Start Here

morning_31march2020

I’m teaching at three colleges this semester. One is an online institution. One is low-residency. And one is residential. All three schools have responded really well to the pandemic. I very much admire the thoughtful actions of colleagues, made in extremely short order.

My most challenging pivot has been with the residential, undergraduate course. It’s required redesigning a curriculum built upon a premise of presence, and placing it into mediated contexts. I’ve offered choices in how to navigate the course requirements – video conferencing or written work — and to my surprise (and delight) most people have chosen the video seminar.

Yesterday was our first meeting. It was a good session. We discussed what is happening in the world, and we talked about how each of us are doing. It’s a course about social change, and we talked about how the world is changing, our anxiety about what we don’t yet know, and our impending dread about what we do know. We also talked about leadership; where it’s working and its failure.

I run a lot of video seminars. I’ve never been so exhausted after one.

I’ve been holding it together. But in holding space for students, and witnessing their various states of okay-ness and trauma, my bewilderment became evident. We’re not okay. I’m not okay. There are cracks in surface of the world, and glimpsing what’s beneath is, frankly, terrifying.

I’ve tried to use nature as my anchor, and I’ve largely been successful. Walks in the woods, and regular trips to the beach have done much to remind me that the universe is bigger than this crisis and certainly bigger than me. That consolation aside, I awoke this morning to find a deer tick sucking the life from me. I spent most of the morning getting a cycle of doxycycline from my health provider. I’m confident that it will knock Lyme Disease out of my system. (And, yes, I know there’s more than Lyme Disease to worry about. Please spare me the horror stories; I’m bewildered enough — and taking care.)

If it’s not one virus, it’s another.

And that’s it, right? No matter the crisis, the everydayness of the world grinds on.

What are we to do? That’s the narrative arc. I’m supposed to end with a sense of trajectory. But I feel grounded. We know we’re not going anywhere for another month, but it will be longer. Into the summer I suspect, maybe into next year.

I hate the memes that tell me everything great that’s been accomplished in the midst of epidemics. Yes, yes… we have time. But time is meaningless if we’re also living in the midst of radical disorientation, distraction, and enormous loss.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to make sense of the historical turn in which we’re living. I do know that I need to let go of expectations of returning to life as it was. And the work has to be focused on finding new rhythms, new ways of being.

So I’ll start here.

2 thoughts on “Start Here

  1. You are one very interesting man Pete. Always moving about. Seeing. Expressing. Sharing. Living. Creating. Thanks for putting this blog together at this point in time. I hope to follow its trajectory.

  2. You are right: we are not ok. It makes me feel better to find someone saying it. Apart from that I try to learn about applying my paint in a meaningful way. Lose myself in the paint. Make art and be a witness to these times , and remember the good times. Love the ones in my life. Appreciate the fact I have food and a warm bed to sleep in. Use this crazy time the best I can. I love your paintings. Hang in there!

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