“And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others. And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. but one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. that’s what this storm’s all about” — Haruki Murakami
We are collectively feeling a great deal of anxiety, uncertainty and depression that we have never experienced before, at least not in my lifetime. All this is new for me, and for most of us. It almost seems surreal to wake up every morning and everywhere we look, everything that appears on our phones (a text, a tweet, an article, a call from a loved one), is surrounded by these feelings. We can’t escape them.
I found myself dancing while waiting in line at the supermarket. I was enclosed in my one square meter border marked by a green piece of tape. It felt surreal to look around and see all the local shops closed. I thought about the people who already struggle to keep a business alive, and now, there seems to be little hope remaining due to the circumstances. The streets that were so busy, the plazas where people would gather and chat are now occupied by a few passerbys , making sure not to get too close, eyes filled with fear and paranoia.
I was dancing because I needed to get out. I needed to see people — not necessarily talk to them, but see some sort of life from the other side of the window.
All of this change arrived like a tsunami. One day, I was planning for a graduation show, imagining how my parents would react to my work. I wanted that day to arrive. To have my family near me and show them the life I’ve been living these past few years. To cook breakfast for them in my apartment. To rent some bikes and show them the city. I thought these plans could go differently than what I envisioned, but never this. And now, here I am, or here we are, balancing our way along a path, depraved of light and certainty, not really sure how to exist.
We are no longer students nor workers. I am doubting my choice of studying arts. While I love what I do and I could not see a life without it, I realize how selfish I have been. I, as a human being, am useless in this situation. My parents, who are doctors, are actively helping others. My mother’s main concern is not getting the virus, but potentially transmitting it to someone else. Although she is one step away from being sixty years old, she would rather get infected than infect others. I’ve heard her on the verge of crying because of all the limitations she has had to create around her work, denying consultation to people due to the risk of being exposed and exposing others. Saying no makes her cry, and there is nothing much she can do about it. Neither can I.
Who am I? Other than a person who followed what he loved?
And I’ll keep on doing it.
And I’ll find meaning in it someday.
Today I can’t stop thinking about how little this world needs me. How my way of helping is by doing absolutely nothing. How the gears that keep this absurd world moving are far from my reach. Instead, we trust a group of people who still have to go out and expose themselves in order to do their part so the world doesn’t collapse on us.
Every day, a group of people who leave home healthy — the garbage collectors, nurses, doctors, researchers, supermarket employees, pharmacists, police officers, firefighters, bus drivers, — might come back infected. A group of people who I haven’t seen complain. I’ve seen more people complain online about the depression of being trapped. I understand it, and I feel it, but I had to step away from the internet and how this virus has become one more trend to those unaffected, to us privileged enough to have a roof and food (for now). It feels almost like an insult to the hundreds of thousands whose lives have become a living hell, the thousands who die on a daily basis, isolated from their loved ones, for everyone sharing a hospital room with many other, and their families incapable of doing much more than being hopeful.
I am deeply grateful for all of those who carry the heavy weight for us, the hindrance.
And then there are the homeless, the mentally unstable, the drug users who can’t quite grasp what is happening. Those who truly are unprotected, already fighting the cold, rain, and starvation, now have to deal with this situation.
I find myself reading article after article on how to get help from the government, desperately trying to see if I can qualify for some sort of financial help. It feels like begging. I don’t like, not even a little, to ask for money, especially from the government. But it seems like I have to.
Everything changes on a daily basis, I’m not sure where I’ll be in a few days or even tomorrow.
Our realities have been shaken to the ground, and it’s hard not to make this thing about ourselves. How angry we get because our work is not going to be viewed by a group of people who will most likely forget about it. How frustrated we are because our futures were disturbed by a few months, maybe years.
It’s easy to get angry for not being able to continue the way we thought we might.
It’s easy to envy the people who we see through their windows, sitting at their tables, working from home. I wish I was them. But maybe the man who collects cans and bottles every day at 10:30 am looks up at my window and envies my cup of coffee and the book I’m reading.
And so here we are, wishing we had someone else’s life, while someone else wished they had ours.
It’s hard to be optimistic about all this. I doubt society will just go “back to normal” — a comfortable “normal”. So I’ve been trying to think about all the positive impact the virus brought with it. Of course, from our human perspective, it is hard to imagine it, and much harder to see it. And we might not be able to rationalize it. What comes to my mind is what Alan Watts often said about nature: “What is chaos at one level is balance at another level.” He often uses the example of cells fighting and consuming each other — it seems like total chaos on one level , but for us, as humans, it represents the balance in our bodies.
Now, we happen to be the cells that are being eaten up. Now we are all in this chaos, and it will probably get worse for us, while it simultaneously gets better from a different perspective.
I concluded the best thing I can do is to accept the change, whatever it might be. Embrace it, and know that as time goes by, regardless of what feelings of anxiety and depression we face, it cannot persist forever. It may be a few weeks, or months, but the counterpart will come, slowly. One day soon, we will find ourselves sitting on a park bench, maybe surrounded by familiar faces or new languages. Maybe we’ll be listening to the ocean, or the business of a new neon city. Maybe it will be the sound of bells attached to a cow, or a street vendor advertising their street food. We will be there, and all this chaos will come to mind, and we will be grateful to have passed collectively through that storm. We might not feel as helpless as we do today, we might not be as depressed, for we have learned the most valuable lessons. The importance of a hug, the excitement of a kiss, or the touch of a hand. Once we are given that freedom again, maybe we’ll understand that paradise is not built from gold and excessive material pleasures. Maybe, just maybe, paradise is as simple as being able to hold someone’s hand while sitting on a cramped public bus that moves somewhere. Wherever it wants to go, it doesn’t matter, because we are able to hold someone again.
It was midnight and I was cooking pasta. I forgot to open the window to let the steam out. Looking through the condensation, it changed my perspective from my window — how what I saw was not really what was outside, how the transparent is not always clear. So I thought about perspectives, and wrote what crossed my mind and photographed what I felt.