Too much world. Too much, too fast, too loud.

From my window, I can see a white mulberry, a tree I’m fascinated by—one of the reasons I decided to live where I live. The mulberry is a generous plant—all spring and all summer it offers dozens of avian families its sweet and healthful fruits. Right now, the mulberry hasn’t got back its leaves, and so I see a stretch of quiet street, rarely traversed by people on their way to the park. The weather in Wrocław is almost summery: a blinding sun, blue sky, clean air. Today, as I was walking my dog, I saw two magpies chasing an owl from their nest. At a remove of just a couple of feet, the owl and I gazed into each other’s eyes. Animals, too, seem to be waiting expectantly, wondering what’s going to happen next.

For the longest time, I have felt that there’s been too much world. Too much, too fast, too loud. So I’m not experiencing any “isolation trauma,” and it isn’t hard on me at all to not see people. I’m not sorry that the cinemas have closed; I am completely indifferent to the fact that shopping centers have shuttered. I do worry, of course, when I think of all the people who have lost their jobs. But, when I learned of the impending quarantine, I felt something like relief. I know many people felt similarly, even if they also felt ashamed of it. My introversion, long strangled and abused by hyperactive extroverts, has brushed itself off and come out of the closet.

I watch our neighbor through the window, an overworked lawyer I just recently saw heading to work in the morning with his courtroom robe slung over his shoulder. Now in a baggy tracksuit, he battles a branch in the yard; he seems to be putting things in order. I see a couple of young people taking out an older dog that’s been barely able to walk since last winter. The dog staggers while they patiently accompany him, walking at the slowest pace. Making a great racket, the garbage truck picks up the trash.

Life goes on, and how, but at a completely different rhythm. I tidied up my closet and took out the newspapers we had read and placed them in the recycling bin. I repotted the flowers. I picked up my bicycle from the shop where it had been repaired. I have been enjoying cooking.

Images from my childhood keep coming back to me. There was so much more time then, and it was possible to “waste” it and “kill” it, spending hours just staring out the window, observing the ants, or lying under the table and imagining it to be the ark. Reading the encyclopedia.

Might it not be the case that we have returned to a normal rhythm of life? That it isn’t that the virus is a disruption of the norm, but rather exactly the reverse—that the hectic world before the virus arrived was abnormal? …

The virus has reminded us, after all, of the thing we have been denying so passionately: that we are delicate creatures, composed of the most fragile material. That we die—that we are mortal. That we are not separated from the rest of the world by our “humanity,” by any exceptionality, but that the world is instead a kind of great network in which we are enmeshed, connected with other beings by invisible threads of dependence and influence. That without any regard to how far apart the countries we come from are, or what languages we speak, or what color our skin is, we come down with the same illness, we share the same fears; we die the same death.

It has made us realize that no matter how weak and vulnerable we feel in the face of danger, we are also surrounded by people who are more vulnerable, to whom our help is essential. It has reminded us of how fragile our older parents and grandparents are, and how very much they need our care. It has shown us that our frenetic movements imperil the world. And it has raised a question we have rarely had the courage to ask ourselves: what is it, exactly, that we keep going off in search of?

~ Olga Tokarczuk, from “A New World Through My Window” (The New Yorker, April 8, 2020)


Notes:

  • Thank you for sharing Sawsan (@  Last Tambourine).
  • Portrait of Olga Tokarczuk: Quillette. Poland’s Nobel Prize Winner in Literature (2018)

Comments

  1. Wonderful, nature is such a balm and slowing down such a relief.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. this is so incredibly well said, she is a brilliant writer and i agree with her thesis. once we get over fighting and resisting the slower pace we are suddenly forced to keep, in spite of ourselves, or how important we think we are, we find that there is so much good in the slowing. we remember what it feels like and what human connections and connections to the natural world really mean.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. BAM.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dave, this is fabulous and I agree with what she says- thank you for posting it!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. How true!!

    Like

  6. So much truth here! I feel like we are a society that has embraced ‘busy for the sake of busy,’ as though a frenetic existence were a badge of honor. We pack our calendars full and feel guilty if we steal a few hours of ‘down time.’ Before the virus, I had to be sick to allow myself to crawl into bed and enjoy a simple afternoon nap during the work week. Since the lockdown, I have been doing it almost daily, and I realize that my mind is clearer and I am more calm and focused because of it.

    This is undoubtedly a harsh ‘reset’ in many ways, but in tandem with the anxiety the experience has spawned, I have found a renewed sense of gratitude for life’s simple pleasures and gained an awareness of changes that must be made in my world.

    As that wonderful Rumi quote says, “These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them.”

    Liked by 3 people

  7. She is something else. She said it simply, still said it like it is.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. A lot of truth there. I feel just as she does about the isolation. I don’t mind it at all (as long as I have my laptop).

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love Olga’s reflection. This new rhythm feels like the right speed of life 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  10. wow… this is the best essay I have read since coronavirus came on the scene.

    Like Olga, I have not been bothered by the quarantine, and have enjoyed the slower pace of life since it began. I understand that many people have been devastated because of the pandemic, whether from a health or economic perspective, and that is the huge downside of this crisis.

    But hopefully when it is under control, the new normal will keep some of the good things that have resulted from having been shut down and that we don’t return to “abnormal”.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Is it Saturday? If not then why is my mascara now streaming down towards my cheeks and chin?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I told a friend on Zoom the other day that I shall never again take for granted the joy of sharing a meal with friends and family, the privilege of inviting people to my table, the luxury of cooking for them, and the sacredness of being with them.

    She is so right. This slowing down is also a lesson in gratitude and what really matters.

    thanks for the share David (via Sawsan) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I love this because I have been feeling this since before the pandemic. Maybe it is because I am inherently lazy but I’ve never been the must fill all my time all the time. This gift (yes, it is a gift) has, however, shown me just how much I don’t want to be part of the rat race, that I have to change jobs so that I can continue making supper, even if it ends up being only for myself. Now what will that entail? Earning enough to keep the status quo… hmmm.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. pratyushasen30 says:

    “At a remove of just a couple of feet, the owl and I gazed into each other’s eyes. Animals, too, seem to be waiting expectantly, wondering what’s going to happen next.”

    This above sentence was magic. It made me smile wide. Beautifully written and I agree with you on most of the points here.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. It is like my thoughts have been converted into words by someone else, how beautifully have you noted down the positive sight of this difficult time. While reading above, with every sentence, my mind would go like: oh yeahhh, that’s so right.
    I could imagine the owl gazzing into my eyes, neighbours I haven’t seen in longest are now everyday seen watering their plants. Just so suddenly, there is so much positivity all around!!!

    Thank you for sharing your words….

    Liked by 1 person

  16. My Blue Brain says:

    „My introversion, long strangled and abused by hyperactive extroverts, has brushed itself off and come out of the closet.“ – wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

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  1. […] Too much world. Too much, too fast, too loud. — Read on davidkanigan.com/2020/04/23/too-much-world-too-much-too-fast-too-loud/ […]

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