(1) I was living communally with a bunch of people in a kind of tunnel with branching rooms, and I was trying to set up a plan for how we were going to deal with an (inevitable) covid-19 outbreak except everyone was ignoring me! And then one of the people I was living with announced he had a fever, and I thought, This is it…
(2) I ran into an acquaintance with whom I have significant Past History. He used to be a middlingly famous SF Bay Area newspaper columnist, but when he retired, he gave up writing and sank out of sight. When I ran into him, my acquaintance was dressed like a woman. Painted nails, this immensely unflattering gauzy dress, bright red lipstick above his beard. Not so much transitioning as Tiresias. And I thought, Huh! So that’s why he dropped out of sight!
What I’m thinking now is that this is actually the norm.
And what we were experiencing for the last 65 years or so, that rosy interval when antibiotics and Salk’s polio vaccine were promising to vanquish Disease with a Capital D, was actually the bubble.
If that’s the case, then I certainly was lucky to have lived the majority of this lifetime within that bubble.
A couple of years ago, I tried to read Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
I failed because I’m just not smart enough.
But I read enough book reviews to understand Piketty’s central thesis—which is that the “middle class” is actually an anomaly. A kind of weird blip in the redistribution of capital that followed the Industrial Revolution. When the rate of return on capital is greater than the rate of economic growth—which it almost always is—wealth is always gonna be concentrated in the hands of the very few.
So, the ever-widening gulf between the very rich and the rest of us is also a norm from which I was blissfully safeguarded throughout most of this lifetime.
I lived a protected life!
Protected lives are lives in which deviations from the norm are freer to propagate. The latter half of the 20th century gave us everything from biker gangs to communes, from the self-help industry to space travel. Thinking outside the box became a strength.
But a protected life is not the norm. Thus, thinking outside the box will no longer be tolerated.
What else? I can’t say I’m feeling any better psychologically.
Mustering a positive attitude is always the best strategy though, so I’m trying to kick myself back into gear.
Keep it light!
Keep it very, very light.
I want to have Deep and Meaningful conversations about it—whatever it is— but everyone else I know is determined to keep it light, too. Either as a matter of strategy or because they don’t feel psychologically bent out of shape. Who can tell the difference at this point?
Here’s another Art Photo taken by someone who is Not Me. A neighborhood in San Francisco that I once knew very, very well; the intersection of OMG and WTF on one of those long, long alphabet avenues that lead down to the beach: