A Public Diary During the Coronavirus/COVID-19 Pandemic ~ Day 14

Two weeks of daily reflection and checking in as this global pandemic continues to unfold. This practice of writing each day has been helpful for me. Sharing it publicly has been an exercise in vulnerability that has so far been good, I suppose. It certainly changes the flavor, or rather the contents energy and vibrations as I know these words are laying naked and bare for anyone to read. They are not just staying in my private online journal, perhaps never to be seen by another persons eyes. I actually did this once before, in 2015 I took on the DigiWriMo challenge, to write 50,000 words digitally in the month of November. I created a blog called aptly, November Twenty-Fifteen. When I did that challenge though, I was much less willing to share a link to the words I was writing and only did so maybe once or twice over the course of that month. It’s all there though, still available to be read by anyone who cares to explore it.

That was a fun challenge I was proud to have completed. Writing 50,000 words in a month requires an average of about 1,700 words a day. I just took on that challenge a second time this past November except this time, I decided to try my hand at writing a novel and participated in NanoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. I managed to complete this challenge as well and have a very rough draft of a novel called The Butterfly & The Bumblebee that is, and has been, sitting unseen since essentially December 1st. It’s not a complete first draft either to be perfectly honest, I did write 50,000 words for it, though the chapters still need to be tied together and while there is a beginning and an end, the continuity of what I wrote needs a lot of work. Maybe I’ll spend a bit of time during this quarantine having a look back at that…

I have wanted to write a real, actual novel since I was a kid, I feel as though what I managed to pump out in a months time is pretty crude and more bad than good but it is my first go at this and practice is what makes perfect I’m told. Perfection is perhaps an unreasonable and unobtainable goal, mastery on the other hand, there is room for that. I reckon if I stick to regular, if not daily writing, continuing to read all along the way, and added a mentor and some more classes (I did just take a handful of them in college these past few years), I could eventually find my way to mastery. I have a LONG way to go for that though. But I love writing. I really do. I have dozens of journals filled, countless mostly terrible poems, and in this online private journal platform on 750words.com, I have logged over 555,000 words. Got a ways to go to hit a million but there’s another goal to put out there in front of me! I wonder where I find myself on the 10,000 hours path at this point when it comes to writing?

Well, it’s 9:21am here on Sunday, March 29th, 2020. We have been practicing social distancing almost flawlessly for two full weeks. In these 14 days we’ve found something of a groove, a rhythm if not a proper routine, and have managed not to lose our minds, yet. There have been several loaves of bread baked, three big batches of soup made, each with leftovers that are in the freezer for a later date, a nettle harvest that is still being enjoyed, arts and crafts created, books read, yoga done, bike rides ridden, walks walked, and a great deal of dancing and singing. Oh, and I did prep some sauerkraut yesterday that will be ready in a couple weeks that I’m super jazzed about. It’s got cabbage, carrots, beets, and ginger in it. That is gonna be fun fermented goodness to break into when we find ourselves at our first month in this isolation situation.

I am of the opinion and belief now that this isolation period is going to go on for some time to come. It looks as though we are in for a wildly different reality this spring and summer than we’ve ever known before. And that my daughters school year is likely not going to be finished is so weird to consider. We got an email saying Portland Public Schools is working on a distance learning scenario and maybe it will be up and running at some point here but still, it will be minimal in its scope and not accessible to a great many folks who don’t have personal/tablet computer or internet connections at home, or a home to begin with for that matter. And while education is something I do believe is important, I don’t know if what we’ve got going on in our country’s public educational institutions is anything to write home about. But I’m not going to spin off and rant about that at the moment.

It’s so odd to take a deep breath, pause, and reflect on where we find ourselves, isn’t it?

This major disruption to what has been is both unsettling and at the same time, enticing in what it is providing opportunity for. A window, or door rather, has been flung open that allows for fresh perspectives and new and old ways of doing this dance we call life, to move forward differently. If we can be honest with ourselves, collectively speaking, the way things have been, the business as usual society and civilization that we’ve had for 150 years now (and really much longer than that), has been unsustainable if not outright reckless. We’ve created a mythology that involves perpetual growth as the benchmark of progress on a planet with finite resources. This continent used to be covered in rich old growth forests, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans, uninterrupted in parts. Nowadays, we have a tiny sliver of old growth forests left. And then there is mountaintop removals. The insatiable thirst for fossil fuels. Monocrops. Dwindling biodiversity. And so on.

The shortsightedness of it all.

I remember way back in the aughts, somewhere in those mid 2000’s, when I was first really deep diving into Peak Oil and things of that nature, no pun intended, when I started to really grok what we were up to and how there was no fucking way it could last. Thom Hartmann’s “Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight” was one of those books that really shook me up. Another was simply called “Beyond Oil”, by Kenneth Deffeyes. It was these books and others around that time that had me waking up to the cataclysm we were baking up and unleashing. Richard Heinberg has been one of my favorite authors for the past 15+ years about all of this as well. And Clusterfuck Nation, James Howard Kunstler’s humorous and yet stark analysis of this shit show that has been unfolding for over a century now has been an author I’ve appreciated reading over the years, too. These in fact are among some of the key authors I’ve been inspired by and in many ways are the reason I’m writing these very words today.

