Isolation is a way to know ourselves. Franz Kafka
The arts don’t exist in isolation. David Byrne
We’ve been in forced isolation because of this pandemic. Some don’t mind it at all; others chafe under the restrictive boundaries. It isn’t just the “staying home” edict that grinds. Mask-wearing has, for some, become a line in the sand. Personally, I don’t like them but if by wearing a mask I protect others, I’m okay with masking up.
Not interacting with others is a bit more of a challenge. I like people. Although I’m inclined to fade into the background, I still want to hear what others have to say, even when I don’t agree with them.
Kafka – a man full of self-doubt about the thing he most valued, his writing – perhaps sought isolation to better understand who he was and how the complications of his life shaped him. A tyrannical father, the deaths of siblings when he was young, a mother who loved being a homemaker but who didn’t quite know what to do with an intellectual child who would become more so over time. These factors affected his relationships and colored his work. Interestingly, little of his work became known during his lifetime. Were it not for his friend Max Brod, his unpublished manuscripts would have been destroyed.
I’m inclined to agree with David Bryne (Talking Heads), identified by Time Magazine in 1986 as Rock’s Renaissance Man: “The arts don’t exist in isolation.” According to the Time article, Byrne enjoys success as a singer, composer, lyricist, guitarist, film director, writer, actor, video artist, designer, photographer. Always engaged in creating art.
These very different men identify with isolation from perspectives based on their own experiences, and most certainly through the lens of the eras in which each live(d). Bryne works in collaboration with others to bring art to the masses in different forms. Kafka, although a genial fellow in certain circumstances, was so haunted by self-doubt about his writing, he asked his good friend to destroy his work after Kafka died.
Isolation 2020 will have repercussions on society that are yet to be determined. The impact of COVID-19 on those who lost family and friends is incalculable. The economy reels and will continue to do so for some time. The emotional toll will emerge slowly, catching us unawares, showing up in unexpected ways.
Kafka was a pessimist and probably for good reason. He lived in scary times. If you want a nightmare, read Metamorphosis. His work is overall bleak. Byrne on the other hand appears to be the ultimate optimist. He confesses to being “mostly” happy.
In the days ahead (weeks, months, years?), we have a choice to make: be an optimist or a pessimist. I don’t think there is a middle ground. Pass on your optimism to those around you. If you must be a pessimist, find people who know you well enough to help you see the up side, even when it feels like there isn’t one.
To say the future is a bit wobbly around the edges isn’t being a pessimist; it’s seeing the world for what it is and doing what you can to make it better. Two things you can do – optimist or pessimist: VOTE and fill out your census form. See, that isn’t hard!
I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central. Please like, share, or comment – or all three!