Summa: diary (August 21-26, 2023)
Nothing is meaningless
Nothing is inconsequential
Nothing is wasted
Nothing is forgotten
Nothing is lost
Nothing is irredeemable.
August 21-26 (Monday-Saturday). After over three years of ducking and diving, vaccination and booster, and masking and hand washing, I finally succumbed to the evil disease. The Eris variant of COVID-19 has a longer incubation period than its predecessors before it registers either as a ‘positive’ on a Lateral Flow Test or manifests symptoms; therefore, I’m unsure when and where I contracted it. A sudden and profound tiredness, nausea, shivering, cold sweats, and a delirious dream marked the perceivable onset of the virus. This was followed by intermittent coughing, mild headaches, a blistering sore throat, sneezing, a moderate nasal congestion, and a below average body temperature. At the time, I was recovering from a bacterial infection of the bladder (including the side effects of strong antibiotics) and a significant flare-up of IBS. Thus, my body already had several fights on its hands. Which may have made me more susceptible to an incoming assault on my immune system. Unhelpfully, one malady’s symptoms are much like those of the others.
My days were spent in bespoke lockdown, isolated in the dining room and the small bedroom, being waited on by ‘meals on wheels’, with a laptop as my only company and conduit to the outer world. I took the opportunity to catch-up on YouTube videos discussing a range of esoteric and sometimes doubtful topics such as: UFOs (or Unidentified Aerial Phenomemon, as they’re now called); ghosts captured on CCTV; multiverses; the universe as simulation; time travellers; and conspiracy theories regarding Prighozin’s plane crash). Some of the researchers appear to have integrity, and their ideas — a measure of interest and borderline plausibility. Others are downright lazy and uninformed thinkers at best, and delusional or deceitful at worst. Nevertheless, it was fun wading through the murky waters of the populist zeitgeist. Intellectual popcorn; sensationalist porn.
People may believe in an idea because they need to, because the possibility that it isn’t true is unbearable. This principle is applicable in the domains of not only of whacky- and pseudo-science but also religion and spirituality. I have always been struck by how Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of that consummate rationalist, Sherlock Holmes) was so easily duped by the Cottingley fairies. To our eyes, today, these metaphysical creatures look unmistakably like painted, paper cutouts made by two young cousins for whom the distinction between reality and the imagination was negotiable. As on so many occasions when confronted with supposed manifestations of disincarnate spirits in seances and photographs, Doyle was able to willingly suspend disbelief along with his critical faculties.
Friday morning, while I was laying in bed, I saw — in the manner of a vision presented before my mind’s-eye, and in sharp focus — a tall, plain cylindrical tower (like a Norman keep) made of dark grey dressed stone, circled by a squat wall constructed with the same materials. Slowly, I was drawn ever closer to it, until I could survey its surface in great detail. A COVID-19 hallucination, perhaps. I recalled the description of God as a ‘strong tower’ in the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 18.10). In folkloric interpretations of dreams, the structure is emblematic of, variously, coming happiness, security, fulfilled ambition, and the prospect of a difficulty or sadness overcome. I’m up for all that!
1.30 pm: My first jaunt out of doors since Monday. It was like stepping-down from the Lunar Lander onto the surface of the Moon. (Of course, there’re some conspiracy theorists who deny that this ever happened.)
This week I’ve observed, from my dining room, the sun come up and go down, clouds cluster and disperse, the flight of passing birds, sudden downpours and, in the gaps between houses in the far distance, traffic passing on the main road. Unlike in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), our neighbours don’t unwittingly stage intriguing vignettes of their lives and peculiarities. Surprisingly few of them are visible until they switch on the light in a room at eventide. Houses — like lanterns.
After five days in solitary confinement (and still testing positive), my sense of myself in the world has changed subtly but markedly. Thought has slowed down, along with my movements. Both have, in so doing, grown more deliberate and economic. (I’ve learned to expend my limited energy wisely.) There’s a greater purposefulness in undertaking small tasks, presently. Periods of activity are followed by intervals of rest and hydration, ritualistically. (Maintaining a realistic pace is essential.) There’re aspects of this illness that recall my experience of ME at its worst. It’s as though some vital source has been switched-off deep inside of me.
There’re times when, in my imagination, I see myself performing a creative feat (always the same one) that I’m not presently capable of. The sense of exhilaration and fulfilment that I experience at the prospect is almost overwhelming. I can honestly say that nothing I’ve achieved in the past has inspired such an intense response. Perhaps this is my ‘pearl of great price’. The cost of its purchase is beyond my means. I have the vision, but not the experience, intellect, and dexterity. Is this vision the projection of a parallel life I might have lived had I not taken the path that I did? Or is it an (im)possible extension to my current operations?
The memory of the tower haunts me.