Resource: Edward Abbey’s « Desert Solitaire, » chapter titled « The Heat of Noon: Rock and Tree and Cloud. »
« We need wilderness whether or not we ever set foot in it. We need a refuge even though we may never need to go there…We need the possibility of escape as surely as we need hope. »
We weren’t meant to live together like this, as sardines in a can. It brings out the worst in us. As I was writing my book about the goodness of people, I fought rage and disbelief at the impolite, ignorant and unkind actions of my fellow commuters on public transit. People didn’t hold doors, didn’t say hello before asking my order, seemed completely obtuse to the little acts of politeness and kindness that make living so closely together pleasant, or, at least, bearable. I struggled with how to reconcile these feelings of negativity and disappointment about the state of metropolitan humanity with what I was writing and concluded this: when we have space, both physically and mentally, we are our best selves. The people I met in the suburbs or in the country along my bike ride were so relaxed, open and friendly. They had the time, space and money to be at peace, present and kind. In the city, we are rushed, stressed, neglected, and very distracted. Unconsciously and unintentionally, we trample each other in our fight to survive. The smog, the crowds, the line-ups, the competition, the inadequacy of resources for all, the inequality in our faces. Modern societal infrastructure is not beneficial to our mental nor physical health. We need to spread out and get out. To the woods!
« We may need [the wilderness] someday not only as a refuge from excessive industrialism but also as a refuge from authoritarian government, from political oppression. »
Refuge, indeed. The wilderness is the pinnacle of social distancing. Living like sardines is what has enabled the COVID-19 virus to spread as quickly as it has. Not only do we need the sanctuary of forest to escape authoritarian government and political oppression, but also from the spread of disease. (However, since our education system only teaches us how to survive in cities, to be a cog in the machine, we don’t even know how to go off and live in the woods, even if we wanted to.)
« Yet history demonstrates that personal liberty is a rare and precious thing, that all societies tend toward the absolute until attack from without or collapse from within breaks up the social machine and makes freedom and innovation again possible. »
I am incredulous at how appropriate is to read these words at this time, amidst the growing pandemic of COVID-19. Personal liberty in society is precarious and limited, and this « attack from without » certainly is forcing us to recognize that. Had we each been living off in the woods somewhere, like the hermit Christopher Knight did (The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel), this pandemic would not exist.
« The city, which should be the symbol and center of civilization, can also be made to function as a concentration camp. »
Definitely food for thought. Let’s take a conspiracy theorists view of things, shall we? A concentration camp is a place where large numbers of people are deliberately imprisoned in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities, sometimes to provide forced labour or to await mass execution. » Well, with the closing of nearly everything, schools and all non-essential businesses, the forced labour possibility is looking pretty slim. At least, labour as we’ve known it. So that leaves mass execution. Sequestered in our populace cities, we are sitting ducks. But why? Population control? I am clearly not a clever conspiracy theorist, but I have a friend who is. He tells me that the whole virus is « the excuse for the vaccine that will alter our DNA forever. » The spread of the virus itself is scary enough. Conspiracy theories are scarier.
« Large masses of people are more easily manipulated and dominated than scattered individuals. »
Quite ironically, due to the threat of catching and spreading the Corona virus, I had to cancel my trip to the remotest known hiking trail where I would have lived alone in the woods for a week, the perfect self-isolation and quarantine possible. Large masses of people are also less likely to think for themselves and, more relevantly, are more easily susceptible to contagions!
« Of all the featherless beasts, only man, chained by his self-imposed slavery to the clock, denies the elemental fire and proceeds as best he can about his business, suffering quietly, martyr to his madness. Much to learn. »
By contrast, this featherless she-beast has chained herself to a self-imposed curriculum that feeds her elemental fire. And though I suffer from anxiety-induced paralysis that flourishes in large doses of unstructured time, the Corona Curriculum is helping me to go about my business, enjoying creativity and learning, quietly and at leisure. No fear, no distraction, no madness. Much to learn.