“The Initial Mystery that attends any journey is: how did the traveler reach his starting point in the first place?”
There’ve been big events worldwide and today I head to Miami for the first time in 11 months. Last time I was home, my experience in using the word “pandemic” had been when my debate partner and I negated the resolution “On balance, economic globalization benefits worldwide poverty reduction” at the Harvard Speech and Debate Tournament during the Boston Blizzard.
Five years later, when I was in Minneapolis, my father called me and said that COVID-19 will be bad and require we all make “very personal choices.” At a brewery stand up show, a comic I dated for a week joked that “anyone our age who gets coronavirus is a little bitch.”
At St. Patty’s Day darties nationwide, 20-somethings (myself included) drank green beer either oblivious or in denial of the lockdown that immediately followed.
Everyone in the US, other than perhaps the Amish, is privy to the following events: Lockdown and every day since.
The stock market crash, Black Lives Matter protests, the 2020 Presidential Election. In between, wildfires, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and exponential increase in Tik Tok influencers.
In the through line of this clusterfuck, I make the mistake and ponder: Who am I in all of this?
In March I thought I was important. Today I am no one.
Prior to COVID, the waking hours of our lives — or at least my life — were occupied and shaped by social priorities and expectations. From routine, to the types of media I consumed, I had ideas about myself. The activities I was preoccupied with in the weeks leading up to quarantine were vessels for these ideas.
In my (almost) year away from home and 11 months mid-way across the country, I learned that none of these ideas matter. I used to be very attached, infected, if you will. I’ve identified with different political and idealogical views; I’ve been preppy, I’ve been goth; I’ve had blonde hair, pink, red.
Neither a political leaning nor hair color are truths as to who I am. These ideas/moods are commotion.
See, one of the harder parts of solitude is to discern oneself from the rest of the world. In quarantine, I was challenged to relinquish ideas about myself.
I made it a point to investigate my tendencies, preferences, etc., and to distill my conceptions of these parts of my “self.” This is a trippy thing to do. There were times when I was frustrated because I could not articulate the minefield that is the human experience. It even damaged my ego when I could not evaluate or argue ideas well in language.
Part of what has made the global pandemic so painful for the collective is that we had the idea that we were important enough to not experience such an event. But this had to have been felt when the temples fell, during the Bubonic plague, and WWII. Nowhere is it written that we’re important enough to not experience such events, yet ideas have led us to feel otherwise.
I’m homeward bound and leave these ideas behind me. I encourage you to do the same; To ask yourself what about you is really true.
So, how did you (the traveler) get here in the first place?
Does it really matter?
How can you make it better?
These are the questions I’ve asked myself.
I realize what I’ve written is abstract. I hope that in reading this, you’re provoked. What I know to be true is that our will is our power; our ability to discern what we can and cannot control.
What I’ve tasked myself with, on this journey, is mindfully optimizing my actions, so that the butterfly effect of them (wherever in the universe) is optimized, too. Mindfulness itself has a domino effect. What this means for you, you’ll have to decide…
Right now the world seems chaotic and confused. No individual is free from the pain of the collective. But with each individual healing or enlightenment, the world can be a brighter place. It’s our job to mindfully exercise our will to be better, to bring the light.