🇺🇸 Philosophy in Quarantine

San Jose, California:

How do you pass time?

I don’t pass time, time passes me. Every single moment at my desk in the dark blurs into some stock gif, every single song turns into a broken record. Days and nights wane away under the passing screens of Reddit, Discord, and Youtube. But those precious moments in which I seem to own my time, those don’t really “pass” per se, they’ve stayed with me. I seek out song birds, little yellow finches, and loud blue jays, and hippity black-eyed juncos, and even the occasional woodpecker drumming away. I watch as they tweet away perched on redwood trees, and wash themselves in shallow puddles. The times I’ve creeped over dead leaves to get a closer view of some avian beauty plucking a worm from the ground. The very different moments, where I scribbled with a worn down pencil on coffee stained paper, trying to put all my thoughts into aphorisms before they slip from my mind. Or maybe the days spent digging up lost treasures from the depths of my closet, finding memories further away, back and back into the past. I freeze these moments, place them into some icy preservative chamber, and wait for a day when I can revive them, looking back on them fondly when this too passes. 

Do you have any advice for others?

We used to dream of being in an interesting time. My friends and I often imagined what it would be like to be in the trenches of World War II, sailing into the new world with some explorer (that wasn’t Columbus because he was awful), or looking forward to being upon a rocket ship venturing out into great space. 

2020 is very interesting, and the consensus of Gen Z is that we hate it. The fires, the pandemic, the riots, and then fires again….it seems like a tirade of Biblical plagues. Even though the outside world is interesting, most of us are confined to our humble abodes. Life seems more banal than ever, and except for daily existential crises, nothing of note seems to happen to the individual. Wake up, digital school, digital homework, digital conversations, bed, wake up. We are almost modern incarnates of Sisyphus.

Albert Camus, a philosopher often appealing to high schoolers because of his edgy demeanor and rebel attitude, famously said “We must imagine Sisphyus happy” in his essay The Myth of Sisyphus. He believes we must learn to embrace the conflict between our desire for meaning and life’s vacillation between meaningless banality and chaos. 

However, like many philosophers, he does not really give a step by step program on how to do this and become an “absurd hero.” Thus, I am going to attempt to give my best advice on how to deal with the doldrums of our current world. 

First, enjoy your extra time, you are never going to have it again. If you are a high schooler like me, you are likely going to go to college, get a 9-5 job, work for 40 years, retire to Florida, die, and have an overpriced funeral. Time is ticking. So learn some trivia, or how to juggle or whatever other tricks you can show off at cocktail parties. Don’t spend all your time on Youtube or Instagram or Reddit or however else you like to waste your time. If you struggle with managing your time, set twenty-minute timers for breaks, or write out a daily to-do list. Succeeding in little goals will result in an increase in meaning and likely happiness in your life.

Second, look around at your surroundings. Again time is ticking, I’m hopefully leaving for college next year, you may be too. Explore your childhood neighborhood, walk up random roads you’ve never been on, admire how the dew shines as it clings to plant stalks, maybe even climb that tree that has always looked so inviting. This will a) reduce the total amount of ergonomic damage that comes from working at a computer and b) add some scene changes into your life.    

Third, seek out community. There are two possibilities for the people in your lives. Either they will be in your life after this ends, or they will not. If the former is the case, you drift apart if you don’t frequently call or Zoom or write letters or however else you communicate. If the latter is the case, whether those people moved on from you or they are dead, you will regret not engaging with them while you can. I know that interaction feels emptier when a screen divides you, but you can still have a connection through laughing at awful Tiktoks or communist memes.

To conclude, we don’t want to live in these times, but we don’t have a choice. The choice we do have is whether to let our lifeblood drain away while binging our 17th show on Netflix or to rise to the challenge of redeeming our restricted lives.

Sophia G.

4 September 2020

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