Friday, July 10, 2020

Out Of Sorts

Is it wrong to confess to you that I feel a bit lost and out of sorts?

Coming back to "work" has been not quite the new adventure that I imagined it would be - at the moment, new tasks are slowly coming online and all of my previous tasks have been transferred over.  This is, I suppose, not really all that different than starting a new job anywhere else - that initial first period of getting up to speed - except that in this case, perhaps mistakenly, I feel I should be more up to speed than I currently am.

Not that I am regretting the choice - I got pulled into a discussion from what would be my previous life this week and 30 minutes of that discussion was enough to remind me (rather forcibly) that this change really was for the best.  Even I had wanted to stay, my heart is not longer in that line of work.

But what is it in, then?

That is what I find myself slogging through at the moment.  I feel...well, lost.

The world around me is changing and morphing in ways I can scarcely understand or take in.  My religion  has gone off into places that 20 years ago I would have never thought possible.  My job, as mentioned, has become completely different.  The future I thought I was planning for is not the future that arrived at all, which means that the future that I might plan for 20 years hence will be even more different.    It feels in some ways as if the world - my world - has rapidly collapsed in on itself in any number of ways since I came home from Japan in February of this year, be it my job, The Plague and all of its social and economic impacts, even just the world in general.

My dreams this week were all of me been in circumstances and situations but not having any ability to change or influence them.  Art reflecting life indeed.

The difficulty- the thing I am trying to fight my way out of - is that I feel like any change I might make, any additional activities I might undertake, anything I might do will impact precisely nothing in the larger picture.  That I have somehow now enter a racecourse that has no options and no directions except one - one I cannot see and one that I cannot change.

Perhaps this is all idle thought on my side and will change soon enough.  But it puzzles me - I have never felt so powerless to change my condition of feeling out of sorts.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

The Collapse XLVII: On Being Alone

21 November 20XX

My Dear Lucilius:

Well, I have indeed been a slug-a-bed: no communication for two weeks? You must have though me dead or worse (given the current state of affairs, death is not really the worst thing that can occur).

Not dead, thankfully. Saddened, perhaps. May I even say a bit depressed? I had not given the thought I should have to what the impact of being shut away from everyone for long periods of time can do to the soul.

I have lived here long enough to anticipate and know the winters, which do not lend themselves to the sorts of “outings” that one finds in less snowy and cold climes. I have also lived here long enough to know that the opportunities for socialization remain much less than in the urban areas – as you will recall, this was actually one of the reasons that I moved here.

What I had not anticipated – thought about perhaps, even pondered – was what happens when civilization effectively hits the “Pause” button.

Having the option to go out or not go out, to shop or not to shop, to listen and watch or turn off, is quite a different thing than not having the option to do those things at all. Even before, there was always the option to go to the town or city for shopping and a bookstore and a meal or coffee, to turn on the radio or the InterWeb at my leisure to listen to the news of the day or music or anything that happened to catch my fancy.

None of that exists now, of course. Certainly not the cities and shopping and dining and only occasionally can one find a radio station transmitting – and they hardly transmit the sorts of things that raise the spirit. The InterWeb still occasionally sparks on as well – but again, who wants bad news from all over when one has bad news at home?

I would say I am fortunate in that I have a community so I occasionally still see someone – but even that is becoming more and more of a rare event. Yes, the snow on the ground does not move things forward, but going out represents time and energy and calories that one might need later – as well as the risk of sickness or accident which, with no immediate medical aid available, presents its own sets of risks.

It may sound to you that I am complaining of my conditions – I am not. I am extremely fortunate even still: I have a roof over my head and heat and water and food with every belief that I shall make it to the other side of this event (as opposed to living in an urban area, where I imagine my chances would be much worse). What I am doing is coming to the realization that keeping ourselves “bunkered in” while the world moves on outside of us does something to the soul, something that I wonder if any of us anticipated outside of researchers that studied such things and published in obscure journals.

It is one thing to isolate by choice. It is another to be isolated not by choice, by command or by circumstances. The first is based on freedom of action. The second is based on the tyranny of circumstances which gives neither an end date nor a hint of relief.

We may yet survive this Lucilius. What I wonder is what we will find – not in terms of crumbling ruins and defunct technology – but in terms of the souls of those that remain. Will we seek out community again? Will we know what that means? Or will we continue to only have small touch points as we have forgotten how and what it means to socialize?

Your Obedient Servant, Seneca

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Dating The Plague of 2020, Round Two

Did you ever have one of those dating relationships where you felt like things were not going well and were not going to end well, but somehow you stuck with it in the unsustainable hope that things were somehow - dare I use the word "magically" - going to get better?  That is what the world feels like right now to me:  this constant sense that things are somehow just not quite right and are not getting "more right" any time in the future.

The lurch back and forth between opening and non-opening is one example.  Things are going fine - wait, things are not going so fine so hold on.  We are not sure when things are really going to go fine, so plan - but do not really plan (if you are business that depends on knowing what the situation will be, this is a killer, and something that will quickly convince you to just stay out of business).  And oh, once we decide to open things up, better get out there and spend, spend, spend because you know - support your local economy and all.

