I wonder if this is what it felt like during the phoney war in 1939? A period of almost surrealistic calm before the horrors of world War II really began.
I have to report that my own life has not so far been negatively affected – quite the reverse. The cool spring sunshine has been wonderful and each day I have been on a walk with my wife (and sometimes our son) on the glorious empty footpaths crisscrossing the gentle agricultural countryside around our cottage.
Life is frugal although adequate. We are certainly not short of food or anything else and it has been delightful to see so much of our 26 year old investment banking son, who is working from home. Discussing the odd M&A deal, sometimes late into the night, with the US or elsewhere.
I am half tempted to volunteer for something although I can’t quite think what. Agriculture appeals but at my age I’m not sure I’m really up to picking “stuff” from the fields. I wonder if I could drive a tractor? Or, god forbid, an ambulance if that ever became necessary. I would have been happy toddling around in an ambulance in WWII but I’m afraid I would never have held a gun.
Obviously we are not seeing anyone, even my sister and her family who live just down the lane. Social distancing seems vital and if we do meet anyone on our walks, we dash into the middle of the field and off the footpath.
So, selfishly, we are loving the isolation and the sense of utter peace and calm. The country lanes are empty and we are not going to the shops: I have no intention of facing an undignified struggle over the last roll of lavatory paper or bag of flour.
Who knows how this crisis will end. I hear dark things from those around me. A young nephew in the Guards has been leading his men in transporting dead bodies around our capital. The army is standing by in case of civil unrest. Looting perhaps, rioting. Taking it out on the underdogs? Blaming immigrants, Jews (as usual) or some other scapegoat for their fears and anxiety. I hope it does not come to pass but who knows, in the dark days ahead.
Personally I feel philosophical, resigned. To my own death at least, should my time have come, but not to those of any others. It feels like living on the edge, at the back of beyond. The aliens have landed and we are waiting for them to incinerate us with laser guns or whatever super weaponry those guys possess.
But it is also a time of great calm and reflection, for me at least in my privileged middle class bubble. As a retired old nutter in his cottage by the sea. Others are not so lucky. The wife of an old friend is severely ill in hospital. A family we know of depends on the Edinburgh Festival for most of their year’s income; it has been cancelled. A nephew runs a pub in Dover, which has been closed down for the duration.
I have not been reading much lately, but if I had, I would have avoided John Steinbeck:
In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.
What a time to reflect. What a time to consider my own behavior and to hope for a better future for our world. But I am afraid that is unlikely.
Just as in WWII, the profiteers and sharks are making hay while the sun shines. The massive government stimulation and rescue package is and will continue to be preyed upon by those for whom it was never intended. I have heard tales of unscrupulous business men buying up companies just to claim government handouts and a sister in law has been “furloughed” by her unscrupulous school.
Why does the human race insist on taking the piss at times like these? My sister in law has a contract and her school has its fees paid up until the end of the summer. And yet in an outrageous and flagrant abuse of their civil duties, they are laying people off so that the Government has to pick up 80% of the salaries. Why do humans behave like this?
As for me, I am guilty to report that I have never felt better and rarely enjoyed my life as much. I am walking, sitting in the garden and toying with a computer driven algo to trade penny stocks on the US markets.
I don’t really think there is much else I could do in reality. I am a people unfriendly, aging male of uncertain temperament and I really don’t think I would be of much use to anyone. Although of course I will certainly pitch in if the need and opportunity really does arise.
I have self-quarantined myself at home, working on my algos, reading, working out, practicing guitar. It’s a good life to be honest.
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It seems to me, because many of us are being forced by circumstances to disengage from our normal routines and to distance ourselves from each other, that those who have already been practicing activities and exercising philosophical or contemplative muscles in a regular regimen of periodic solitude or isolation of sorts are better prepared for the necessity, and those who are not so practiced and have relied predominantly on the relentless waves of activity which avoid thoughtful reflection are struggling to cope. The general activities of the modern world do not emphasize quiet contemplation in the main, and solitude seems often to be considered disadvantageous rather than a necessary part of a balanced approach to life.
Forced to disengage, many are ill-prepared to deal with the socially-oriented deficits inherent in the required distancing, but perhaps, now such attention to these necessities will prompt some to reconsider these important abilities. It may also result in a much greater appreciation of face-to-face encounters and actual person-to-person conversations and interactions. One can only hope that some good will come of it all.
I am greatly encouraged by the many stories of the heroic efforts of our medical professionals and all those on the front lines of this crisis, as well as the evidence of cooperation between individuals and agencies to assist those in need. Those who would take advantage or act irresponsibly may seem to be out there more than they actually are due to an imbalance in the negatively-oriented reporting sources, but we cannot allow their actions more sway than they deserve.
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John, I have been thinking about what you have said for quite a while. I think some of what you said probably inspired the musings in my later post “Glimpses of Truth”. You are probably right about the bad guys getting all the press, nevertheless it is happening and it does not surprise me. The more positive note, as you have rightly pointed out, is all the good and selfless actions which are emerging during this crisis from health workers and every section of society.
I suddenly realized more forcibly than usual yesterday that there is little point or merit in complaining about the state of our society. It is what it is. And I was struck very forcibly that the only way to respond is by quiet reflection and internal change, not great outward efforts or dystopian societal upheavals. Peace will only come individual by individual. Awaking can only occur on a person by person basis. But happen it will. In the fullness of time.
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I’ve been on a life quarantine for 9mo before coronavirus forced us all inside, yet I am struggling, with what is called “anticipatory grief” apparently. I am glad to hear that you are well and read your take on what is going on.
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