These days rattle against a sense I’ve always prized, of some certainty in life.
Something to count on.
Beyond dying of course, though that now seems a part of this greater chaos.
It is hard to muster hope. Harder still to plan in a way that might encourage it.
But we push on. Work—if we are lucky enough to have it between times cities lock shut, dashing jobs like shattered glass—seems a strange half shadow of itself. Similar motions, to similar ends, but hollowed from the core as we sit at home no longer in creative company. Going through the motions of normality with a never-to-distant sense of vulnerability. Is this still real? How can it last?
This life now would have been unimaginable two years ago. How would we have responded to a glimpse of it? Curled back in disbelief? Probably.
But even now, with that lesson in unpredictability and impermanence on board, we push on as if victories over the issues of this moment will restore us. Why would we think that? How can we now assume anything about the days, years and months to come … why should they be better?
And so an end of hope. It feels that way: if hope is promise, fond expectation, then how can we even begin to think of it.
I went to the football a week and a bit back, and was thrilled to again be in that press of people, sucking in the simple normality of it, sitting to watch my team of 50 years find new and ever-more complicated ways to lose.
There was a simple joy in the ordinariness. The calls of ‘ball!’. The slack jawed wonderment at the state of on-field adjudication. The knowing banter between strangers in neighbouring seats.
But there, somewhere in these bays and aisles, within this hallowed, storied sanctum of the MCC, was a single man infected. A virus that would be carried on the thin flurries of chilly winter air to infect a handful of others, lockdown hundreds and send thousands for testing.
That was the cost of a close brush with the exquisiteness of ordinary life; an ordinariness that now has the odds stacked against it. Can we go back to that in good faith? Will we dare to test those limits again?
Vaccination. Yes. I know.
That’s the slim shape of hope now I suppose. A needle in time. But best we get on with it, because otherwise hope becomes an illusion. Even with it, it seems an absurd uncertainty.
Maybe the before times were a foolish paradise. Perhaps we are better sorted now … confronted by the frailty of everything, nervous of what passes so easily between us.
But maybe that’s the good in it too, a grain of what could even be hope.
If one man can send a football crowd packing through the unwelcome intimacy of infection, then perhaps we might come to see possibilities in that connection. We’ve been schooled to prize our individuality and squeeze the profit out of it, but our truth is human proximity; shared risk and destiny, a collected, social, us. We might yet turn that to some goodness against all the ills that face us. We might find hope in that last certainty of simple shared being. It seems a long way to fall. Or maybe a beginning.