Or the reality that the shutdowns continue to have an impact.  Borepatch has a rather interesting simple state of the world note, where a bike shop that has been in business for 50 years is going out of business simply because they can no longer get any parts because the supply chain has given out from the shutdowns world wide.  And another contributor on his site, notes the same things in home improvement store.  These are the sorts of things you do not notice until you go to use them yourselves.

People have asked when I think I am going "back to the office".  I tell them I sincerely doubt it will be before next year.  My math is simple:  We are now at July.  We are in a place that has just gone back under the lock down so I expect that we will continue to "work from home" for much longer - and if we reach November, that is practically the end of the year with vacations.  And although the death rate from The Plague seems to be sinking, it still has potential long term impacts we are continuing to come to understand so who wants to take the risk?  (Add to that the fact that by the time Winter comes back around we will have perhaps the second wave to deal with as well as our regularly scheduled flu season.)

By that time we will have been "out of the office" for 9 months - can anyone, given what time of year it will be, think that coming back together in the depths of winter will be a good idea?

Add to this the general unrest, uncertainty around personal economics ("Do I have a job?  Will I have a job?"), the eventual inflation that will hit when our propensity to invent money out of thin air catches up with us and the counter-strike when someone suggests we need to "raise taxes" to pay for all this, and all of a sudden that highly uncomfortable relationship becomes one that we cannot dump quickly enough.

I will not say it will not be interesting, because as someone who observes the folly of nations and states this will be writing grist for the mill for years to come.  I will say that, if we are so fortunate to come out of it, it will scar generations the way that one bad relationship scars our love life for ever.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Lavandula Bombus

Evening Bumblebee,
 gathers sunset's pollen as
full moon gazes down.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Branch And Flow

If you have been a reader of this blog for any period of time, you know that one of the great struggles of my life has been the fact that for the last 11 years I have been a number of states removed from where I actually want to be - The Ranch - and even longer years - 24 if you have your calendar handy - since it was more than a 30 minute drive.  This has been a constant background theme to my life, this wanting to be in one place - nay, feeling that one is called to one place - while being away somewhere else. 

It leaves a hole in your soul, given enough time and energy.  I understand that not everyone has this particular sense of being tied to one place, especially a place which one may not have been at or around for years - but for me at least, this place is a refuge from the world, the sort of thing that (living in an urban area as I currently do) I see people crying out for in theory, while in practice all they do is continue to double down on a life style that is resource intensive, rather full of people, and pushing out the darkness, silence, and nature that they proclaim they want more of - in other words,  the hypocrisy of acting one way while proclaiming another.

This thought of taking a different path became bothersome to me over the last week - for various and sundry reasons the need to be back here has become more intensive, not less, over the more recent years and has weighed heavily on me.  It weighed heavily on me as I walked earlier this week and came across The Creek.

The Creek, as I have mentioned, does not itself run across our property (would that it did) but is on the deeded road to our property - thus, it is something that we will always have access to.  It is a creek similar to the one I grow up near as a child:  not particular deep or full, running across stones and mud and gravel, filled with blackberries on either side drinking in the moisture, under tall oaks and pines, inhabited by water skimmers and crawdads (if these are called Water Skaters and Crayfish by you, it is not so among us rural peasantry).  It has a small island accessible from the road with a couples of skips across stones and a gravel bar, inhabited by a lone pine and ferns and some sort of flowering grass and the resident blackberry (now cut out):

As I sat there, looking around and listening to the stream burbling away and feeling (as I often do) this sense of being conflicted, I happened to pay attention to the culverts you see there - three in total, running the water under the stream and into the pool until it makes its way around the island.  Three separate entrances leading to two flows.  And then I looked downstream:

After the island, there is only one stream heading out.  The flows are joined and one cannot tell what the difference is between the two.

In this, I suddenly realized, is wisdom.

Streams separate and flow in different directions, sometimes in ways and paths we had not intended.  But at some point, they come back together as well and from that point on, it is impossible to tell the difference.

Plan, yes.  Do what you need to, of course.  But do not surrender the belief that every stream, every branch, leads away from where you are trying to get to.  The stream continues to flow on.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

A Few Words From...Demosthenes

"Virtue?  You runnagate; what have you or your family to do with virtue?  How do you distinguish between good and evil report?  Where and how did you qualify as a  moralist?  Where did you get your right to talk about education?  No really educated man would use such language about himself, but would rather blush to hear it from others; but people like you, who make stupid pretensions to the culture of which they are utterly destitute, succeed in disgusting everybody whenever they open their lips, but never in making the impression they desire" - "On The Crown", 330 B.C.

"...that a democracy is the most unstable and capricious thing in the world, like a restless wave of the sea ruffled by the breeze as chance will have it.  One man comes, another goes; no one attends to, or even remembers, the common weal." - "On The Embassy", 343 B.C.

(Demosthenes Practicing Oratory, Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte du Nouy)