The Hedgehog’s Hot Summer.

hedge-hog-fight-768Many of we humans that litter the planet aren’t used to this concept of ‘social distancing’. It will be tough for many; for people like me it is amazingly easy as we have been doing it for some time, for varying individual reasons.

You know us. Barely.

At best, you know us as well as we want you to know us, at worst, you don’t know us well enough to allow us to associate with you. And now, here you are, at home, working from home… if you have others at home, the rest of this may not benefit you. Or maybe it will. I don’t know.

There’s this guy – Arthur Schopenhauer – he died in 1860, long before I could meet him. He wrote about the Hedgehog Dilemma:

A number of porcupines huddled together for warmth on a cold day in winter; but, as they began to prick one another with their quills, they were obliged to disperse. However the cold drove them together again, when just the same thing happened. At last, after many turns of huddling and dispersing, they discovered that they would be best off by remaining at a little distance from one another…

…By this arrangement the mutual need of warmth is only very moderately satisfied; but then people do not get pricked. A man who has some heat in himself prefers to remain outside, where he will neither prick other people nor get pricked himself.

What has happened around the world is, because of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the quills have become longer. They have become longer much more quickly. People are scared, and when people are scared in a time when pitchforks and torches aren’t easily accessible, they apparently buy toilet paper and produce and share memes, and it’s hard to argue which of the two is more pragmatic. It’s always handy to have toilet paper, and it’s always good to laugh a bit when things aren’t as nice as we would like.

I could write something about mediation here, but this sentence should suffice for people who understand what mediation means.

That being said, as people adjust to the new normal, those who live by themselves will find themselves alone. For some, this is disconcerting.algorithmsfear

Being faced with the prospect of not having the usual suspects as distractions, new distractions will arrive. Algorithms tell social media that people want to read more and more about Covid-19, and the reality is that we do largely know what we need to know already and the constant barrage of updates will become tiresome – but the algorithms have to be taught that.

Algorithms cannot replace fear, but they most certainly enable it.

Step 1 to your new solitude is to understand that, and limit exposing yourself and the others connected to you to a bunch of stuff that will simply burn everyone out. Less social media.

But what will you do? Ahh, it is a scary world, solitude, but it is ripe for use with books, with in home projects you never quite seem to get around to – and with sleep, with music, with movies… and yourself, perhaps the scariest thing in the world for most people. No matter where you go, though, there you are, and you can do things like reflect. Exercise. Think. Perhaps write, perhaps whatever, but the void you might feel can be bearable.

We know. We not only survive, we thrive this way – but it’s alien and scary for others. Yet, over the course of the coming year, at least for some months, it will be the new norm. And it can be ok if you let it.

Vacation Thoughts

Bananaquit from aboveThe time away was a wonderful thing; I hadn’t realized how much I needed a vacation.

There was time for some necessary culling of what I have been doing over the years by not doing any of it. I wrote for days in a notebook, a means I have for clearing my mind. I started doing that as a teenager, a way to get everything out – every sting, every joy, every itching wound. That writing is never to be published – simply an exercise in free writing that cleanses and, which at the end, is destroyed.

An open letter to the Universe as some might see it, an open letter to the Self as others might see it. The physical act of making everything inside external, the mechanical process, is something that works for me because then you can look at it from the outside looking in. The shift in perspective is then more easily done, going through one’s own life as the reader rather than the author.

You find petty things, you find important things glossed over, you find a character whose world-view is affected by things no longer present, whose actions are affected by that world-view in both good and bad ways.

And then I burn them – a symbolic thing I have always done, watching the black ink contrast less and less on the pages that go from white to ash.

Then you’re left with a start, and in that start, in a space where you can be yourself, you find what’s really there now. What I found was not what I had thought was there – faux rationality is easily scattered from the urn and you can see yourself for what you are, the world for what it is…

And then the vacation starts where you can do the things you want to do.

One morning I idyllically tossing a tethered waterproof camera into an area of deep current, just because I had one and some 550 cord.

Another morning I traipsed around on the abandoned paths of Blue Waters Inn – full of life, absent people who wanted to spend money to go see things and were out and about. I saw new things.

I sat with a hummingbird for hours, watching it feed and chase others from it’s source.

Most of all, I figured out what the next me was going to do with his life, if only for a while.

Relativity

RelativityAs I hinted at, I got rid of the last pickup – codename Artsy – and have since moved on to another vehicle. I won’t mention make or model – I’m not going to do free advertising for some company when I’ve only had the vehicle a few days.

But I like it. This is what the article is about – because I told someone I visited today that they are now less far away with this vehicle.

They didn’t move. I didn’t move. The distance hadn’t changed. What I was driving had.

Artsy’s job was to create trails in the bush with me at the wheel. This she did well – so well, in fact, that I saw her on the way home and for a moment wondered what my pickup was doing there… when it’s not mine anymore. She looks well. 

However, things have changed and so the requirements of the vehicle have changed as well. And this one doesn’t have to go in the bush. Trails, maybe, but no more bush. Mainly, roads. Parking in the cities. And, finally, it’s not a manual transmission.

It’s a dual clutch transmission, which for the sake of people who don’t know enough about cars, is more efficient than a manual and as convenient as an automatic.

The air conditioning is awesome. The back up camera makes parking so much easier. The audio is so good stock, and plays my MP3s and more. The seat is comfortable.

And so, now, what used to be a long distance for me is a shorter distance – just like that. This is probably not news to a lot of people, but I’ve always sacrificed things.  The RX7s had their AC’s take out for weight reduction, Artsy had noisy mud tires, and so on, and so on. These were things that were necessary for the tasks at hand.

With this vehicle, I did not sacrifice. I ordered the pizza with everything on it. It has features I may never use.

But today I saw the value in that spontaneous simple statement, it dawned on me.
It dawned on me that relativity and the hierarchy of needs are related in the human experience – something I knew – but at a new depth.

And, after all, even the Spartan minimalist has to acknowledge that the new chariot is a worthy tool for the next part of my life.