Little Bubble . . . Big Bubble

“In my personal bubble, I’m doing fine. Pretty good, actually. But when I think outside of my space, when I think about the wider world out there, it gets really depressing. I can hardly go there.”

I’ve been hearing this sentiment a lot. And I’ve been feeling it myself.

In my world, my little personal reality bubble, life is good. As good as ever, really. I have my health (knock wood). I’m not struggling financially. I have my partner and my family for support and company. I have projects and outdoor activities and a sweet daily routine. I have nice neighbors and a solid house and food in the fridge and money in the bank and good books to read and Montana to play in. No complaints. More than that, plenty of reason to be grateful and content. In fact, I said as much to Marypat not long ago. “I think the word that best sums up my state of mind right now is contentment.”

And yet.

Widen the view, pan out, even just a little, and it goes to hell pretty quickly. Obituaries cite Covid-19 as the cause of death for someone local almost every day. Our regional climate is dry and warm and often slightly alarming. Elsewhere it is truly alarming, like, apocalypse alarming. Politics are so far beyond appalling that we have to create new terminology to account for the antics. A few years ago, who would have thought it could get this bad, this crude, this cynically mendacious, this untethered from anything approaching normal? Millions of our brethren are falling through cracks into desperation every day – financial, emotional, nutritional, psychological, physical. And they are left to flounder.

In this existential context, what normally would rise to the level of tragedy gets lost in the immediacy of general emergency. A friend in Bozeman dies suddenly, unexpectedly, too young, and it is quickly obscured by the shitshow in front of us. What might normally constitute a crisis – heart surgery, a cancer diagnosis, jobs lost, a failed marriage, cancelled careers – all of it, no doubt, as personally fraught as ever, is subsumed by the ongoing hurricane of horror.

So I am left with this split-screen duality. I head out for an afternoon ski on sparkling snow, with views of mountain peaks and lovely lodgepole forest glades to glide through. I come home to my partner. We share dinner together. We read books and talk, maybe watch a show. While all around me, as wide as the view can get, things fall apart, lives end every few seconds, politicians play with the survival of masses while they profit corruptly, and another storm/fire/flood hits another part of the world.

I suppose this is a universal tension. Everywhere and in every moment, while one person feels content another faces peril. It has always been so.

As Mary Oliver wrote:

“So many notions fill the day! I give them
gowns of words, sometimes I give them
little shoes that rhyme.

What an elite life!

While somewhere someone is kissing a face that is crying.
While somewhere women are walking out, at two in the morning –
many miles to find water.
While somewhere a bomb is getting ready to explode.”

Yes, only now, that conflict is so heightened, so crushing, so pervasive, that it feels as if those of us who have been spared, the elite, are really just hanging on to the driftwood after a shipwreck, hoping that some, as yet unidentified, rescue will arrive.

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