Monday, January 27, 2020

The reality pizza

There are many ways we slice and dice reality. One which pops up in the news recently is in regards to the 2019 Coronavirus which originated in Wuhan. If you're a little bit neurotic like me, the only thing that quiets you is some type of reassurance in your head. When I closely monitored the cases in early December I thought, "it's not even in Shanghai or Beijing yet", when it reached there. I said it's not even in my half of the world, I can still go on as normal with perhaps a more solemn vigilance and gratefulness at the relative peace I had been living over the past 10 years. When it first hits your country, the anxiety leaks in ; yet, there is still solace, for it's not in your state, not in your town, not on your street, not in your house. But as we further refine the grid of our concern and we see it reach somewhere very near us, it is far from an abstraction anymore. Sometimes, this reveals in us a truth we were blind to all along, and sometimes the fear is absolutely realized. It would be unethical to speculate on the course of this virus - but what I can speak to is the oil-soaked virulence of anxiety and the ceremony each morning waiting to see if there are sparks.

This concept of distancing ourselves from something until it gets too close to us - is a phenomenon I gave named in jest as 'the reality pizza'. When we slice a pizza, we may slice it in half first, then again, then again, ad infinitum until what we are chopping doesn't resemble a slice and all the cheese and toppings are spread haphazardly around or left stuck to the blade. The purpose of this metaphor is to explain that this chopping process is leaving ourselves mentally some space to spare, some comforting thought that can warm us from the inside from this harsh wilderness , bleak, painted with fear we see all around us. But, eventually when we must face reality and things get close to us we no longer see what was once distinct things, cheese, toppings, etc. From afar, we perhaps can think somewhat objectively at what something is and is not, but in the midst of chaos, some of us suffer from anxiety-induced farsightedness.

The chopping process is likely the most profound of all ideas present in storytelling. The author's success in illustrating a scene often is a consequence of the dexterity with which they slice and dice a scene , stretching out certain moments, interleaving them with course-grained approximations of time. From an omniscient perspective, a single moment can contain an incredible wealth of information  and some moments in our lives pass by uneventfully while we are listlessly absorbed in our neural programming,  lengthening shadows dithering to and fro, against the backdrop of a yawning sun.

I see how the spatial slicing in regards to the coronavirus led me to experience dilation of time until the situation became more real. Now days continue to flicker on past my eyes, stripped of their once vibrant complexity, and laid bare as raw data : "new cases in Germany. no new cases in Minnesota. R naught of 3.5, didn't work as hard as I could have again, developing a dry cough." . The coronavirus is a thief and this time stolen will never be won back.

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