Have you ever wondered like me whom the intrepid fool was who first decided that the one small portion of the fugu pufferfish that can be eaten without dying should be classed as a wonderous delicacy? Would you not imagine that after the first slip of the knife and the excruciating death so soon to follow good sense might have overwhelmed class-based gluttony? Equally illogical seems the ongoing sale for consumption of a creature known to carry a disease quite capable in even less than ideal conditions of infecting if not wiping out a good percentage of humanity. These strange and insensible decisions make any contemplation of the so called ‘new normalcy’ problematic if not irrelevant. Considering humankind has thus far proved quite incapable of making astute and practical decisions based on probability of life and death, are we really anticipating that these reoccurring trends of foolishness will somehow be culled from our collective sub conscious? So many open-ended questions, so little good and consistent evidence to indicate any acceptable or believable answers.
Normal is of course a divisive word, having any number of unpredictable forms and dependent totally upon whim, fashion and social pressures. We all know and accept that beans are inclined to produce flatulence, yet we still consume to a whole mess at any given opportunity. The consequences of our species weakness for the genus Fabaceae is accepted and either politely ignored or becomes the butt, excuse the pun, of endless ribald humor. The new norm will of course be neither amusing nor a matter capable of simply passing over, but rather will shape the future development, if such continuance proves a possibility of all and everything our descendants know, understand, see, touch, smell or experience. Exactly what the components of that unavoidable condition will be is quite simply unknowable, unpredictive, beyond control. In many ways we are reduced to that first cave person who picks up a rock, weighs it in their hand, but has no real concept of the unavoidable consequences that ensue after the first blow.
I have spent some time recently trying to recall the old normal, and much to my chagrin find that after the five months of enforced isolation the exact nature of regular life has somewhat faded from view.
My time has been mine own for many a year, so a regular schedule is not something I have ever needed to commit too, unless you consider the occasional easily cancelled irregular social get together for coffee and cake as a calendar worthy event. I have been a solitary soul for over decade, accepting myself as being wholly impossible to cohabitate with, as proven by two unharmonious divorces and innumerable less formal but equally painful dissolutions. I am proudly impossibly regimented, but not necessarily habitual, making the task of trying to compare the present moment with past happenstance not an overly simplistic feat. Life today most certainly feels different in a whole host of varying ways but perhaps that’s the effect of phycology simply outweighing reality.
One obvious difference is that every emergence from solitude into the enormous and now slightly scary world at large requires considerable thought and preparation, the days of the off the cuff trip to the grocery store or the neighbor’s abode are long departed. Any journey, large or small now necessitates at least a second thought if not a third. The mask has become our friend, our constant companion, our defense, our seeming sole protector against the very worse our planet can threaten.
When I overhear people say quite casually, ‘Oh, I forgot my mask’, I am inclined to now wonder if they also perhaps forgot to put on their underwear, both seeming to me to now be equally ‘de rigour’, at least for those whom don’t adopt the style Ecosse.
The mask is quite possibly a prime example of how the the new normalcy might be easily pictured, a future which whether we wish or not will be one of enforced barriers, both to protect and to signal our clear understanding of the imperative need for mutual care and respect. A heraldic standard if you will, indicating a mutual trust, much as the white flag has successfully served for generations. Negatives and positives will abound, perhaps equally, perhaps ill balanced. Tactility is a certainly a permanent victim, ease of touch is now naught but a distant memory, replaced with a careful consideration that perhaps might ever have been wise and deserved. Personal space will again by necessity be measured in human scale, not in that preferred by manufacturers for the canning of sardines. Ensuring our collective breath no longer edges wards the turgid.