I have noticed in myself a general state of fragility that I think of as "system-wide" in the sense that it embraces all of me, and I think expresses the broader context of living in a post-pandemic world, not meaning that the pandemic is over, but rather that the world has changed as a result of the pandemic. Before the pandemic, I had my vulnerabilities, as does everybody, my ups and downs, some of which I discuss in these pages. But now, beneath the other vulnerabilities, I have both this highly personal sensation of fragility across the whole width of my life, but also an awareness that this sensation of fragility is probably universally felt, or nearly so. I have moments when I feel it would not take much for the seams to split open and the whole fabric of day to day life to come apart.
Image I developed to suggest both the fragility and interconnectedness of our contemporary world. The image is adapted from a photo of dessicated soil.
This is almost certainly related to the greatly increased interest among the public (some publics, I suppose; there are many, I think, who are terrified to admit there may be a problem) in mental health. It's not just that we have all had a bad scare. It's that the things we assumed were solid and reliable have turned out to be much less so, and we no longer have a clear idea where to reinvest ourselves. Friendships have become, I dunno, orders of magnitude more important than they were before. Family also, where it supports us, and perhaps there is more willingness to try to heal rifts where they have occurred. Work, which used to be the defining matrix, has lost a great deal of its hold over us. No doubt this is partly the result of retirement, in my case, but it is more than that. I still have some work commitments, but they have lost some of their urgency, their "you have to pay attention" whine. Why do I have to pay attention? The question is there, now, whenever work calls, and my relationship to those commitments and responsibilities has changed as a consequence. Our sense of fragility is also related to a shift in our understanding of how predominantly we are physical beings.
How does this affect my writing? I don't actually know, yet. Part of the problem for me is that writing is, for me, a "whole person" activity. And since the changes I am talking about are also "whole person" changes, it is not yet clear how the one carries over into the other. I do feel that writing has become more important, not less. Perhaps for society as a collective, as well as for me, individually. Beyond our culture's fascination for entertainment, also, maybe. Entertainment seems to have gone up over our various lockdowns, but I think there is a thirst for sensitive writing, what one might call numinous writing. Writing that recognizes the interconnections that appear to be the only things that have sustained us over the past two years, for good or ill. I mean, the vax protest movements and conspiracies, those act within the same register of our interconnectedness, it's all part of the same system-wide fragility I began talking about above. And we have all had our noses rubbed in the awareness of how much we depend on the good will of our neighbours and other members of society, on their generosity and presence, again, for good or ill.
There is a relationship between fragility, vulnerability, and things like resiliency, too, although it is a paradoxical connection. We don't grow as people, unless we can acknowledge and enter into our vulnerabilities. Resiliency requires vulnerability. However, fragility has its dangers. Our ability to survive is diminished if we can't find ways to protect ourselves from invasive or corrosive forces. We seem caught right now within that dilemma. I have some hopes that what I call numinous writing - let me be clear, not religious, or even spiritual, but simply open to the reserves within humans and our relation to the cosmos - may contribute something to finding a way forward out of the current state of fragility, which some perceive as actually an impasse. I do not know what that changes about the way I write. I was already cued to the numinous, but I think I now see how it threads itself through all our cultures, our interconnectedness, in ways that need to be nurtured. Many call for the light of reason to find our way forward, and I do think that has a role to play, but it has to be within the context of a heightened sensitivity to the luminosities that connect us to each other.