The world was accelerating out of control
Nearly two weeks into the shutdown, with many more to go, and the biggest thing I see is how drastically the world has slowed down and how gracefully people are accepting the slow down. At least here in NY, where we are in the forefront of how bad things can and will get. If you are in an area where it has not hit hard yet, do all of us a favor and don’t underestimate this thing. Stay away from others.
The slowdown is a politician’s nightmare, especially in an election year. They want us frantic, unsure, fearful, and making snap decisions because of that fear. Instability is stability when you live by cultivating uncertainty. But when we all have time to re-evaluate, things have to change, regardless of your political biases.
Think about how we are consuming right now. We are not. I carried the same $23 cash in my wallet for a week before finally spending a few bucks when I saw some tp in a drug store during a walk. The only thing I’ve been buying is food and that is staples, not luxuries or snacks. Flour is sold out because people with time are trying baking, an exercise in patience. Bread gets better the longer you proof it as flavor and gluten develop. Humans are the same. We have space, for once, to develop different mental muscles.
Even if you have a busy home filled with kids trying to keep up with schoolwork, while you try to make a living, your day is broader. No commute. No running to sports events, happy hours, or picking up from daycare. I have seen young families walking together through the quiet city, a place they were unlikely to explore before. And the parks and hiking trails have hikers during weekdays.
I realize that for healthcare professionals and first responders, this is the opposite time, a time of endless hours in a scary environment dealing with scared people. When we talk about stimulus we need to be thinking about these people and what we can do for them when things begin to find a new normal. To give them an opportunity to experience this slow world.
When you think about it, our society is widely driven by impulses. Our marketing encourages impulse buying and the feeling that there is something we are missing out on just around the corner. Frantic memes last only days or even minutes and we are addicted to them, spreading them ourselves in small talk. But something like reading a book or even binge watching a tv show requires extended time and attention.
I’ve been writing a lot with meditation as my metaphor and I’m realizing it is because it is a mental slowdown that reflects this imposed slowdown. When the kids and parents are first stuck at home, fear of boredom sets in. But as time passes and our perception of it relaxes, we relax and regain a true attention span, one with focus over time. That is exactly what meditation does- it slows the mental chatter.
I’m curious about the future of this more introspective way of being in the world. Will it sustain as life social returns or will we go nuts? The talk of ending this pandemic by fiat to get the economy going is not only dangerous, it is a fantasy. We are learning that everything does not have to be resolved quickly so we can get ourselves into another emergency. If we can last a few weeks and lasting a few more weeks saves lives, is that too much to ask?
I think we needed to slow down. I wouldn’t have chosen such a painful route to make it happen but no one chose this. Nevertheless we are in a slow motion life right now, compared to the insanity we considered normal. Take a walk. Look at the plants coming up after the winter, look up at the sky, acknowledge others- we are all in this together and that’s a bond. Read that book you have been hearing about. Listen to a whole album like you did once when you had time. You’ve got it now whether you like it or not so make the most of it. Let the bread proof overnight in the fridge- it will be worth waiting for.