Today, I did a consultation (outside, in the fresh open air, and while keeping CDC recommended distance requirements, mind you) with someone who had written not one, but TWO books on a very niche, and rather obscure and unusual subject matter she was passionate about. Meeting people like that makes me so happy! My beloved and I had just had a conversation about how all this Corona downtime we are experiencing is such a golden opportunity to pursue something we’ve always wanted to do but not had time for. This led down another rabbit hole; how getting an education used to be about just that; broadening your intellect, expanding your horizons, pushing your presumptions, and testing your tolerance limits. In short, it used to be about making you a well-rounded person and a valued, engaged, compassionate citizen.
We mused about how, as kids, we were allowed to roam free, and had plenty of downtime to ponder, fantasize, create, and imagine – or do nothing. We compared this to the contemporary norm as we raised our own kids. We weren’t as bad as some other families around us, where kids were scheduled and carted around from morning to night, gaining exposure to myriad activities considered “useful”, with the end goal of eventually getting admitted to a good college, which in turn would preferably result in a lucrative career. The question arose – do those experiencing less helicopter-free childhoods ever have a chance to figure out what it is they actually love to do? In today’s context – when faced with a pandemic lockdown and weeks of prescribed isolation, what do people do? Obviously, there are hours of distractions on Youtube, Netflix, Steam, and whatnot, but how many days can one handle of this mental feeding tube, before one goes stir crazy? Maybe I’m delusional, but I refuse to believe either curiosity or art, is dead.
We talked about the contemporary emphasis on that ‘on-track’ mentality, and how damaging that is to a resilient, developing society. Well rounded educations of years past were as much about art, music, history, and language as they were about more nebulous things like civic-mindedness, creativity, humanity, and compassion. Thinkers, philosophers, rebels and makers come out of that kind of environments. Today’s on-track grooming produces nice little mainstreamed cogs for an unquestioning, non-discerning society, where – despite hand-eye coordination being tracked from birth – too few know how to actually use their hands – or even their brains – in matters outside their particular training. Caught in the ever spinning rodent wheel they also have no time to get off, and learn how. So, all of a sudden, here is this gift from the Universe! Yes, it’s a pandemic that involves more death than most of us are comfortable with, but don’t you agree it can also be viewed as a lucky break of sorts? Suddenly, we have the immense luxury of time on our hands. A lot of time.
I sincerely hope that now that life has temporarily slowed down, folks will feel the gift aspect of the disaster – we now have the time to try something new, outside of our usual realm. Read that book, learn how to knit, build a model airplane, plant some seeds, draw, paint a picture, learn to skateboard or cook from a new cuisine, distinguish a chickadee call from that of a robin, or tell a pine from a spruce…. or whatever it is that interests us. Perhaps not the most crassly useful activities in terms of furthering the industrial complex, but awe-inspiring, and endlessly valuable in finding our worth and our humanity. And maybe, just maybe, this experience of facing potential, undiscriminating death will collectively shift our thinking toward more humane ways of living, help us find meaning, and reassess what’s important in life, going forward. Maybe I’m wrong, but I would think – ideally – surviving a life-death situation would do that.
If you’re still with me – thanks for bearing with me this far – this was a lot. Stay safe, be well, and enjoy the free time you have. What am I doing? Tomorrow, I’m going to check on a metal retaining wall that is currently going in at a client’s house, and also bring her an Acer griseum to plant in front of it. This weeks photo will serve as a reminder that those involved in the landscaping industry are not as affected by the latest shelter-in-place order from the Governor’s office, as long as we adhere to the CDC guidelines. (Working in plein air certainly has its perks…) Besides that, I’m doing lots of gardening, of course – at home and at my little community garden plot. I also grabbed a few cookbooks – one Indian, one Peruvian, one on beans, and one on chili peppers. Will cook something new from one of them in the next few days. And, if the rains hold up, I will finish painting our garage. I’ve been going for walks, and I keep thinking I’m going to learn to paint with water colors, but that last thing is probably a delusion. If I haven’t sat down to learn to paint yet, I probably never will. How are you spending your days?