One of my favorite fiction quotes is Hamlet saying, “I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite space.” (He goes on to add, “were it not that I have bad dreams,” which, if you know the story, was a definite problem for him.) The quote has a special poignancy these days now that we’re all bounded up in our own nut shells (and trying to avoid going nuts).
There have been some unexpected upsides and down sides. Air pollution is down (an upside); reports of domestic abuse are up (a downside). Streets are cleaner, city rats are starving. Bears and wolves are roaming freely in national parks while we cower in our caves.
What changes will stick with us? How different will our future be than we might have expected (assuming we survive this)?
There are so many questions, large and small. Will working from home become the new normal? Will the office dress code finally become entirely a thing of the past?
The idea of traveling to another city for a one-day meeting may become a thing of the past. Along with it, an industry of airport hotels and medium-sized conference rooms (and supporting infrastructure).
A scare like this might have a long-term effect on the travel and vacation industry — certainly on the cruise line industry. The image of being trapped on a ship in trouble, already becoming a thing, may stick with us.
Will education be another Big Change? Will there be a big shift towards keeping our children more isolated or in smaller groups? The education system does suffer from a large teacher/student ratio.
Will this be another body blow to the whole idea of brick-and-mortar stores as online ordering and delivery infrastructure rises to this occasion? Will some restaurants become take-out only (or mostly)?
Or, as I suspect, once this passes (and we’ve become inured to the whole thing), will we flock to restaurants, bars, and show venues, to celebrate our regained freedom? The people behind these things will have income to recover. A lot of people may tour in 2021.
The other possibility is that, unless this really blows up and decimates the population, once it dies down we forget and go on with life (with the new normal, anyway). Our modern culture, with its constant flow of information, tends to push today downriver pretty quickly.
(Remember when we Impeached the President? Remember when we elected him? Remember Obama? Remember either Bush? The vanishing point of our memories these days isn’t far behind us.)
I don’t have a point today, just random thoughts from my nut shell. As I said, I’ve long liked that quote, and it’s certainly been running through my head these days.
This is a time of living with ourselves and with our family. We do have the distraction of the internet, which lets us connect with other nuts in other nut shells.
But being required to be with your family over a long period of time has turned out to be a challenge for some. One of the more dismaying pieces of news is that domestic abuse reports are up.
I read an article in The Atlantic titled “We’re Finding Out How Small Our Lives Really Are”. The subtitle is “No new friends. No new plans. Where is there to go in isolation but backwards and inward?” (With titles like that, you almost don’t need to read the article.)
Part of the author’s point is that we are a culture that constantly seeks the new. In fact, in an era when material success is no longer the given it once was (good-bye American Pie), having new experiences has become the new coin of the realm.
A great deal of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and so forth, is sharing and bragging about one’s new experiences. Selfie from your couch, almost no value. Selfie from an amazeballs place, now we’re talking.
Being stuck inside poses a problem, no matter how good your internet connection is. All one really has now is FOMO.
In Psychology Today, an article suggests that this is “Generation Z’s Worst Nightmare: A Real Reason to Panic”. (The subtitle here is “The COVID-19 crisis could be good for the most anxious generation in history.” Again one can pretty much glean most of content from the titles.)
One reason the generation suffers so much anxiety may lie in that they grew up in a post-9/11 world, with all that implies and brings with it. For example, to them airports are very different places than the airports I recall.
There is also the loss of the American Dream I mentioned above. The latest generations are the first ones in the USA that can’t expect to do better than their parents if they simply apply themselves. The “Land of Opportunity” isn’t so much anymore.
And, talk about standing on giant shoulders, that generation is on top of a generation that grew up with nuclear power and all that implies.
In any event, I can appreciate what it must be like for them to inherit the modern world. No wonder they’re anxious and upset. On top of all that, now they really have something to worry about.
Hamlet and his nut shell. I like the quote because I identify with it. I have always been very self-occupied — my inner life is rich and full. Always lots of hobbies and projects. My reading list is endless. I thrive on being alone.
(I’m a classic introvert: being alone energizes me; being in company drains me. Extroverts work the opposite. It’s really not about being shy or needing, or not needing, people.)
But having to be alone makes it weird somehow. Now that I’m not supposed to go out, I want to (I’m also a classic contrarian, although I like to dignify it as “devil’s advocate”).
It felt vaguely wicked visiting a friend last week (it was an essential visit!), and even slightly wrong to visit the grocery store (even if only every two weeks; time to look into online groceries, another possible long-term change).
I’m definitely looking forward to a little normality in that sense.
And I’m really missing baseball.
We’re going to find out how fragile our world is in many areas. What industries depended on business as usual?
We’re also finding out a thing or two about ourselves during this confinement. Isaac Newton self-isolated during the Great Plague, and look what he accomplished!
Stay nuts, my friends!