So as not to be outdone by the little things that make up Covid 19, the weather turned towards the Arctic for its next theme. At just gone 7 o’clock this morning, a swathe of freezing grey swept in from the still frozen lands and deposited a huge outpouring of hailstones. Car roofs became percussion instruments that were being played by infinite numbers of fingertips and house windows were slapped in provocative gestures. Whilst this hiss ran across the world, we were sleeping, wrapped up in a bed that was snugly keeping it all at bay.
We have taken to sleeping more throughout the crisis. It is probably a response that goes back to times when nature offered regular packages of existential crisis to a planet that had not settled down into the ordinary routine of being successful survivors. Perhaps we have been getting a little complacent about life with days moving through the cycle of the hours with such regularity, such predictability and such abject banality that we failed to notice. Why slog through indifference when sleep provides the opportunity to escape?
I spoke to my mother again this morning. These conversations have become a daily thing since IT threatened. Relations have been strained between my sisters and me. With my wife, they have not just strained but have snapped. At Christmas, my older sister reposted a rightwing populist piece about how the poor could no longer be supported by the rich. If the world was a communal swimming pool, the poor ought to be left to drown in the deep-end. My wife rightly took up arms against this and posted her own rebuff that was meant to highlight the fact that this was nothing short of Fascist thinking. My sister, who feels supported by the fact that most of the people she now knows think the same way, reacted as if she was perfectly in the right and that my wife had perfectly wronged her. I haven’t spoken to said Sis since then.
Recent politics has laid bare some desperate fissures in our society. Suddenly, the right has risen and they have taken the stage. I remember thinking that it was like some terrible contagion that was sweeping through the countries of the world, providing stark solutions to complicated issues. I noticed that the entertainment media was starting to see the shift and were making programmes that dealt with the eternal evil that the Nazis gave birth to. Lots of countries have elected rightwing populists to lead them with the U.S. standing out as the blueprint for future insanity. A certain Donald Trump is running things there and he is intent on taking that country to the brink of his own insanity and beyond. He moved from Coronavirus denier to the man who actually predicted its coming and warned the world of the horrors that it would sow. A greater fuckwit the world will find almost impossible to recreate. My fingers are perfectly crossed in the hope that the god of chaos will receive a dose of that which he foretold.
IT has come as a warning. IT has come as a reminder. IT has come as a wake-up call. It will have its moment and play out its narrative. Things fall apart and the centre cannot hold. The blood-dimmed tide is at hand and even though blood has been replaced with snot, lung squeezing mucus that strangles from within (and yes, it does feel biblical) promising some revelation, some final judgement may arrive upon where it all went so wrong. Or perhaps it is simpler than that. Perhaps our judgement has no reason. It is like the rapid death of a planet that is due to its inhabitants’s greed and disregard. All things have their time and all things must end, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. Shit happens and then it’s done.
Today will see me spending its entirety indoors, sans cycling. The weather is too cold to venture out and the wind is too chastening. I will sit and write and read and watch. I will eat and share words with my wife and daughters and cat. It is a time for quiet growth, for the inner to replace the outer self, for the soft tissue of birth to renew itself because everything is not going to be the same again.
I think that we are now part of some experiment that aims to prove whether or not we can change. I’m thinking about the polar bear trapped on a chunk of floating ice that is intent upon thawing. Soon, that creature will have nowhere to go as its world melts beneath it and plunges the beast into a cold tomb of water.
Since the crisis, it has been estimated that many thousands of lives have been saved through the lack of emissions being pumped into the atmosphere. Global warming has been put on hold, temporarily halted, and we can now breathe the air and smell the coffee. And, though sleeping, I can still hear that rough beast as it slouches towards the place where it will be born, and I am wondering if that which Yeats thought evil is not just a thing of nature, and a thing that is intent upon bringing about redress.
The government is warning that the lockdown could continue for longer. At first it was meant to last until early April, but now it seems that that was overly optimistic or just sugaring the situation to enable the real pill to be swallowed. We’ll be locked up for longer, viewing the world from screens and windows, and each day, though safe, we know that there is a killer prowling the streets; it is not safe. And no matter how many times the message is repeated, Stay Safe is a ribbon of hope being blown in a gale.
The amygdala knows this and is preparing itself to fight or flee. This little beauty hides itself deep within our brain and has been responsible for keeping us safe for millennia. It’s a prehistoric warning system and one that has now been shaken back to life. It perceives anger, fear and sadness whilst also controlling our aggression. How is it, then, that this little piece of organic software has kept itself hidden from me until now? Perhaps it is just one more reminder that humans always think they know but don’t. If the virus could creep up on us and catch us with our global pants down, the amygdala function is the bolt on the bathroom door. And that is why most of us lock the toilet door even when the house is empty. The world is not as boring or safe as we were leading ourselves to think. If we scratch the surface, whole other worlds appear and a rabbit or wormhole can lead us there.
To die, to sleep – to sleep perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come…
PS: I also mowed the lawn.
Thank you for sticking with the ramblings…