We are publishing submissions about the COVID-19 crisis from readers daily on NewPhilosopher.com in the hope that it can help us all make sense of what is happening, and as a historical record of how it made us feel. Here are your thoughts, from around the world.
By George Gunn, Edinburgh, Scotland
Some of us are stuck at home. Some of us are on the frontlines daily.
Some of us long for company. Some of us long for a moment of peace.
Some of us are losing loved ones. Some of us don’t know a single infected person.
In much the same way as the COVID-19 crisis is affecting us all differently (but affects all of us), no two experiences of coping with our new reality are identical. Upbeat homemade clips are cancelled out by indignant keyboard rants. Joggers are taking over the streets as alcohol shelves are stripped bare. While some homes are cosy sanctuaries, abuse proliferates in others.
Despite being confined to an attic apartment hundreds of miles away from my family and struck off work for now, I’m conscious that, with my limited boundaries but almost unlimited down time, there are still things I can do. Things I’ve been meaning to get done for years. Things that, in all likelihood, I wouldn’t have the necessary appetite or willpower to tackle amongst ordinary distractions and temptations.
Far from being bored or frustrated by lack of stimulation, the unique constraints of the situation are energising, and almost liberating, in this way.
So it’s as I assemble a slightly overambitious tower of books next to my bed, I rediscover a consolatory teaching from an all-time favourite novel: the Tralfamadorian alien race’s philosophy of time in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five:
"I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is."
As the protagonist Billy Pilgrim comes to understand, “All moments, past, present, and future, always have existed, always will exist”. Although a person might be in a bad condition in a particular moment, that person is just fine in plenty of other moments. Therefore, for the Tralfamadorians (and Billy), it’s nothing to dwell on.
The present moment is unquestionably a devastating one. Attempting to view it as a particularly bad moment amongst many other (safe and unrestricted) moments - all of which exist and are just as real - can start to provide a glimmer of consolation. Admittedly, four-dimensional vision would make this an easier thought exercise.