I woke up early today, like 7 am early, to go to the store when it would be less crowded; and thus splintered at least for a day my crooked pandemic sleep schedule. Couldn’t nap in the afternoon either – or not for very long, at least – and so there’s a thin band of beaten lead between my skull and my brain, and the back of my eyes feel like they have moss growing on them.
I went to the Giant Eagle in Streetsboro. All the staff wore masks, and most of the customers wore them too. But it seemed like there were more maskless people today than last time I was at the store, which made me worry that that the normalization process has begun to occur, that people are buying the asinine “Well Done” messaging from the media regarding this thing and starting to revert to way they used to live. Nothing is solved. Nothing is over. Nothing is defeated. But I get this sensation that this is the interpretation people are increasingly gravitating towards – maybe unconsciously.
Unconsciously, because the violence of the American metastructures have so conditioned us to react to any indication of normalcy from Trusted Sources (i.e. any entity endowed with Authority) with an immediate and programmatic return to the status quo.
There’s ongoing conversation about how things will be different because of the pandemic. The metastructures recycle this concept over and over again, both in grim and consolatory contexts. But that context is actually a ghost, it has no way of impacting or interacting with anything; what matters is that the idea of “returning” is gaining traction, and this is the only world lodging in peoples’ minds. It’s the high-sign, the activation word, slowly soaking into the collective unconscious and silently instigating a realignment, bringing things back to where they were before.
If this happens, there will be more deaths that could have been prevented; but the powers that be are hard at work removing the sting from the tail of death, so that people will accept it, as they’ve accepted a parade of atrocities since time immemorial. And tragic too is the very real possibility that America will learn nothing at all from this horror; that everything really will go on just as it was going on before COVID-19. Things will continue to move toward a final crystallization, where these apparatus of power and control that ruin us over and over again each time they touch us will be locked immovably into place and system will not be fixable to any degree in any sane amount of time.
It’s one of the manufacture privileges of the powerful to have an all-disclosing catalog of our weak spots, the better to press on them when they need to bring us to heel. One such weakness being leaned on right now is our undeniable hunger for the way things used to be. This yearning is an ongoing human condition; it was here before COVID, and will be here after (whatever ‘after’ looks like). But, before now, this yearning for the most part was personal: we yearned for something in our private past: somebody we used to love, some blue afternoon we were finally, simply happy. But with COVID we’re all plugged into the same wavelength of remorse, all living the same fantasy of Return. It’s a collective hunger now, manufactured outside of ourselves. This hunger, outside of ourselves and not susceptible to any internal laws we might have, is much harder to bear, and is indissoluble.
It’s the same thing with my OCD. Before COVID, it was always this grotesque architecture built around some fear that I developed and aggrandized internally: the weather, improbable cancers, family members dying of disease. But now it’s scaffolding around something Outside, a roaming threat in the real world; the main component of my fear is now a foreign element. So I can’t have the sometimes useful knowledge that it’s All in My Head.
Here’s how I might perceive our being in reality: We have our consciousness, which surrounds our soul. Consciousness is a permanent barrier between our soul and the outside world. The good part of life is finding ways to move through that barrier, so that the realest part of ourselves can touch the world we’re always otherwise just observing and it can touch us: making friends, falling in love, connecting with others, doing meaningful work.
When we fail to move our soul all the way out into the world, it occupies our consciousness. We put ourselves under the strain of that unblinking scrutiny. This scrutiny creates perceptions about ourselves: neuroses, fears.
When we fail to bring things from outside ourselves all the way in, they’re warped in the heavy atmosphere of our consciousness. They twist into all sorts of different, and differently false (but no less powerful for that), things. This is how we end up with acquaintances, or friends we don’t really trust, at some level don’t really love or understand. It’s how we think we’re in love with somebody, and let ourselves believe that for years, striving to protect something with no actual foundation in who we actually are.
Impressions of places, things, most simple memories of where we’ve been and what we’ve done: all of this, probably, resides in this consciousness-level of our being, which imbues them with easily exploitable qualities like nostalgia. That’s why we find it so easy to yearn – even in regular times – for things we hardly ever thought about before. Our consciousness is this weird magnifier: an artificer, a compulsive and maudlin fabricator.
(Though I say “we” throughout it’s only because I get sick of seeing “I, I, I, I, I” over and over again throughout an essay like this. You can choose whether to believe or disbelieve any element of this theory on your own. And it isn’t even a theory. It’s just a wavering idea, a draft of a draft of a draft, a slowly-unfogging conception, an infant.)