There’s a small lovely poem about that ringing in my mind but I can’t find it. I know it was written by Dag Hammarskjold and I know it’s in this book:
But I’m not finding it. The first line, “What next? Why ask?” and then it goes on to say that whatever it is that’s next, it will demand everything.
Most of the books on the shelves in the featured photo are books I can’t part with. Many are Chinese novels and books by Chinese writers, poets and historians. On the top shelf are some books that served me in projects I enjoyed working on. Projects are great because they answer that “what next?” question that haunts all us humans. But really, it’s none of our business. Whatever it is, we have to live through it (if we are lucky).
In strange dark times my go-to answer comes from the Bible. I like to combine a couple of different versions — King James and the Wycliffe Bible — in my ideal Bible verse. It’s Matthew 6:34:
“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficeth to the day his own malice.” Sometimes it does seem that the day is actually malicious. 🙂
If I find Dag Hammarskjold’s poem, I’ll add it, but right now Teddy wants his coffee and I have signs to paint and a couple of happy dogs to take out into the snow later.
Generally, The Washington Post series on coping with the pandemic has been pretty irrelevant to me. Today’s newsletter confirmed why. It ended with this:
“Maybe I sound a little like a retiree. Well, yeah! Retirees have a lot to teach younger people about future orientation. It’s not so much that older people plan fewer activities, writes Marc Wittmann in his book “Felt Time”; it’s that they plan them for a more immediate future — the same way people survive a crisis like this.” (Hey sweet cheeks, we were not born retirees, but whatev’)
I guess the retiree “crisis” is the impending ultimate nap. Why do retirees “plan (activities) for a more immediate future…”? In my case it’s because I finally can BUT I always have. I’ve never been a person to plan for the long term. I guess I’ve never believed in the long term. I know people do plan like that, a lot of people, maybe even most.
The newsletter today advises people to set “small, achievable goals” for themselves. But isn’t that always a good idea? It also advises people to notice smaller things — like the plants growing on their daily walks. Isn’t that always a good idea? It also advises planning a “mini-vacation” every week — such as riding your bike in a different part of town so they have something to look forward to.
The thread in all of these is fighting the idea that there is no future, nothing to look forward to, black emptiness.
I get that, but I don’t believe that or, having grown up near Air Force bases during the Cold War inoculated me with that world view, I take it for granted, sort of “Yeah? So what else is new?”
I thought about the Cold War as I read this passage in the WP newsletter:
“But the pandemic is this ongoing monster,” said Alice Holman of the University of California at Irvine. In casual speech, “quarantine” no longer has much to do with local orders, or even literally staying inside. It’s a state of mind, an eternal present. “Quarantine” is a vacuum for plans deferred until “this is all over” — not that anyone can define this, all or over.
“We have this chronic underlying stressor that’s holding us hostage,” Holman said.
Plenty of people back then believed that was only a matter of time before WW III. A lot of those people had already lived through two world wars and didn’t see much prospect of that kind of human behavior stopping any time soon. Many people were authentically frightened and, as everyone knows, we had bomb drills at school and watched films that simulated what would have happened if the bomb dropped on Hiroshima had been dropped on some place in England (ie. white people). WW II hovered over the lives of Baby Boomers and the Cold War surrounded us with its impending apocalyptic doom. Scary books like On the Beach made that future very real and moreso when made into films.
The bomb itself was one thing. The worst part was the residual nuclear fallout, so people built shelters to protect themselves from the bomb itself in which they could stay long enough for the fallout to be gone. (Hello Chernobyl). My family lived 2 miles from the second most important target for Soviet bombs so we had a pretty cavalier perspective on the whole thing.
But it was there. A big difference between The Bomb and the pandemic is that the Cold War could be satirized (and was) and this disease cannot.
Meanwhile, those of you who have visited Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, Granby and Grand Lake, be grateful you saw it in its splendor because it is now on fire. I guess we Coloradans haven’t swept or raked our forests sufficiently, either.