Dan O'Heirity

Before the days of Covid-19 my writing almost always had a tendency to be somewhat abstract, reflective, perhaps even philosophical to one degree or another. I would have thought that a pandemic would have seen me continue in this direction and to an even greater degree. I might have raised questions about life, death, meaning, purpose, will-power, self-determination and so on. But, oddly, I have found myself spending around three hours a day researching the Covid-19 virus whilst also keeping across current news stories from around the world and in Australia, the country where I have chosen to live, having previously lived in the United Kingdom – both England and Scotland – New Zealand and Hong Kong.

Perhaps the fact of my current writing is not so odd. Apparently I have a prodigious intellect which I rarely, if ever, employ and so I have found some direction through researching the Covid-19 virus as this research provides me with a sort of academic pursuit that tires out my mind, at least to some degree. I might conjecture that tiring out my mind is almost my sole purpose in sifting through the multifarious, and often conflicting, “facts” that emerge in the dozens of news stories on Covid-19 that I read each day, more often in the early morning when I am sitting in my garden drinking coffee and chain smoking. By this I mean that, ultimately, I am not sure that I really have any concern with “the truth” of Covid-19. I just engage in an intellectual exercise of sorting, filtering and constructing arguments.

I would conjecture that I have presented my interest in Covid-19 as a somewhat dispassionate academic pursuit and so it is. I am of course aware – albeit in in an alexithymia sort of way – that millions of people have become infected with the virus and that tens of thousands of people have died from the virus. However, that fact is, for me just a fact. It does not differ in status from the fact that my cat is sitting in front of me as I type these words. What can I say? Relating to the world, to other people as actually being people, has never been one of my strong points. Rather I have always experienced the world as being at a distance from me, as a sort of abstract space occupied by people whom I would rather not encounter. This virus has not changed matters in that respect. The people who cross my path, and they are few in number, are just objects.

Whilst having nothing to do with me, these things that go on – I mean other people doing whatever it is that they do – have always annoyed me to an inestimable degree. And so it is that I find Covid-19 life entirely to my liking. In fact, if somewhere were to ask me about the ideal conditions for my life then I would likely venture that the current Covid-19 conditions represent that ideal. I have to leave my house only when I choose to leave. I do not have to go to work. And the world is mercifully almost absent of utterly annoying people. I say “almost” because irksome individuals continue to find their way into my world. For example, this morning I went for my daily 6 kilometre walk only to become utterly annoyed at a man who was playing music so loudly that it reverberated around the sports field where I was exercising.

I also came across a typical sight in the pre Covid-19 days, a man wandering around, holding his phone at arms length and shouting into it so that he could be heard by the person to whom he was talking. Fucking idiot. With these two exceptions, and this point is to be noted, the world was a quiet and peaceful place, a fact which stands in sharp contrast to the world that existed before this virus hit us. In that world there was a constant cacophony of noise that was, for me at least, utterly unbearable. To conclude, I am rather hoping that the Covid-19 lockdown in Australia will last for at least six months. If it lasts longer, all to the good and this may be the case as we seem to have sufficient stupid Australians constantly breaking the social distancing rules, a fact that should help to ensure that community transmission continues to occur.

Whilst others – I mean the herd – seem to be struggling to one degree or another with life under Covid-19 lock down, I am thriving. My world view has always been based upon exercising my will power in pursuit of my aims. I have found little, if anything, of value in my emotions despite various health professionals and therapists pointing out to me that a life without feeling is pretty much a meaningless life. I tend to disagree. A life without emotions, or more exactly a life where the emotions are almost completely in abeyance, is a life with a different sort of meaning. A word on the “meaning” of “meaning”. If we were to follow the philosophers then we would head down a rabbit hole of definitions and I have no desire to go to that place. Hence it will suffice to say that “meaning” has to do with the “significance of our lives” or with the “purpose of our lives”.

The search for meaning is the search for a point to it all where the point might be found in living in terms of religious beliefs through to finding sufficient meaning in raising a family. Meaning brings a sense and order to our being in this world. In this sense it seems possible, if not probable, that a lot of people will re-discover the question of the meaning of their lives in this Covid-19 world. One of the reasons why this might happen is that our mortality will become much more evident as thousands, and perhaps even hundreds of thousands, people die from the virus. It is difficult to imagine people in the United States, Spain, Italy, France, Germany and the United Kingdom continuing with their lives without deeply questioning what they have done with their lives to date and what they might do with their lives into the future. In other words, people in these countries may turn to the question of the meaning of their lives.

There area a few factors that will see this question answered in a variety of different ways. People may turn to religions for their answers and those who adhere to a faith may find that faith even more necessary. Equally people might turn away from their religions, sensing an absent and indifferent God. Those who have imbibed the post-modern murder of big picture answers along with the end of truth will have to look for more individualistic answers to the purpose of it all. Perhaps they will see meaning in the mundane – as opposed to the transcendent – aspects of their lives. Philanthropy suggests itself as a possible locus of meaning in this respect. However, it is equally plausible that some will find answers in the “cult of the self” – a concept that I may well have read about somewhere – where the self becomes the focus for living a fulfilling life.

As for me, I think about meaning every day and I have realized that I have significantly lost my way. I allowed myself to be swayed by health professionals who thought that they knew better than I what my life “should” look like. They were wrong in their views. I know how I want my life to be and I need to marshal my resolve in order to bring about the state of affairs that I desire. This state of affairs will see me determining my days in terms of writing such that writing is my only goal. Everything else will be sublimated to this primary goal. Thus, for example, I shall spend far less time working than writing. I will resolve too for solitude meaning that I will continue to ignore the people whom I have cut out of my life. After all, I explained to them that I had no desire to continue my relationship with them.

First Published April 13th, 2020

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