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Changing West, one of ten America Today murals by Thomas Hart Benton, 1930-31
"Even if this Damned Pandemic never recedes …"

I went to bed last night in the there and then. Pandemics have a way of simultaneously propelling one both backward and forward. Backward into longing for how it once was and forward into hopefully pining after how it might become. Meanwhile, one remains steadfastly in the NowHere, a most curious terrain where, depending upon capitalization, it might seem indistinguishable from nowhere or a stunningly present NowHere. The longing and pining too easily become heart-bruising pushes and shoves since both objectives remain steadfastly out of reach regardless of effort expended. For short periods, longing and pining might produce some reassuring respite from any sudden, shocking trauma, but neither serves well as a lifestyle, and both in concert seem certain to result in a sort of skitzy-paranoia serving nobody well, a form of self-destructive denial. However far anyone might long or pine, they remain precisely NowHere.

When will this pandemic end? Likely not in our lifetimes.
The world we once believed we knew so well has always told inconsistent stories, like shadows flickering on some crude cave wall, often so damned convincingly that we come to firmly believe we've achieved familiarity. But the story's never continuous for long, perhaps a generation, maybe two, before it goes off its own rails and seems to go to Hell, hand baskets optional. It throws most for an absolute loop and suddenly, betrayingly, goes sideways or completely upside down. The usual first iteration of a fresh acceptance of how things have become almost always involves longing and pining, an urgent urge to either return to before times or skip ahead into a future remarkably resembling those before times, perhaps better. These aspirations represent a form of survival, an achingly heartfelt revival of whatever one came to know so well. We ask, as I did through the prior three months, WhatNow?, as if conjuring an answer by repeating the call, but also denying another kind of call.

No future or any past casts a strong enough shadow to last into their actual physical manifestation. Daily updates seem to ever increase uncertainty, and projections fade or wobble off discernible course, leaving even the more dedicated aspirer exhausted, perhaps cynical. Any repeatedly asked fundamentally undecidable question eventually produces nihilistic isolation, no future and also no past, a nowhere or a NowHere. Focus might shift away from plotting overly-clever courses forward toward simply making a life here, where we are, where we find ourselves, whether or not we would have chosen this place from a now other place and time. The past then starts slipping away, no longer a particularly useful template for what might become, and the future starts maturing, capable of manifesting without all that much beforehand scheming. Welcome to NowHere.

Arriving in NowHere seems to require merely (merely, he said!) discarding the utterly illogical notion that nowhere might somehow exist, for nowhere was ever an unnoteworthy impossibility. It's not so much that wherever you go, there you are, but wherever you go, HERE you are, NowHere. The there was never there either, past or future, only NowHere actually exists. And then gone. Where, then, does one sink foundations in such a mercurial space? If WhatNow? amounted to reassuring inquiry, what might the NowHere provide? From here, freshly NowHere, I cannot clearly say. I recognize that I also speculate with the NowHere, as I long unselfconsciously speculated in the WhatNow? Space. Perhaps NowHere provides only a fresh space within which to speculate, but with one perhaps noteworthy advantage. Wherever I might have previously fancied myself being, I was in reflection undoubtedly NowHere then, my body and my being in fully leverageable form there. I could DO stuff there, in the NowHere, and only long or pine within any competing time.

So there, … or I mean NowHere … I've introduced my fresh focus for the upcoming quarter. It's now summertime, which somehow seems the perfect time to try living NowHere. Later, I can pine after this time then gone and I can always long for any distant future, seemingly even should I ever actually arrive there (which I'm fairly certain I won't). I'm reserving this time, this precious irreproducible period, to acknowledge this simple inescapable fact. I am here, NowHere, at last. The Damned Pandemic warps both my perception of yesterday and of tomorrow, while it might simply inform my NowHere. I need not fear the NowHere, for it simply is; not threatening, not promising, simply being. I expect to be coping more than failing to change and realizing that I might have actually changed while focusing upon my NowHere. Even if this Damned Pandemic never recedes, I suspect that I might still succeed in achieving NowHere.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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