It is easy to get out of the habit of writing for a blog. Let it go for a while and you start to wonder what all the old urgency was about, much as you may wonder how you used to get so het up over an old girlfriend. Time is amnestic, and the first thing you forget is why you did all those things you used to do. You remember that you used to do them, but because you have forgotten why, those memories will be colored by remorse, puzzlement or chagrin.
I find that the desire to write a post is at its highest just after I push the button that says Publish on a post. I am at that moment on fire with scribbler’s madness, and would at once resume scribbling if I were not constrained by the need to earn a living and maintain some semblance of sociability. The heat of scribbler’s madness lasts about a week, so weekly posts suffice to keep the fever alive, but when Life stands between my keyboard and me, the fever begins to burn itself out.
And Life has been standing between my keyboard and me these past few weeks. Standing there with his arms crossed, his biceps bulging, and a very forbidding lower in his eye. A few weeks ago I hurt myself rather badly while woodworking, and my injury had the usual effect of putting a dent in my espièglerie as well as my nose. In my weakened condition, I then fell victim to some vulgar variant of the cold or flu, and my illness had the usual effect of infusing my soul with apathy. And no sooner had the gloom of injury and illness begun to lift, than the university dismissed its students and told us professors to move all of our classes to an on-line format.
So, as I said, Life laid down a ban on idle keyboard tapping, and as time passed I began to wonder what all that idle keyboard tapping was about.
This suggest the one comment I have to make on the epidemic, which is that its greatest effect may be as a habit-breaker. I suspect, for instance, that some non-trivial number of people will not resume the habit of going to church. Time is amnestic and the first memory it removes is the memory of motive. These apostates will certainly remember that they used to go to church, but they will be at a loss to remember why.
This occurred to me as I attended (although that isn’t really the word) a regular weekly meeting by way of Zoom videoconferencing technology yesterday. The absurdity of the meeting was highlighted by the new context, and the question why such a meeting should occur at all had, at least in my mind, moved to the head of the agenda. I find something similar when I record classes in an on-line format. Writing out and recording these explanations and descriptions makes me seriously wonder why anyone should be subjected to these explanations and descriptions. When I pronounced them in the classroom, their pronouncement seemed normal and good. After all, I had been pronouncing them in classrooms for years. But in this new context their pronouncement seemed more than a little ludicrous.
But I predict that the epidemic will be a habit-breaker primarily because time is amnestic and weeks of social distancing will cause us to forget why we used to be sociable in many the ways that we used to be sociable. We are all discovering that there are friends and functions that we do not miss, and that there was something more than a little ludicrous in at least some of our old routines.