ICP #171 | On a failure to escape

I’m sure you’ve been reading all the articles.

Did you see the one that said the latest ISIS newsletter told their terrorists not to visit pandemic-stricken Europe?
That one made me laugh.
I told my mum about it.

Oh dear, she said, everyone really is out of a job.

Or the one about dolphins returning to the canals of Venice?
That one made me feel good.
I clicked through the photos. I thought that perhaps something pure will come of this.

After the articles, it is art we turn to.

I remember reading about the difference between the TV shows that had gone into production before Trump was elected, and those after.

The latter were overt in their references, unsubtle in their criticism. They adopted a heavy-handed symbolism that waded into a battle we were already faced with daily, that we didn’t want to be reminded of.

It was the unknowing art that dealt with it best. The makers who hadn’t known what was coming and yet somehow created something that rang eerie with prophetic wisdom.

But of course, it wasn’t the makers. It was us. We were imprinting the meaning. We were shuddering at the imagined shadows.

And so it is now.

Everything says something about this moment. Even when it never knew this moment. Even when it isn’t trying to. Even when we wish it wouldn’t.

I, we, can’t escape.

It is there in Alice Bolin’s essay in Dead Girls on the hypochondria of her early twenties.
Creeping fear.
Pervading illness.

It is there in the opening pages of Nina Stibbe’s Man at the Helm as the protagonist’s parents divorce.
Separation of family.
The new normal.

It is even there in Jane the Virgin when a hurricane strikes Xiomara and Rogelio’s wedding.
Cancelled plans.
Force majeure.

Where do you turn when escapism fails you?

Where do you turn when everything moves so quickly? When things you said with confidence yesterday seem ridiculous and embarrassing today?

How fragile the world we knew was. The ability to get flights whenever we wanted. The ease of living on the other side of the world.

Even television can’t save us now.

And it isn’t true, about the dolphins. Those photos were taken in Sardinia, not Venice. But wasn’t it nice to look at those photos? Wasn’t it nice to feel good?



A version of this post was sent by email on the 22nd March 2020 as part of Internet Care Package – a weekly memoir project in the form of a newsletter. It also includes links to the best things I’ve found on the internet each week and occasional updates on my theatremaking. This blog is a select archive of those emails. Subscribe to get them right in your inbox.

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