We Are Nowhere and It’s for the Foreseeable Future

And like a ten minute dream in the passenger seat
While the world was flying by
I haven’t been gone very long
But it feels like a lifetime…

I’ve got no plans and too much time

I feel too restless to unwind

I’m always lost in thought as I walk a block

To my favorite neon sign

Bright Eyes, “We Are nowhere and it’s now” (2005)

There are surely many songs that might aptly capture the surreal situation we find ourselves in, but this Bright Eyes track popped into my mind this morning. Time stretches and contracts, as in a dream; we have too much time and no time at all; we might take a spin around the block to stretch our legs, and look wistfully at the neon sign of our favorite bar, which is currently going over the Niagara Falls of bankruptcy in a barrel. We are nowhere, and it’s now. How long now is, nobody knows anymore.

Politicians, cravenly auditioning for the affection of their capricious Daddy, have made haste to “reopen” their local economies. These are political antics, to be sure — turning public health and the literal plague into the latest front of the Culture War. Yet these calls to “reopen” represent real yearnings and desperations. The piling up of lost wages, lost savings, lost jobs, lost homes and lost minds is an endless addition of zeroes, too terrifying for most families to even think about. Except that they have to. Flatten the curve or whatever, sure — my life is unquestionably a straight slope downward.

Social distancing the mandala

So we empathize with the workers and families hanging on by a thread, in a society that scarcely gave a thought to what would happen if the economy were to be put on pause for more than five minutes. We do not have any patience for the vile and irresponsible toddlers who have rallied at state capitals, proudly spreading the disease that they do-or-do-not-believe exists, as an itch for the dopamine scratch of their own personal psychodrama. My goodness.

Curiously, we speak of “reopening” the economy. If, as is commonly and incorrectly believed, the government should be managed like a family budget, then the economy appears to be a storefront, metaphorically speaking. Pull up the steel rolling door to your hardware store, turn on the “We’re Open” sign, and commerce gets right to it. Whatever fantasies people have about getting Back to Normal, it seems clear that many businesses (bars? music venues? airlines?) will not be the same as they were before. And the economic carnage wrought by this disaster has already torn through people’s lives.

We are told that we’re in this together. And indeed, we are in this together. It’s just that nobody said whether that was a good thing or not. I’d rather not be in it with some of these people.

It’s been a while since we checked in with our best-of-the-week feature. Here are some great readings collected by ToM’s editorial staff in recent times. Also, friend-of-the-blog Claude the Reciter has been bringing a little poetry to the crisis. Follow him on YouTube!