Thursday, April 16, 2020

Boundaries in the age of COVID: Part 3

Part 2
Part 1

It's all I can focus on these days, our little viral upheavaler.
Careful what you wish for.
I had wished for a sabbatical and I sure got one. 

So have we all.
When the world starts to spin into new and unfamiliar orbits the mind tries to cope.
Mine seems to be making its way carefully along a rock face, not able to either ascend or descend, just crawl sideways.
The places to grip are far apart but I can still reach them.
The places to put one's feet are likewise still reachable.
Rock climbing is not a sport of choice for someone like me, with short wingspan and Homer Simpson physique, but rock climbing seems to be a good metaphor for the moment.
And even moving only sideways along a metaphorical rock face feels better than not moving at all. 


As John Vervaeke would say, flow is what we all seem to strive for as humans, and relevance realization is one of those cognitive capacities that is more verb than noun. 

I spent most of last summer and fall watching his "Awakening from the Meaning Crisis" video series.
He used rock climbing as his metaphor for focus on relevance-seeking and realizing that results in achieving a flow state. The stakes are high: one wrong move results in obeying the law of gravity/death. But people do it because they love the feeling of flow.
I would argue that they are a bunch of crazy adrenaline addicts. But hey, it's not my place. 


He also discussed framing at great length. He would take his glasses off and said, here's the thing - you can look through these frames, which is like looking at life through all your own biases without even noticing them, or you can become aware of them (take them off) and examine them cooley and objectively. 

He would carefully point out how we can get so used to our cognitive biases that we literally cannot conceive of any other way of seeing the world around us: he would present the nine-dot problem, three lines of three dots in a grid, to be solved with four straight lines drawn through every dot. The only solution is to expand the field around the dot grid and draw outside the "box." 

I learned a ton from watching him explain how the mind/brain works. 
His real passion, however, seems to be to find a non-religious way of finding personal meaning in existence, human existence. Both his own and helping others to find theirs. 
He suspects that this is the basic human condition. He is steeped in philosophy and religion and not so much in politics; however, he knows what he doesn't like, and I found myself in agreement with most of that. For example he doesn't like how the 20th century unfolded with all its war and bloodshed or any of the philosophical trajectories that led to that. 
That's how I rock and roll too. 
Understanding what I don't like then either grey-rocking it or arguing against it. 

I soaked up a huge amount of history as a result, which led me to the Great Courses, where I watched a ton more video series on history and philosophy, all the kinds. Ancient world history. Roman Empire. Egyptian. Persian. Middle Eastern. Mongolian. European. Women in Middle Ages. China. Japan. Vietnam. Black Death. Russian. Soviet. All these and so much more. American history through about 5 different lenses.
The Great Courses is American, so there isn't any Canadian history to find. There is ancient history of the Americas, Aztec and so on, but nothing on how Mexico came to be. Just colonial history that reflects on how the US came into being. Of course. I mean, what's there is great, just not complete or inclusive. 

This is how the US and US culture is.
I do not blame it for being such - lordy knows it's a big cauldron with a lot of boiling problems and always has been.
Recently I've been watching Heather Cox Richardson's live videos on Facebook. She's amazing. Here is her video today. 

Today Trudeau talked about the relationship between the US and Canada and ever so statesmanesquely explained that a special friendship exists that is different from the one Canada has with all its other friends and etcetcetc. This was in response to a context in which yeterday trumple decided to halt funding to WHO.
If you can imagine.
At a time like this.


There is a video on Twitter today, Angela Merkel explaining ever so cogently why social distancing needs to be maintained. 
There couldn't be a better reason for continuing to vote for her as leader of the free world. She gets the math of it. 


Physical distancing

Yesterday I took my overflowing recycle baskets downstairs to empty them into the recycle bins.
Wouldn't you know it, there were two women who live in my building chatting in the foyer where the mail boxes are. They were talking as I left the elevator, and I quickly escaped into the parking garage without them trying to include me.
But dammit, they were still talking when I came back. I wanted to pick up my mail, which I had not picked up in literally days.
They sounded like they were winding up the conversation, so I waited in the parking lot. One of them came out of the foyer into the parking lot. I stood at least ten feet away from the door. I did not have a mask on. I had chosen to not put one on because the last 5 times I've recycled I had run into no one. Dang, my luck clearly had just run out.

So, woman number one and I exchange glances.

The back story here is that this is Weyburn for Pete'sake. People here loooooooove to visit with each other. They really do. They talk and talk and talk about absolutely NOTHing. Just to hear each other's voices and bask in the reciprocal attention, because it helps them feel real I guess.
I remember when I first moved back here a decade ago how it drove me nuts, people clogging up grocery store aisles, doing what they call "visiting," chatting, gossiping, talking their deepest thoughts about the weather or whatever while I, who had arrived from large anonymous city existence and was used to it, fumed to myself about how they were in my way and was I invisible or something? It felt like I had landed in a large swimming pool of peanut butter, the pace of life seemed so fking slow. 
I mean... I understand, and on the whole, a slow pace of life with a lot of personal social contact even if most of it is full of irrelevant gossip is not a bad thing, it's even therapeutic probably, but sheesh. 


So, these two women must have thoroughly enjoyed their recent chat. The one coming through the door was still all aglow from it - I gave her the look that said 'I'm social distancing' and she smiled warmly at me and announced to woman number two that "There is a lady out here waiting."
Dang! I wanted lady number two to not know I was here so she would move along and I could have the foyer to myself. But instead she stuck around! I had to decide if getting my mail was worth endangering myself with no mask on, and chance her talking to me. Stupidly I decided to take the risk and stepped into the foyer, walked past her. got my mail. Meanwhile we said hello to each other. I don't engage with my condo neighbours much, never have. But she held the elevator for me!

I said, you go ahead and I'll catch it later, but she said, no, we'll be fine if you stand in that corner and I stand in this corner.
Which wasn't true, because the elevator is only about 5 feet wide, not six.
So, dang. I had to make a new decision, made the second wrong decision of the day and got in the elevator.
The elevator in this building and the parking garage doors are both set to be veeeeeeeery slow to open and close. I'm told by the guy who is chair of the condo board that this was deliberate because people coming in to live in a condo after living on the farm all their lives found things too fast for their personal comfort so all the mechanisms had been slowed down to accommodate them.  

I was very aware of this and still, I overrode my own personal boundary to keep peace and remain socially acceptable and got in. Yes, I stood as far away as I could. Yes, I made minimal eye contact. She was chatty, I was yes/no.
But still, I could kick myself for succumbing in the moment to having been socially polite instead of personally defiant.
If it ever happens again, I'll do better.


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