Learning To Live On Planet Earth

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A photo of Yosemite found on Facebook

Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to “normality”, trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality. Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it. — Arundhati Roy

I can easily relate to this idea of letting go of excess baggage and traveling light because that’s exactly my story. In the twenty-something years of restoring a ten thousand square foot house in France, we used a third of that space to store stuff that we stopped using and forgot about. Letting go of that stuff was easy. But I realize now we tried to hold onto far too much when we left there. Our pared down life now could never find room for all the stuff we put into storage. Even the books and paintings would swamp our little apartment in Mexico.

It was interesting being rich. We created a lot of beauty, a stage set of impressive beauty. We imagine villagers asking, after we departed, “Who was that masked couple?” The village came up in the world because of what we did. We put it on the map.

And then the bottom fell out. Adjustments are in order. We joined the genteel poor. It’s a good life.

When everything collapsed, we went through a period of disorientation and then grief for what we lost. We tried to hold on as piece after piece of our life fell into the void. We came to this life in Mexico by degrees, learning to live simply and see the beauty in doing so. We are learning to see the abundant gifts we are given each day. People are incredibly kind here.

At this point it would be a major adjustment to be thrown back into the old life we had just a few years ago. I’m not sure my legs could run up those three flights of stairs without lots of rest-stops.

We’ve changed. The world has changed, and it continues changing at warp speed. That was a life we loved and it was crammed with beauty, and we had a hard time letting it go. But let it go we must, else we’ll never create anew.

Lots of people in the first world feel that way about the perks of the lifestyle that is now falling about their ears. The problem with that lifestyle, which is built on privilege, is that so many other people suffer to keep it going. Nature itself suffered.

I must admit it’s a little extreme to offer up your elders as appropriate sacrifices to the market gods, but I think it’s pretty natural to get attached to that so-called normal style of living. And yet, it was doomed. Nature itself was destined to expire if things continued in that direction.

It looks like a global upheaval for the whole human race. No one will be able to hold on to the old life, but as much as we miss it, it was a cruel way of life for millions. It’s up to us to imagine a better and kinder way.

As soon as we stop grasping onto what we had, we can start to create a world where all forms of life can thrive.

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

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