Before the pandemic I would have thought my height – six foot two on a good day – and other factors like my gait, my clothes, my hairdo, my glasses, would be enough to identify me to all acquaintances and friends, but apparently not. Simply covering my mouth and nose is enough to render me virtually invisible to some. To a significant sector, I am suddenly a stranger.
In the case of Stevie Nicks, I was making real time contact with someone whose music occupies a dreamscape where intense and potentially uncontrollable emotions reside, impulses I govern with the social skills I’ve learned, everything from erotic fascination, to romantic longing, to nostalgia-in-amber for hazy, glorious days. Would I retain my control upon meeting the source?
How did the earthlings of Ad Astra deal with the warming planet, the rising sea levels? Viruses? Sectarian conflict? Worldwide poverty, uneducated women, racism? Food? How do folks get around? Surely not with fossil fuel. Is there a middle class again? Social media? What’s the economy like? Where do people work? When and how did earth citizens learn to be proper stewards of our planet? What story motivated this lifesaving, planet-saving action?
Aspiritually conversant 2020 candidate would tap into the hearts and voting minds of millions of secular Americans who proclaim no religious affiliation but who nevertheless hunger for a language of hope, of transcendence; people whose devotional energy has been captured by pop culture, by memes, by tribalism, by technology. I wager most don’t even know how parched and starving they are.
A fellow fan who worked at a midtown hotel told of how Van Morrison was so excited by Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth that he called the front desk and demanded someone, anyone, come to his room to watch it with him.
I’d rather not call it a silver lining, but the fact that the pandemic has happened to such a massive collective, bringing so many into a singular experience, has brought us a strange sense of connection, one we feel even as we can’t actually touch each other, or even comfortably breathe the same air. It is the sharpest irony of our time, and frankly, not always pleasant.
In my experience, the preschool version is still a preliminary sketch, even if it appears otherwise. The kid I thought was a budding sociopath? Actually a solid, charming young man now. The sweet, loquacious little girl? Now a sullen, misanthrope-in-training. The tyrant? Now a socially conscious, optimistic athlete. It seems they are trying things out in preschool, testing limits, gauging.
I Googled what to do if you find a fledgling that looks unready, and Audubon.org (and every other authority) unequivocally advises, “Stay out of it. Don’t try to be what you think is a good parent.” Ouch.
I was grown before my mother would detail what she now labels my alcoholic, estranged father’s undiagnosed bipolar disorder and legacy alcoholism. When he died driving into an embankment just after my seventh birthday, I was told he “fell asleep at the wheel.” When I was a teen, Mom offered that he was drunk; when I was in my twenties, that maybe he’d committed suicide.
I’ve been in rooms where fear of women has arisen in the form of sexist jokes. In weak moments of my youth, I engaged. Disconnecting from the women whose will power dominated much of my life, dehumanizing their gender, offered a momentary feeling of power, especially to a scared boy trying to feel safe. In that moment of disrespect, of abuse, their pain was not my pain. Shame would always dog me later.