It is a random universe to which we must bring meaning
I wonder if Amazon and Alcoholics Anonymous and weight loss clinics are primed to be the accidental beneficiaries of this pandemic?
For, inactivity seems to breed consumption. Not, ironically, the infectious bacterial disease that mainly affects the lungs, with symptoms including coughing, weight loss, night sweats and fever, better known as tuberculosis. No, consumption as in, online shopping, hoarding, watching, drinking, drug taking, over- and under-eating etc. etc.
A few weeks ago a client of mine came to see me for a massage treatment. She's a professional and a bit of a go-getter. Trains everyday. Very health conscious. A regular 30 year old married woman, ambitious and with a very full life.
She had been working from home for a few weeks at the time of her massage appointment, due to her department's coronavirus OH&S policy. She came in for a massage even with the then widely mediated risks of exposure and pre-lock-down. Her physical discomfort was greater than her fear of the virus, at that stage, I guess. She was stressed and anxious and physically tense, partly due to the corona and elderly parents related worries. But I also think it was due to the unfamiliar experience of working from home, and of the related impacts. Particularly the experience of having so much 'empty' time to herself. She admitted that ‘working from home’ meant not doing much work at all, and Netflix being her constant companion.
She told me that her and her husband had been drinking a lot more than usual. Their ‘usual’ being only socially when going out with friends and occasionally at home. Now they were drinking during the day and night, she acknowledged with a lighthearted admission. She wasn't worried about her alcohol consumption. It wasn't an issue for them. But she was intrigued by her observation. As was I.
I would think that for some people, all of a sudden losing one’s usual structure and routine and being forced to stay home significantly more than usual could have some undesired symptoms or exacerbate existing behaviours.
I know for me, I can eat more than I need to in moments of anxiety or restlessness or purposelessness or powerlessness. Or spend time consuming junk, sometimes in the form of junk food, but also in the form of internet media—tv shows, inane but captivating click bait of all kinds—for hours at a time. Or interacting with the spiritual void of other social media to while away my feelings (I have recovered from many of my other more and less destructive vices). But these behaviours are not conducive to my mental health or a healthy disposition generally for me. Nor is it how I want to live my life.
Addiction is a human affliction, not just one affecting the ‘alcoholic’ or ‘drug addict’. Whether it's working or accumulating or exploiting or destroying or shopping or eating or not eating or ways of thinking or ways of seeing the world and treating others in it, this is modern humanity's vice.
‘One's destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things’, says Henry Miller on my Google home page’s daily quote today.
Yes! I like this. I am trying to view the current global situation brought on by the coronavirus and the lock-down as an opportunity to practice better stoicism and mindfulness and life altering and affirming changes. Rather than further entrench existing unhelpful, harmful or destructive ways of seeing, being and living.
I thought about this on my run this morning and started writing it while walking home through my local forest. I will usually listen to a podcast while running and then walk home in the tree and bird silence. The relative silence allows for harmony with my natural surroundings and things often become clear for me during this time. But today I ran in silence, no headphones or podcast and so I filled the space with meditation and contemplation.
During this coronavirus lock-down, of expanded space and time and lack of feeling productive (which I am relatively accustomed to anyway) I am trying to practice, to the best of my ability...which isn't always great...the acceptance of minimalism and just being with myself with minimal head noise. It is a time ripe for anxiety and worry, of course, and I notice it creeping in every now and again. For which I try and just sit with and challenge and change my beliefs. I am fairly practiced at living my life quite sparsely and simply. In fact, not much has had to change for me really, except work has had to come to a halt.
So, I am attempting the above practice rather than continually attempting to fill and occupy myself with too much distraction and mind and emotion numbing things. Well more so than usual anyhow. Instead, I am doing my best to fill the time with consuming consciously and still being physically active as best I can. I hope to come out of this economic and social shutdown a greater force of composure and stoicism, with greater acceptance and ability to accept whatever just is, to be less of a problem to my surroundings and more of a solution. I think this is an unprecedented opportunity for us to reset: to reset the economy, our social and environmental conduct, and our own personal mindspace.
I hope this massive event doesn't just pass by without touching people and government and society and the world and me in a positively transformative way, and not just in a negative or cynical way. I hope that it doesn't just exacerbate people’s dark, but brings clarity and light too. This virus may be the product of unfortunate circumstances, a chance occurrence with no inherent meaning, intent or purpose. But I like what Sheldon Kopp says: ‘It is a random universe to which we bring meaning’.