I saw a photograph of an outdoor eating structure in New York City that had a roof and four walls. It was outdoors only in the sense that all buildings are outdoors, as in they are not inside other buildings. I’ve been thinking about it for hours. It reminded me of the pre-pandemic time in which I once heard someone suggest that it would be more efficient if shared Ubers, instead of driving around from house to house, just picked up riders at a pre-determined spot…a “stop” if you will. It took me a good ten seconds before it occurred to me that this person had just re-invented busses.
The notion of innovating and adapting, of trying to accomplish an end that satisfies competing and incompatible aims, only to arrive at an innovation that is just the original idea you threw away — this strikes me as uniquely human, and uniquely capitalist. Both of which are ways of saying uniquely stupid. And yet it is how we do. We are uniquely stupid sometimes, though I suppose if all of us do it then it’s not unique. We develop ways for produce to be inorganic, then we develop impressive ways to grow and sell organic foods. We turn childbirth into a medical emergency, then we make natural childbirth a luxury item. We cram ourselves into cities, then we capitalize sleeping under the sky into a wildly expensive, heavily fortified recreation. So much of our progress strikes me as little more than creating collective problems and then selling individualized solutions to the class of people who can afford to buy their way out.
I’m not here to preach collectivism or socialism or a return to the simple things because I know people love to cling tight to intellectual rigor around those topics (as if lack of intellectual rigor is what’s keeping us from having a fundamentally caring society.) Also frankly, it’s 10pm on a Sunday night and what I would most like to do right now is to be crawling under the blankets of the bed that is, and I cannot stress this enough, mere feet from me. See, the thing is I recently changed from my white summer duvet to my burnt orange velvet winter duvet and the impact has been surprisingly powerful. It’s made it much easier for me to accept that I will be spending the next four months or so in a state that I might call: Variations on Sleep. That is to say I will either be sleeping, or having just finished sleeping, making coffee while I reflect on how nice it was to be sleeping, working so as to complete tasks and fully enjoy the forthcoming sleep. Maybe napping. Preparing for the evening, which is another way to say preparing for sleeping, then finally returning to the sleeping. This is what I would like to do until it’s spring. Or there’s a vaccine. Or until there are flowers again. Until there are people are in the park again. Until I can have a party, go to a concert or randomly hook up with a neighbor.
I guess we used to sleep a lot in the winter. Then we invented cities. Then we paid — in the form of a bunch of money and also in the form of pandemic with several hundred thousand deaths — for enough quiet and cessation to again sleep deeply in the dark and cold winter months. Seems a circuitous and unnecessarily painful way to go about it, if you ask me, but you didn’t ask me. No one did. I’m sure I contributed to it in some way, but I have yet to figure out how to single-handedly fix it.
Sometimes when I am overwhelmed by the size of what is wrong, both outside of me, and within me, I have a habit of saying a thing that sounds like a prayer. I guess the word you’d use for it is: “prayer.” The words of this “prayer” change from time to time, but the spirit is the same. First, I acknowledge that I can’t deal with whatever it is that I can’t deal with, that I don’t know what to do, how to fix it, that I’m over it, that I’m like fuck it, that I literally can’t even. Then I ask to be shown just some little thing I can do, some little way I can grow or change or get over myself, or get over you, so that I can do something that is in some way useful to someone. Anyone. Then I stop the “prayer.” Then I forget the “prayer” even happened. Then I go on with my day. Half napping, half procrastinating, half parenting, half working, half reading, or half thinking about how truly beautiful the last sleep I had was. I want to keep going on in this way as long as I can. When I started writing this piece, the phrase “wake me up when it’s all over,” was rattling through my mind. And here is where I would end my piece by saying “wake me up when it’s all over,” But now that I think about it, it doesn’t apply. Because I’m already awake. This may be the most awake I’ve been in a very long time.