The COVID-19 crisis taught us many lessons. We learned about viruses, bacteria and germs, but we also learned to step out of our self-absorption. Why? Because we realised that we are all interconnected and depend on each other to stop -or spread- a global pandemic. But in practical terms, and perhaps most importantly, we learned to care for each other. Self-isolation, social distancing and sanitary routines helped us to face the most critical moments and prevent other people from getting infected. Thanks to these efforts, today, we find ourselves in a better situation to face the future and finally turn the page. But before that, let me ask a question.
What was happening with caring for each other before the pandemic? We got used to being on automatic pilot, doing the same things many times over and falling into a routine that can turn into sleepwalking. Perhaps the tired routine of hearing about bad news and catastrophes in distant places (refugees drowning in the Mediterranean, homeless people sleeping rough in a crowded city, natural disasters in remote locations, etc.) was limiting our abilities to care for each other. How did we fall asleep? Routine kills love by first killing imagination. Everything we do first exists in our imagination. Is it then that our imagination was running out? How can we prevent this from happening? Our ability to care is inherent to us as human beings.
Caring for others is a systematic activity that demands our constant attention and, for this reason, can become boring: isn’t that why children with their repetitive questions or grandparents telling us the same stories bore us? What we need to see is that there is danger in boredom. What a danger! The risk of getting distracted and letting our imagination disconnected from those we care for. When this happens, the routine wins.
Routine is an opaque way of seeing reality through our obligation to the world. Distraction, mobile phones, television etc., claim our distracted attention and give it what it demands: permanent movement and continuous distraction from boredom.
We are invited to withdraw from the boring world and take refuge in the world of endless entertainment. Then, the non-caring of others is imposed and transformed into a new routine based on the eroded practice of care. A limit has been crossed. Imagine a father and son in a restaurant, each looking at their mobile phone while eating in silence. When our attention is given to entertainment, the routine of not caring becomes the expected response to the reality surrounding us. A way to face care and the danger of its devastating routine is to reconnect and pay attention to the invisible borders that separate and unite us.
Photo Sebastian silva https://a-visual-diary-for-tomorrow.tumblr.com/