Reflections from a home front: 17
We’re in a strange place right now. We’ve left lockdown behind, and everyone’s talking about the ‘new normal’. But who actually feels that this can, or should, be called ‘normal’? The restrictions are helping to combat the virus – that much must be attempted – but at the same time they deal cruel blows to the economy, society, and our psychological state. Much has been made of the first two, because they are manifest and reasonably measurable. The third may be less easily measured but it’s where there really is something like a ‘normal’ that’s being disrupted.
The current restrictions strike at the heart of the dispositions and behaviours that make us human: physical proximity of family and social groups, non-verbal facial and bodily communication, or physical touch. All small, simple things, but all vital for human flourishing. At the same time, the feelings of anxiety and suspicion created by the existence of the disease affect not only our individual mental state, but our state’s mentality. I was fascinated to read about some research that indicates cultures which have historically suffered from high levels of infectious diseases are less extroverted, exhibit higher levels of social conformity, use less physical contact and like to keep further apart.
What with that and all the uncertainty, it’s no wonder many of us are feeling discombobulated. Stuck in a revolving door, between flashes of the dark interior we’re trying to leave and the light of the world outside, we could be ejected either way – or keep going round. I’m not sure today’s poem is going to help hugely with that, either, except in that recognition is a solid first step to recovery. I’ll try for something a little more uplifting next time. As ever, there’s the option to listen or read.
Down the narrow path we go,
Negotiating friend and faux.
The quickstep and the smile – or scowl
For each unbudging so-and-so.
It looks absurd, a strange dumbshow,
But life and death for all we know.
We scrub our hands until they glow.
Deliveries all undergo
Rapid disinfection, or
In quarantine they take it slow.
Contamination doesn’t show.
But play it safe; you never know.
Outside the store, the strung-out row
Shuffles forward, toe-by-toe,
Till waved to join the masquerade,
Inside, where stocks may still run low.
We’d always hoped, but now we know
We’ll pull as one when storm clouds show.
And always the continuo
On internet and radio,
The vital signs from every place –
The curve, the R, the ratio –
Every slide and every show,
Ensuring that we’re in the know.
I click to join. But is it you?
Onto the screen the digits throw
A patch of light just like your face
And trace your voice in stereo.
And yet, somehow, you fail to show.
But such is what we’ve come to know.
Such is what we’ve come to know
In this, our new reality show.
And yet beyond this present known.
We’ll seek the life we need to own.