The simultaneity of suffering and peace is one of the cruelest realities of the living condition. How, at the exact same time, somewhere in the same planet, some are going about their daily lives in safety and some are enduring unspeakable horrors. It has always been so, but modernity and its ability for instantaneous communications makes it so much more palpable and cruel.
Sitting in my office in downtown Vancouver, an Excel sheet open in front of me, I daydream: “A fluffy sponge cake. Three layers. Rosewater buttercream. Soak the cake in lemon syrup. Fresh rose petals to decorate. A sprinkle of gold powder on top of the cake to finish.”
For a few minutes, I escape the reality of my job as a researcher and enter a baking fantasy, one of my secret internal worlds. That world, that compartment of my personality, is as much part of me as my name, my hair colour, or the sound of my voice. «Cogito ergo sum», wrote Descartes, “I think, therefore I am.” I “bake, therefore I am.” Baking is synonymous with my name and my name is synonymous with baking. We are one.
Sooner or later, our bodies betray us. I said that once in this blog, as the opening line of my post on Michael Haneke’s devastating masterpiece Amour. I still believe that sentence to be true. What I now understand as well is, sooner or later, our minds betray us too.
Today is day seven or ten (I’m not counting), since I stopped taking my depression medication. The reason is vanity. I am convinced that the weight I’ve gained in the last few is due to the medication I started taking five years ago in 2016.
A late 2020 meme or trope has been circulating. It takes issue with people who are ready to say goodbye to 2020 and to welcome 2021. The criticism is that people are placing their hope on a new year as if the pandemic will magically disappear as soon as the clock strikes midnight on December 31st.
After she had vacuumed the carpet and gotten on her knees with a stain remover, spraying freely on the dark spots, the little cloth foaming with her scrubbing.
After she had taken out the organics to the big bin in the garage, wiping the wet spot the paper “Bag to Earth” had left on the counter.
After she had filled up the dishwasher, put the detergent in, and turn it on.
After she had done the other dishes by hand, sprayed a bleach cleaner into the sink, and cleaned, dried, and put away a whole miscellanea of utensils and kitchen stuff.
Dear reader, I want to ask you, how are you sleeping?
Are you tossing and turning all night long, your mind running over and over the same thoughts? “A statue of a 17 century slave trader was toppled and thrown to the sea.” “The city of Minneapolis has announced it will disband its police force.” “Is this change?? It feels like change.” “My son, his skin is the lightest of browns! How do I start to teach him about the privilege of his skin?”
On and on and on and on for the last two weeks, this is my mind at night. I am a non-black person of colour. My skin is light brown and my hair wavy. I am the product of mestizaje, the mixing of white Spanish Europeans, the native peoples of el Zulia, and black slaves, that took place during the birth of Venezuela. For years I have tried to understand how racism and discrimination based on skin colour and cultural background played a role in my life as an immigrant in Canada. This is not the subject of this reflection.
It’s been a month since the lockdown started in our part of the world. The signs in Canada are that we are making progress in some parts of the country, while others have not seen the worst of their outbreak yet.
It’s a picture that it’s reflected at the personal, individual level as well. Everybody is at a different place in their processing of the pandemic, and it’s important to respect where everybody is at any specific time. That’s why social media can feel even more tonally fragmented than usual, the bakers sharing photos of their goods, the writers and musicians rightfully depressed over the outlook of their industries, the working at home parents discovering the hardships and joys of spending every minute of waking life with their kids, the outrage at the handling of the crisis by some leaders (you know who I’m referring to).
The moment of the day when the reality of the situation continues to hit the hardest is the minute before I wake up.
Sometimes it’s in the middle of the night, sometimes at 5:00 am just before the alarm goes off. I go to bed thinking about coronavirus, and I wake up thinking about it. I’m sure it’s the norm right now for everybody. Our collective dreams must be made of this new reality.
Narcissus was analytical, a thinker; Goldmund, a dreamer with the heart of a child.
Field and heath lay before him, dry, fallow stretches and dark forest. Beyond it might be farms and mills, a village, a town. For the first time the world lay open before him, wide and waiting, ready to receive him, to do him good or harm. He was no longer a student who saw the world through a window; his walking was no longer a stroll ending in the inevitable return. […] He was small in this large world, no bigger than a horse, an insect; he ran through its blue-green infinity. No bell called him out of bed, to mass, to class, to meals.
Herman Hesse, Narcissus and Goldmund