Due to allergies and a respiratory infection, my social distancing began last month on March 12, (a little before the City of El Paso issued its order to stay at home,) with only a few brief excursions to the pharmacy, the veterinary E.R., and to pick up food. During this period I have suffered nightly insomnia. As a writer with a home full of books to read and notebooks to be filled, and an aversion to television, most might think that I spend my time devouring the classics and catching up on book reviews I promised over a year ago. But as is so often the case when people predict my behavior based on “most people’s” assumptions, my actions fail to reflect the received wisdom. While continuing to read poetry and news online several hours a day, my bookshelves remain dust traps.
Alas, Dear Reader, I have been forced to learn a little bit about how to use the television, that infernal device so foreign to me throughout most of my life. Despite the odds, I can now occasionally find Saturday Night Live and have upon the rare occasion succeeded in navigating NetFlix. But more than anything, I have become modestly familiar with casting videos from my cheap telephone and antique tablet.
YouTube provides clips of late night comedy and talk shows, which I watch weeknights roughly between 10 pm and 2 am. Unable to stomach the flood of regular reports on the newest governmental policy that is either idiotic, cruel, or both, and the resulting misery of segments of the world I hold dear, I prefer my news digested by brainy comedians and sandwiched between clever commentary, musical interludes, or interviews of Beautiful People. I also watch an inordinate amount of stand-up comedy. In these remaining hours of eyeing the potentially unnerving response of my look into The Abyss, I prefer to avoid the threat of The Abyss looking back through laughter.
Due to profound disappointment and sorrow to be found in my personal life as well as national and world politics, I seek videos in hope of becoming a better person, i.e. one less prone to sobbing into the ever increasingly hysterical missives I fling out into the digital universe, messages for a bottle that does not exist and found by people with little patience. In short I search out videos on philosophy and various spiritual paths, or ones that feature renowned experts, and “experts,” on the human condition. Some I view repeatedly to compensate for drowsing, attending to dog matters, the sadly constant trips to the kitchen, and severely deteriorated memory. From time to time, I will hope to use this blog to make brief mention of my soft-core studies via video and on-line articles.
I strive to incorporate such concepts as Amor Fati and Memento Mori, basically the acceptance of fate or happenstance and the constant contemplation of the inevitability of death, in order to release anger and despair at unpleasant truths such as abandonment through death or rejection, the fear of helpless solitude, and the untenably horrifying political situation gripping my country and the rest of the world. Acquaintances scoff as self-dramatizing melodrama, and friends repudiate, my true concern of a lonely death going unremarked by a world preoccupied with crisis, leaving my poor dogs trapped without the thumbs that could provide access to the magic cupboard and cold box and forced to ward off starvation by consuming the highly marbled flesh of my decaying body. That my beloved dogs might be punished for their natural impulse to survive is also a real fear.
These studies (if that is not too pretentious a term) drill into me the injunction to love my fate, rather than grieve the losses that have left me, like so many during this pandemic, alone and vulnerable. So why despair? Further, the reminder that death is an inescapable ultimate outcome for all living things strengthens a personal life-long fatalism, a belief that death will happen on its own schedule and its own terms. So why be afraid?
Perhaps I will write more on these thoughts in days to come, but right now I need to feed my dogs. Before they get any ideas.
Donna J. Snyder