What Goes Viral

I’m going through another round of insomnia. E. and I go through a kind of checklist of what might be keeping me up nights and days. We both expect it to be like a button: when we name it, I’d get some kind of an electric shock to light up the path from initial thought to anxiety. But no. My conscious mind is as flat as a salt lake.

Nothing is bothering me.

But the news is filled with headlines to provoke the most gut-wrenching responses. And on social media artists of all kinds are using the war to promote their own careers/identity: “support” the cause by purchasing my books because I am donating proceeds to…

My son reminds me that people are more often acting from a place of good intentions than exploitation. I can’t help but see a variation of Mother Courage, in a culture where image means even more than capital.

But I vow to push that image aside and to stop myself from assuming the worst in people’s motives.

The pharmacies in Norway are almost out of iodine tablets. So once again I ask myself what is overreacting, and what is naively hoping for the best? Even in the event of a nuclear explosion, people over 40 don’t need iodine supplements, according to the national news. I feel relieved. And I also remember I still have iodine drops in the cupboard left-over from my brief foray into a vegan diet. I relax a little.

I wrote that before I realized that foray is a military term.

The UN released a new climate report.

I’m sure everyone can guess the summary.

I remind myself that these are not post-apocalyptic times. And if they are apocalyptic times, well then what’s new in the large scale of the world? Why not here and now? But the thing is, the apocalypse itself? It won’t happen in a cut-away – before the story picks up again, what’s left of us wandering in fur coats, ripping at dried meat with our teeth.

I ask what I can do. Knowing that cluttering the internet with memes and potential disinformation isn’t helping anyone. Knowing I am not a qualified armchair general, and that my perspective on events I have no first-hand knowledge of is irrelevant and only adds to the noise. What can I do?

There are monks and nuns who will sit in a cave for years to (in essence) pray for the world. I wish I believed in that kind of supernatural power.

What I do believe is that if I take a chunk of time in the day to focus on compassion, it might linger in my heart the rest of the day. It might guide my words and my actions.

Maybe I can believe there is some kind of supernatural chain-reaction of compassion mirror neurons (as there clearly is for anger and fear). Maybe it is real and maybe it matters. One person at a time.

A virus spread around the world that way.

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  1. Thank you for saying all this for me today. I am just too exhausted to have thought it or said it but it rings perfectly to me. Thank you

  2. Like Katherine, I thank you for putting my thoughts into words. Insomnia last night, too, and no reason why. Woke up feeling dreadful. I often think it’s when our lives change rhythm that our sleep suffers, and going on hols or going back to work can be a trigger. Take care. R

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