Apr 05, 2020 10:41 am
Many people are speculating these days about how the coronavirus is going to change the world—not physically but psychologically, philosophically. I’ve heard a wide range of opinions: that countries will become more self-protective and nationalistic, that goddess worship will resurge, that a dawning appreciation among young people of what the skies, waters, and trees look and sound and smell like when they get a break from carbon inundation will result in a new generation of environmentalists.
They’re all interesting speculations. All could be true—and all could be completely off base. We’re less able now than ever to predict the future. I remember doing research in the late-70s for a multimedia production about the future. Experts then predicted that we would all have enormous index fingers, because we’d be pushing buttons for all our tasks. No one imagined that, instead, we’d be typing with our thumbs on tiny screens!
But what we can notice even now is how we ourselves are changing. Forced to live differently than ever before, how are we managing? How are you managing? Do you find you’re more focused, for example, spending less effort on multi-tasking? Have you finally started meditating and discovering that it really does help? If you have children and they’re home all day, how are family relationships shifting?
The biggest change I’ve noticed in myself is that I’ve quit striving, pushing, driving myself. Some friends and I actually had a conversation about striving a few months ago. A few of them wished they could stop doing it, and I said I wouldn’t want to. Yet now, no one can push and strive, because we simply don’t know the future we’re going to be walking into one week from now, let alone six months from now.
I realized this about two and a half weeks ago, when I was busily trying to plan and organize events taking place in June and September of this year and in December 2021. No one was responding to my emails! Instead of getting annoyed and frustrated, as I ordinarily would, I realized that no one finds it possible to plan. So I emailed all the people I’d contacted over the past few days and said as much: Let’s just stay healthy now, I said, find and make as much beauty as possible, and we’ll resume our discussion when this crisis is past. Then I heard from people! They were relieved and said they’re eager to continue planning when we can.
I’ve found that I’m able to concentrate better on one thing at a time. I’m not constantly being plucked and pulled with the worry that I should urgently be taking care of something that I’ve overlooked. My mind isn’t plotting the future, because, truly, all I can do is take care of the moment.
How is this pandemic changing you? Please let us know by writing in the comments box of this blog (below the post) or emailing me.
What I’m reading
Because I haven’t been feeling well for the past week or so (symptoms I would ordinarily just consider the flu; today being tested to see if it’s The Flu), I wanted a good, long, fat, engrossing book to read. The Forsyte Saga! my brain immediately suggested. I read that great tome, about three generations of a family in Victorian London, when I was in my twenties. After quite a search among my books, I found it again (it was on the Russian literature shelf). I am completely engrossed in it as I sit wrapped in a blanket drinking cups of hot tea.
The savory moments these days often happen online, where all meetings, reunions, and friendly visits occur. I introduce my husband to a new friend from the Holy Land trip I went on in February. I hear that a colleague has gotten free tuition to a meditation training she’d wanted to attend that was full before they decided to offer it online. Someone tells a story about about a flock of seagulls he saw flying down the middle of West 54h Street in Manhattan and then turning the corner en masse onto Eighth Avenue, prompting the firefighters to come out from their station to stand on the street watching.
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"It’s a great vision that Trebbe Johnson is sending out into the world, and it is very much her own. The great central truth of what she is doing is the very hard lesson for all of us in our lives, and yet it is our blessing."
—W.S. Merwin, Former Poet Laureate of the United States