Re-reading it I think that one of the worst things about life is that you grow up learning about the utopian possibilities of a bunch of different ideologies and then you look around and realize that if they’re going to deliver, it’s not going to be in your lifetime. All kinds of equality and progress are just not going to land before you kick it. And you’re not going to make it happen either. Someone else fought the important wars, the graveyard is full, and no one needs much India Ink these days anyway. But we also haven’t joined a massive AI and headed off to colonize the universe. It’s also increasingly clear that we’re basically all here setting the stage so that in the next 50 years a heroic band of ecological warriors can fight to build a new society that can withstand wave after wave of climate-driven fascism. It sucks to be born during an intermission but that’s showbiz.
From one place, we can witness the sweep and dip of the universe about us. The stars over the monastery gables, the birds on the wire, the street pigeons that visit the patch of grass behind my house before flying off elsewhere. We can become deeply connected to the world through paying the most careful and fearless attention to what we can see, from wherever it is we must be.
Most of us expect our lives to have familiar trajectories and spend our days secure in our assumptions about how things will go and what will happen next. Covid-19 has many terrible effects, but one that is particularly quiet and strange is how it has unmoored us from that familiar expectation. Everything is on hold. The future is indeterminate. We do not know what will happen next. We cannot.
There is an argument that behaving unusually is a rational way to assimilate an altered reality, especially if the alteration is a rotten one. When you pre-emptively dismiss whatever rules of living are within your control, like using furniture or wearing clothes, you’re injecting yourself with a tolerable portion of insanity, which works like a vaccine.