I appreciate them and the others who have been providing their own personal perspectives on this great unfolding. Collapse is perhaps too harsh a word for what is taking place. Maybe not though. Things are collapsing around us for sure. And when I take in that truth and contemplate how I’ve undulated on my personal habits and behaviors and where my focus has been for well over a decade now. It is incredible to realize how I’ve at times been super concentrated on being a practical participant in helping to shift the paradigms and at other times, not so much. I’ve fallen into the lull of living as though things weren’t going to drastically change in my lifetime. A passive complacency has taken over me on occasion, no doubt partly due to the spin doctors and propaganda of capitalism that strives to maintain the business as usual narrative.

And let us recognize and take stock in the fact that this is precisely what has happened to the masses at large. As it has been revealed that the fossil fuel industry has known about climate change and what their industry is bringing into this world since at least the 1970’s is one of the most criminally abhorrent acts that particular portion of humanity in power has practiced. And so, here we are. Deep sea rigs everywhere, frantically fracking away, and extracting dirty ass shale oil while we spoil the soil and fresh water that is rapidly depleting. Going to greater extremes to bring these crude fossil fuels to market. The EROEI, that is the energy returned on energy invested at this point is outrageous. We have massive amounts of fossil fuels being used to extract fossil fuels. Isn’t that funny? Or terrible.

Even the “Green New Deal” for all that I support and appreciate about its vision, is not something that is very realistic in so many ways. The main one, the most important one, is that we cannot go on living the way we have in regards to how much energy we use daily across the globe. Our transportation systems are powered by fossil fuels and the transition to renewable energies is problematic and not very realistic when it comes to scale. Hydro dams disrupt the ecosystems that this world has created which has pretty troubling consequences, and making wind turbines and solar panels takes a ton of fossil fuel inputs and resources from around the world, often acquired through mining and labor done by poor folks under terrible conditions. And then these have a lifespan of 25–50 years at most before they’ll need replacing. And it’s not as if we will figure out a way to convert all the planes that fly today to actual factual clean, renewable energy sources anytime soon. Same goes with cars. And boats, oh boats. Cargo shipping boats/freights right now, the drivers of our globally connected trade industries and supply chains, are fueled essentially by the grossest, nastiest, dirtiest fucking fuel imaginable. Converting these massive fleets to proper sustainable sources of energy is something that does not appear to he possible at the present moment.

Well, it is for these reasons and more that the paradigm shifts and way that people, humanity, all of us at large need to prepare for a future that looks vastly different than the one we have at present. To loop back to the Green New Deal for a moment though, I do wish for the aspects and components of this vision that bring social justice and equity to the forefront to become manifest. It is just that we are now officially arriving at a point where our global version of reality is about to contract in tremendous ways and we will be essentially forced into much more localized ways of living. This is not a if, but rather when kind of scenario we’re looking at. Humans might go balls to the walls on this fossil fuel lifestyle for the next 10–30 some odd years, spoiling the last precious natural areas that still remain on the planet to extract that precious, dirty energy but at what cost to the world at large? And to all the future generations. Not just those several generations away, I’m talking about my kids and all those who will be alive through this century.

The thing about all this is, for the most part, so much of what is to come still seems theoretical or abstract. It is a lot of out of sight out of mind business that is hard for people to believe is true. And of course, it’s the platinum age of television which helps us to keep our minds off of it all, too. Much like factory farming, the fuel industry doesn’t make documentaries and television shows to highlight and showcase how they work because if we were presented with this information and the reality of these things we would not be able to practice the cognitive dissonance that we have done so well to craft in our daily lives.

Alas, this is our reality and this is the present we are presented with. It is hard to face many of these truths. And it is hard as fuck to try and make sense of what to do when we do face the facts and then begin to figure out a starting place of even imagining what a different way of living could look like. There are people and communities out there who have done so and to varying degrees are practicing these alternative ways of living with some success. But collectively, as a species, we are nowhere close to prepared to transition to an actual factual sustainable way of living on this planet. We’ve well overshot the mark already with the way we live and we’re just starting to reap the consequences of these actions.

I do not wish to come off as cynical in all of this, I really don’t. I think it is good to just write out thoughts and imagine what this wild thing we call life is all about. I certainly don’t proclaim to have any substantial answers at this point on what exactly to do moving forward, but I sure like to ask questions and wonder what the hell is going to happen next. I also do not care to passively sit by and watch it all unfold, either. I’m game to be a part of the transition, in any capacity I can. That is my goal and that is where I am at with this all.

Mad respect to everyone else out there who is facing these truths and has moved past the denial of it all and is in acceptance that we have a shit storm of our own creation and we now have to figure out ways to navigate our way out of it. It’s not going to be all sunshine and rainbows either. But it can involve some magic and fun, can’t it?…

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Joe Culhane

Joe Culhane

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Writer, podcaster, international public speaker, Theater of the Oppressed actor, and lover of this precious intrinsically connected world we are all a part of.