This time, our here-now, is about being smack dab in the centre of an interminable in-between. Whether stuck or circulating there, this is a moment of prolonged pause and of being on indefinite hold.
Cycle 3 (of this project) is therefore a corresponding in-between cycle. Cycle 3 (this here-now) is like the half floor in Being John Malkovich: this liminal world where time has its own (new) rhythm and you start to feel yourself kind of split off into another part of this/your self (who am I when I’m home, looping day-in-day-out 24/7) and that other part tries to enter the “previous” you, via your brain/body, creating an uncanny sense of “you”/not you (me and this “other” version of myself). If only because you’ve stepped into this whole other version of (global) reality. A new reality of global proportions. Temporarily. That half floor is pushing against the walls of “normal space/time.” Encroaching and enveloping what was once your daily routine. That half floor is the new reality. For now.
This state of in-between brings us closer to other cultures and places outside our North American experience. Take Cuba, for example, where almost every kind of commercial transaction means having to wait and often having no idea how long you’ll be waiting (which is something we are actually having to do here now because of “social distancing.”) Waiting is a skill. Waiting is creative. That interval in time is inhabited by a quality of presence that requires a degree of letting go. Our culture is not very adept at this.
Waiting is a subject that has been thoroughly explored by Swedish Ethnographers Billy Ehn and Orvar Löfgren in their thoughtful study, The Secret World of Doing Nothing in which they describe this state of pause as having varying impacts on the person who waits, depending on how much information one has been privy to. Passengers on a plane, for example, will start to feel frustrated if told nothing while sitting impatiently on a tarmac watching the clock ticking during a delayed departure. If checked-in with by the pilot, “We’re sorry, folks, there’s a slight problem with the air cooling system and we expect to here another 20 minutes or so. We’ll keep you updated,” there’s at least a sense of “control” of the situation.
So that’s obviously partly what’s so disconcerting about this time we’re in: this not knowing how long we’ll be stuck (or circulating) in this prolonged interval. And we have no control.
There is something quite spectacular about this particular in-between as well; humans at the best of times are not always great at riding life transitions or change (big or small). So with so many question marks in the air, this time of uncertainty that is unraveling in us and all around us – on a very personal and global scale all at once – has the micro and the macro colliding, creating a simultaneous chasm and a bonding. Each of us is living through this challenge as our life situations dictate but everyone all around the globe is going through some version of this at exactly the same time as me.
And of course I can’t not bring up the subject of the interval – and this grandiose-level-pause – without bringing in the notion of the “performative.” On a personal level many of us are having to reinvent ourselves, and our lives, to some degree or other, in order to move forward in this discombobulating time (with the parallel global scale of governments reinventing “order”). This personal reinvention of time/space/routine is fundamentally – and infinitely – creative. Even if daunting. And a whole other set of challenges. I come back to the John Malkovich analogy above.
Of course it’s awkward to be writing about something you’re in because you don’t have the benefit of hindsight to support clarity and greater perspective. I guess that could be the disclaimer for every post I might write during this cycle.
But for that same reason it has my neurons firing off in multiple directions. So while I have more to say on the subject, I’ll leave it here. Any perhaps come back with a part 2 in a near-future post.