“Go to your room at once….”
Don’t metaphors make things clear! I loved this story about how a friend sees the current COVOD-19 situation, suggesting a way that we might reflect on it. She said: “It’s as if Mother Earth is giving us a slap on the wrist, telling us to go to our rooms at once, to think about what we’ve done to deserve it!”
What a good idea, to stop us in our tracks, to not allow any escape routes, no ‘somewhere else’, no easy way out by payment or bargaining, to shock us into taking stock of our lives and their impact on those around us, and the world.
A famous writer once quipped that the world would be a better place if we all learned to stay in our rooms for a good length of time. This sentiment may not be taking into account the privations, fear and loss that is swirling round the broader world, during a pandemic.
But back to the ‘room!’
On ABC radio some years ago I heard about a remarkable book called A Journey Round My Room (the genre is called ‘room travel’). Written in 1790 by a (‘noble’) man who was banished to his room for 6 weeks as a punishment for starting a duel. The library found it for me, and it was just up my alley. As the title says, it was a most imaginative way of dealing with his isolation. He took us on a trip round his (rather large) well-furnished room and allowed each object to lead him on a journey of memory, imagination or discourse. He had many items of interest – paintings, ornaments etc that carried stories with them. And he explored his ‘inner world too’, using the labels ‘beast’ and ‘soul’ to talk about his relationship with self.
Personally I’ve had an aversion to travel since going on my first trip overseas – to Java – at the age of 20. As a tourist walking along streets where beggars without limbs were dying, I was stripped of any sense of being comfortable while relishing the delights of other cultures and lands. Part of me knew that my presence there was part of the trail that led to the destitution before my eyes.
At a younger age, HOME developed a magnetic pull for me when I was sent to boarding school. Living on a large sheep property with the freedom and beauty of space and the ‘natural’ world, I was not prepared for attendance at a residential educational institution (also considered a privilege). Suddenly lifted from a large rural family to being anonymous and shy in a crowd of strangers, and regimented every day, this led to great home-sickness.
And growing up in this ‘remote’ location – before TV and computers – we were very occupied at home – with farm work, home tasks, and the delights of a middle-class upbringing – music, craft, art. This childhood has stood me in good stead for the period that we are living through now, requiring of us self-sufficiency, inner resource, discipline and imagination.
How are other people finding this time, I wonder?
Kit Shepherd, Transition Bondi. March 2020