Most human beings run their lives to patterns and habits.
Which means most of society runs on habit too. Which is good, since then we know what to count on, and as we often say, humans mostly want tomorrow to be more or less what it is today.
Unless situation is well nigh unbearable, a large portion of the population will just want things to go on as they are right now. Or not too different.
The tragedy — and glory — of humans is that we dream of really big things, but in the end we settle for, to quote Terry Pratchett “An egg sandwich and hope it’s well done.”
The people who achieve big things are honestly a bit broken. Yeah, much is made in biographies and movies about how the great are really more unhappy than us, etc. That’s not always true. Might never be true. To be great, to achieve something, people need to get their fractures if not mended (most often mended is not possible) under control. Yeah, weirdness remains, sure, but whether they collect peach pits, or dye their cats pink, the high achievers are most often functional and even happy people. Perhaps not happy in terms that would work for you (but would anyone else’s happiness work for you?) but happy enough.
Being broken, whether through some horrible incident in childhood, as Freud would have us believe, or because their brain is quirky, is the reason they run a little faster, work a little harder, or persist beyond human limits. Or, of course, the reason they find the present unendurable and want a different future.
Even those people, though — I know a few — run on habits. Usually in fact, being more broken than average (we’re all somewhat broken, you know? I mean, no, it’s not just you) they need tighter and more exact habits than other people. It’s not quite wrong when the movies and books portray people who are driven, motivated and smart as running on very tight internal schedules. Partly because when you’re trying the unknown, you need the known.
Through some of the most difficult (though not always bad) times in my life, my routines ran like clockwork. Up at the same time, same thing for breakfast, go for walk, come back work till x time. Have lunch. Work till Y time. Tic Tic Tic.
Doing it that way freed my brains and emotions for the serious stuff, and left the day to run on wheels, no matter what wheels were coming off from my publishing, or whatever.
And then the bow breaks.
For me it was gradual, because it was a slow progression of an insidious illness (two actually) which attacks brain power.
I first noticed the habits coming unglued, then stopped being able to write much of anything longer than a blog post.
When you take in account that I can and have written a novel in two days, suddenly finding 4k words an immense weight to lift was an issue.
You can kind of see the worst of it if you go over my posts in 2014 and 2015. I do notice it when I’m looking for things to echo.
Sure my posts are always typo fests. Partly because they’re written around the “real” work day and either when I’m exhausted, or when I am still half asleep, depending.
But typo fests are one thing, and actual issues bringing the point home are another. Sometimes in the middle I just spin in circles. And sometimes I don’t know how you guys put up with it those years.
It’s been getting better since. It’s not…. Okay yet. Treatment for an illness started in 16 and in another finally clicked (though I was semi-treated) in 18.
I am told severe brain injury, which by that time I had, takes 7 years (at least. Sometimes more. In some ways younger son is NOW recovering from the issues he has had since 4 when he got major brain trauma. (Dancing. In socks. On the edge of the tub. No I don’t know why. Yes, I literally turned my head for a minute.) No idea why it took that long, and I doubt anyone else knows.)
So I am better. Not quite back to the state quasi-ante. (And the cursed book is a separate consideration.)
But what I realize, as I heal, is both what a mess it got to, and how much I relied on habits that got nuked from orbit. Like you know, get up at same time, have x for breakfast, sit down to work till y.
In all that the lockdown hasn’t helped.
Which brings us to the bigger point. (Because I’ve whined about my personal issues with establishing and re-learning habits.)
All of society’s habits got nuked. Some of them very long standing for many, many people. And expectations are all up in the air.
Honestly, beyond the fact — yes, fact, deal. we have proof in states and countries that never locked down — that it did nothing for the pandemic which was not that scary after all, the grandiose scheme of the would be elites to lock down all of society to prevent people from catching a virus, did damage at a level most people aren’t tuned to.
It nuked societal expectations at a very fundamental level. You know, stuff like “if I go into a store they will sell me stuff.” Or “If I run a restaurant, the government won’t shut me down unless I have serious issues with hygiene or I’m cooking the neighbor’s pets.” Or “I won’t be told I have to wear a mask of less than dubious medical value when it causes known issues with a condition I have.” Or “if I have the money, I’ll be able to fly where I want to.” Or….
Lots of things getting nuked, all at the same time.
This is the equivalent of taking a complex machine, and starting to remove pieces at random.
We don’t know what comes next. None of us knows what comes next. The scariness of 2020 is that it shouldn’t have happened. Logically it shouldn’t have happened. There is no sense in it. It should have been impossible. But it did. We lived through it. And we won’t soon forget.
Sure, some of the things coming out of it are good. I mean, people are starting to be as defiant of senseless orders as I am at my baseline. And the technology that allows us to work from home is finally being used, as the tyranny of “but we’ve always done it that way” comes to play.
However in individual lives as in society at large, when you break the habits you break the moorings, the things you can rely on.
And suddenly everything is adrift.
Talking to Bill Reader, who is contemplating a move of his own, yesterday, I defended the position that the housing “bubble” isn’t a bubble but an actual equalization of prices around the country. (And yes, eventually salaries will equalize too, but that’s slower.) At least for the people who suddenly can live anywhere they want to. (Look, the bubble was caused by mortgages being suddenly easier. This is not the case now, okay? Now it’s people moving around in ways they haven’t since the dustbowl years. Americans are engaged in great migrations. Some of them as erratic as a spider on acid. (And yes, I’m about to join that movement, which means for the next two months the blog will be erratic-ish on posting times, though I’ll try to stay on track.)
Where will that lead? I don’t know. No, it’s not just californication of innocent states (though likely it is for my current one, honest.) A lot of the people moving are not those who voted for the problems. And people moving are definitely in a substrata of maybe 20% (maybe as many as 30% if you extend some things) of the population. Unfortunately (?) they’re also usually the higher earning people, which means when they move a lot of jobs to service them — from restaurants to shops to quaint little ice cream parlors — are going to either shut or move. And how to move to a place with enough population density to pay is something else. As is what happens to the cities.
And all of this is happening while people who think the future has been revealed to them by the deranged prognostications of Karl Marx, who was out of date by the time he published, have seized control of our institutions and are trying to force us to fit the pattern in their heads.
It won’t work. And honestly total disrespect for the institutions and the “elite” commands are the best outcome of this. Not as good as we’d like it to be, because hell, society needs parameters and people it can trust. No, not as far as these bullshiters have been trusted, but minimally. And I don’t know if we’re left with even minimally when this is done.
So, nothing. We don’t know. Society was hit with a hammer and the fragments will assemble in some way. If we’re lucky it won’t be into a machine that does nothing but produce ducks and cuckoo clocks while starving.
Most people want tomorrow to be more or less like today. And to have stability and certainty, and count on habits: theirs and others.
But that is not what we have. What we have is heading full speed ahead into the unknown, while the ship is captained by people who think they know what they’re doing, and aren’t even aware of the vast unknowns.
This is going to be fun. For values of fun.
Fortunately we can deal with it — right? — because when things get odd, the Odds turn pro.
Hold on to the sides of the boat.
Build under, build over, build around, because the structure is groaning and we have hurricane incoming.
Be not afraid.