Random thoughts on thoughtlessness.

It’s been a year. Read that with any intonation you want and that’s how I meant it. The year has been a dreamscape, a random series of interconnected randomness. Of snippets. Memory and memories. The relentlessness of time and also its absence. A year of lack and, if you’re one of the lucky ones, of great love. Though I don’t assume anyone’s luck or good health or happiness. It’s not the right time for that. Not yet.

Last year, around this time, the world started to figure out what was up and how vast it was. We were staring to realize this was more than some bat droppings around a food market in central China. That what was a tiny creature that was going to shit on everyone’s bed. It did. And it continues to do so.

The past few weeks have felt almost without thought (hence the silence). What is it like to live without really thinking? Is it living anymore? Can we live without thought? You might ask yourself if my mind is simply empty and that would be a question and I wouldn’t have a satisfying response.

I think my mind is better described as thoughtless, if one can spin that word out of its negative connotations and look at it literally. It just is. There’s nothing deep going on. It floats. It exists by not doing what it exists for. Mindless. Thoughtless. Words. Really. Do words matter when most of us are stuck inside? When the idea of the world is just that? When there is no difference between the real world and, say, television? I mean, is there?

It’s entirely possible that the majority of my thoughts revolve around dinner. Do I have the ingredients to make what I might want to make? What’s in my fridge and pantry? What do I feel like making? How long do I want to spend making it? Should we pick something up/order in? Am I one ingredient shy and is that ingredient found within a few blocks of my house (it usually is)? To give you an idea: the food notebook in our shared online folder now contains more than 1,400 recipes. That’s a lot of thinking about food and it takes up a large part of my day. The other parts are spent thinking about the book I’m writing (I won’t bore you with my writing process but I didn’t plan this one out and I hit a snag and I let that snag drag on but then I read another writer’s thoughts on making it through this exact moment and something in it spoke to me and so yesterday I wrote a single sentence and I’m ready to continue with the thing now and see where it goes), and also trying to read (difficult, see “thoughtlessness” above, which also implies a sorry lack of concentration) and then maybe watching something (because passive entertainment is really the easiest entertainment). Oh, coffee. I go out for coffee sometimes to see friends. Or, you know, people. Just to be surrounded by other humans. To see other faces. To confirm the existence of strangers.

This is the year. It’s been something. Two million dead from this thing around the world. Over half a million in the US. Over 20,000 in Canada. Ten thousand in Quebec. Some 4,500 on the island of Montreal. Then the economy, which is a shambles. For almost everyone. Then the impacts of this, which will be felt for years. A global baby bust, which, frankly, isn’t a bad thing in the overall scheme of things, but it will be felt. Schools will feel it. Society overall will feel it. Will these children, born during the plague, in lesser numbers, be called Covid Babies? Will there be a stigma attached? Imagine their schools, their grade 10% smaller. Always and forever. (I would insert a Gen X joke here but I’m trying to be serious, but yes, kids from 2020 will be GenX v.2, but only one year that we can tell so far, and they will have earned their cynicism and enmity as opposed to my generation which, whatever, we don’t give a shit, you know?)

For those who say they can’t wait to get back to normal, what normal are you talking about? There is no normal. We’ve learned things about our systems: financial, health, education, and we need to figure out how to make them work better for more people. There will be more plagues, perhaps more often, and we need to deal with that as well. There’s a lot of work to do. And a lot of thinking. Thoughtlessness is a luxury. Nothing more.

I’m reading: The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson and it is both cautionary and hopeful at once. Also Man V Nature by Diane Cook.

I’m listening to: a lot of Mogwai. Who finally have a number one record, which could only have happened during the plague. Not just the new one, but their recent soundtracks for Zero, Zero, Zero and Kin. I’ve been listening to a lot of soundtracks recently. This says something I’m just not sure what.

I’m watching: what am I NOT watching is the question, but WandaVision has made me, no, forced me, to revisit the Marvel Cinematic Universe and watch the movies I skipped because they looked…stupid. The MCU is proof, and an obvious one at that, of the power of myth, of the power of origin stories, of storytelling where good battles evil and suffers but always wins because it must because if it doesn’t what’s the point? The MCU is every ancient myth, every story of gods (Thor, for example) and pseudo-gods (the rest of them) battling over little things, every culture’s backstory, squeezed and processed for our age but still universal and eternal. These are stories that we’ve always told, that sustained the ancient Aryans, Greeks, Egyptians. They are multi-million-dollar spectacles, a new form of the theatron. Also: Snowpiercer. And alas, the meltdown on an Icelandic gameshow. I watched that a lot. I think that snippet is all of us. We are the dude having the meltdown. But we are also the other contestants on the show. And the host. And the audience. All of us are all of them.

Stuff that caught my eye:

New tech inspired by a shrimp.

Philosophers debating, again, the animal nature of humans (this feels like a no brainer but I remember one philosophy class way back where we had to debate the chairness of a chair, so… philosophers like to talk).

Dressing up or down during a pandemic. This led me to discover the use of the term “hard-pants” which is, essentially, anything that isn’t a sweatpant.

Plastic. Always plastic. We’re drowning in it and we’re going to drown in it more and more.

Why the plague hasn’t hit every country in the same way. Sure, politics plays a huge role here, but something else is going on. Probably.

Reaching out to bullies years later only to discover the bullies were unhappier than you were. Which makes sense on every level but I suppose it’s good to hear.

If you grow a brain in a lab, does it develop consciousness? And if does, then what?

Nuclear energy. Is it a real problem or does it simply have a branding problem? Is it something we need to help cut emissions or should we junk the technology and aim for something else?

This story about Xinjiang haunted me. As did this, also from China, for a completely different reason. Both feel completely and thoroughly dystopian.

I’m pretty sure this is the funniest thing I’ve read in a long while. It’s about a thing made for the purposes of stuffing a banana. I didn’t make that up. I’m not sure that I could.

Also this:

And animal dicks. Which are always fun. What’s not fun is what plastic is doing to our sperm. And quickly. It’s entirely possible that our extinction will not come from something sudden (like a bomb) but from something gradual and seemingly benign. Like plastic. Fuck plastic.

But last week I was also riveted by the Mars landing. The sheer beauty of it. Only to be reminded that Mars isn’t beautiful. It’s hell. Though, for now, free of the plague.

Writer. Complainer. I drink bourbon. I have edited media, worked in content and branding and strategy, and chances are I’ll do those things again. @arjunbasu

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