No Person Is An Island – Though The Past Few Months Have Made Us All Feel Like We are.
The events of the past few months have, to use a word that the media near enough wore out in the early days of the pandemic, have been unprecedented. Everything we thought we knew about the world has been tipped on end, that is true for nations and individuals alike.
At least it is up to a point, look beyond the surface and another picture can be discerned. History, even in those moments when it blind-sides us, has as many layers as an onion.
The pandemic has shown us the inequalities that lurk under the shiny surface of even the richest countries. In the age of consumption, when who we are is defined by what we have, everybody to a greater or lesser extent lives on credit.
That is all well and good, until the day the debt is called in and we find out we lack the means to pay.
The same is true of individuals on an emotional level, we have lived high on the hog of shallow surface esteem and neglected the dull budgeting necessary for survival. That debt was called in by the isolation forced on most of us in the first months of the pandemic.
I had, in a limited way, some expereince of this myself. At the start of lockdown I imagined that it wouldn’t have much impact on me. After all I’d always enjoyed my own company, it would just be a matter of hunkering down with a stack of books.
My overconfident assessment of things was proved quickly and decicively wrong. On a practical level I was able to entertain myself and had the good fortune to have been, somewhat spuriously, named as a keyworker and so wasn’t trapped in the house all the time.
On a deeper level, linked to the nebulous but vital concept of our wellbeing it showed me something I had always taken pains to ignore; the extent of my own lonliness.
I am not without ‘friends’, or perhaps that should be acquaintences, people I know from work, or the pub, or any one of a dozen other things that I do. None of theses people though enter into the category of friendship where you can let down your guard and reveal your weaknesses.
Perhaps its a ‘man thing’, certainly I was raised in a culture where until recently even admitting to having feelings, let alone expereincing them was actively discouraged. It goes beyond that though, modern culture encourages us to show only the best, most photogenic side of our lives with social media as the electronic shop window in which it is displayed.
Lonliness, anxiety, sadness that can’t be mended by buying something shiny is messy and so has to be covered up. Only current circumstances mean we can no longer do so so easily.
The question is will what we have all expereinced change things in some way that makes it easier to admit to the mess behind the curated image of our lives? It would be nice to think so, but I fear that it won’t.
Human beings are programmed to seek stability, things have been thrown massively off track by the pandemic and our natural reaction will be to get back to normal as soon as possible. Even if the normal in question was not entirely real to begin with.