“Many small people, in small places, doing small things can change the world.”— Eduardo Galeano
Some who are comfortable sharing their feelings in public have voiced this same phenomenon: a sense that our world is closing in on us, getting smaller, and that we need to find a way to open it back up to the environment we believed would always be ours. There are so many obvious reasons the shrinking world is a shared experience for many of us. Anyone who is cleaning an empty nest, middle aged, retired from an earlier life’s work, maybe single now when they’d lived many years not so, and still suffering from the emotional challenges of the pandemic will be experiencing the sense of contraction.
I’m quite sure the hysteria to increase social activity this summer is a direct outgrowth of push-back on this new sense of claustrophobia. Our perception that opportunities are diminishing and social connections drying up will also surge unless we realize that just as with many of society’s other ills, this pandemic, climate, and political upheaval have served to highlight existential realities rather than create them. For a writer or artist of any kind, some of the connection happens inwardly, with a turn to more private intellectual pursuits which are healthy. Yet artists know that without connection to the world around them, their subjects get stale, thus an increased worry for all of us writers that diminishing stimulus only serves to lessen the link to our art.
What can be done about these perfectly natural phenomena, including the isolation imposed by a pandemic? I sense it’s not anything extraordinary. Conserving the energy wasted running around in search of something of our past will give us more for focused effort on things we’ve possibly never found. I think it’s newness we’re after, and that can only be experienced with our receptors at full preparedness. Constantly vibrating antennae take a lot of effort to control and so I suggest we go into a state of ever-readiness rather than constant movement. I know my protagonist in the Emily Alden Trilogy came to deal well with those changes around her that seemed to be constricting her art and her life. Just being ready to go in an entirely different direction gives one all the breathing room needed. The world isn’t shrinking around us, we’re just shrinking from it. I think if we settle down to listen to the music of the spheres a bit more we’ll find new ways of expanding the possibilities.