Among other unusual things these days, I sat binge watched five episodes of Modern Love, a series on Amazon prime. The episodes are based on essays that were published in the New Yorker magazine in a column with that name. Mental health as one of the recurring themes stood out in the series. Every main character is grappling with it. Anne Hathaway plays bipolar in one of the episodes. That’s by far the most crushing portrayal of a personality. I guess, beyond a point, we choose the stories we make out of ourselves. We are scripting the narratives of our lives ourselves. This could be a problematic alternative view. We allow ourselves to be played by a whole variety of situations and people, little by little, until it becomes big enough to appear as fate, destiny or something that can’t be helped. It was great to see those stories and especially a theme as love done in a minimum tears way. If it were an Indian production one can be nearly certain that it will be a tearjerker. The characters in these seemed to be resilient, not withstanding the usual fluff. The experiences as shown in the series conveys the necessity of ‘openness’ in all aspects of our lives. There’s no change without being open to it. Sometimes we are forced to, as seen in this lockdown. Other times we must try and step forward to consider changing.
I thought of the meaning that we make out of things in our lives. In a tech podcast with Twitter’s Jack Dorsey I learnt that he has committed about 30% of his wealth as shares in his company Square, to charities to fight Covid-19 as of now and then work for women’s health and education after the pandemic. He tracks the Start Small relief effort through a publicly available spreadsheet of donation amounts, charities and reason for donation. This is an unheard way of working in philanthropy – that Start Small is a LLC and that donations are tracked with a publicly available spreadsheet.
In the post-pandemic world, I anticipate more changes in the way we will choose to live and spend our time. It may not be business as usual. It may be a five year horizon for us to have completely put the memories of pandemic time behind us, in terms of direct effects. The cultural, social and psychological effects will continue to live for the next decade.
One of Tokarczuk’s characters in Flights, Eryk, is a former sailor who once navigated oceans of the world and is now a ferry pilot operating a passenger ferry to a small island. His current job, to operate a ferry along a navigational route which is a straight line from the island to the mainland, is in stark contrast to his former life which had the thrill of distant ports, open seas and seafaring’s excitement. After years as a ferry pilot, one day he loses it and as he leaves the island with the ferry instead of setting for the mainland’s shore he sets out for the open sea with the passengers in tow. He couldn’t take it anymore. Soon the situation is brought under control and Eryk is presented for a trial. His defense opens with these lines –
There are things that happen of their own accord, journeys that begin and end in dreams. And there are travelers who simply answer the chaotic call of their own unease. One of these stands before you now…
Tockarczuk’s writing is a deeper probing of our restlessness. The chaotic calls are increasing in these lockdown days. Officially, we are four days away from exiting this lockdown. The costs are mounting.