“The past is to be respected and acknowledged, but not worshipped; it is our future in which we will find our greatness.” Pierre Trudeau
I work from home. I don’t have to go anywhere except to my laptop. The physical isolation we’ve all been experiencing as a result of COVID – 19 shouldn’t present any challenges for me. And yet, it has.
I’m doing work I love (most of the time), I get out for walks every day, I work in my garden many times a week, and I have wonderful human interaction, albeit on line, with my students, colleagues and fellow writers. There is much to be grateful for. And yet, I’m anxious, easily feel frustrated and I’m not myself.
I’ve been thinking that this ‘not quite right’ feeling has to do with the changes to my regular routine, including not having in-person visits with family and friends, meetings with colleagues and others I run into when I’m out and about.
A screen separating me from others just doesn’t cut it. Yes, it’s absolutely wonderful to see their faces and hear their voices, but it’s not the same.
I’m old fashioned, or maybe just old. I like in-person contact.
So this malaise of mine stems in part from physical isolation, but I don’t think it’s the sole reason.
My current writing project is a work of speculative fiction, set in the not too distant future. 2056.Several pandemics have befallen all of us, pollution has run amuck, civil wars have erupted and walls have been erected in order to maintain peace. The question I’m exploring in my new work and I suppose in life: what price would we pay for peace and is it worth it?
As my project unfolds (and there is still a long way to go), I’m not seeing a positive end for the characters in my novel. This makes me wonder about my own perspective and how it has changed over the years. For one thing, I was never a big fan of speculative fiction, mostly because I felt more hopeful for humanity. Whatever challenges came our way we would meet them and change for the better. As was said so aptly by Mr. Trudeau, “it is our future in which we will find our greatness.”
But history does not bear this out. After the last pandemic of 1918/1919, we’ve had the roaring twenties, then the Great Depression, WWII and many, many other conflicts. After each event there is a lull, a recovery, a period of tranquility, and then another catastrophe. We simply don’t appear to be learning from our past mistakes.
This reality seems to be inching its way into my fiction. Yikes! And my outlook.
My characters have a mind of their own. They push and prod me all the time. But I’m confident I can steer their future, maybe naïvely so, to greatness or at least to a better world.
In real life I’ve become more uncertain about the future. So perhaps this is the real reason for my persistent worry. On the other hand, I can’t kid myself. Human interaction, physical contact has always helped me remain hopeful. Without that connection, I may have lost my way. And at the moment, I’m not sure how and if I will find it again.
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