COVID-19 Diary: Not Working


This edition of my COVID-19 Diaries features a two-part
anecdotal poem on ‘not working’, combining fragments of conversations and dialogues collected over the past three weeks.

 

1st July 2020 – PART ONE

“I hate work.”

“I love working.”

“I love work but it’s killing me.”

“I hate work but it’s saving me.”

My friend is 30 and being awarded her ‘Ten Years of Servitude’ new year from the bread company she works for. “I don’t know what it means”, she said.

servitude /ˈsəːvɪtjuːd/ Learn to pronounce

noun
noun: servitude

1. the state of being a slave or completely subject to someone more powerful.
“you’ve got thousands of years of peasant servitude to make up for”

The Freelancer is receiving ‘Ten Years of Serfdom!’ from Fiverr. A special badge, shaped like a gold star and bursting with shards, that they can put on their platform portfolio to make it “really stand out”. For ten days it will appear as the top search result. After that, it’s back to the whim of the algorithm.

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COVID-19 Diary: All Roads Lead To Lofi


In this edition of my COVID-19 Diaries I try to cyberflâneur, only to end up at lofi beats. Again, and again, and again.

 

5th April 2020:

“Our very existence has turned into a question mark.”
–Nishitani

“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones.”
― John Cage

 The future is cancelled. We know this by now. It’s not ‘postponed’, that sweet word being politely touted in exchange for the hard truth. Here in Zurich, posters remain in loom for a festival put on by a youth theatre that was to run from January until June – ‘The Future is Cancelled’ they jest in their title. These word still hang on the empty streets. When they were designed last year they would have appeared rebelliously tongue-in-cheek. Those who concepted the title may have felt antagonistic and playful. Running on the funny provocations that ‘youth’ knows it is allowed. Imagine that? What we thought was our future has been broken into fragments of oblivion. Eaten away until it doesn’t even matter. No need to ponder too hard on it. It’s gone. The slow cancellation of the future was not slow at all. … 

 

COVID-19 Diary: Silence is Impossible

In this edition of my COVID-19 Diaries I question the possibility of silence, design the sound of our resign, and pay attention to deliveries.

 

29th March 2020: 

‘… when you’re buying books, you’re optimistically thinking you’re buying the time to read them.’
― Arthur Schopenhauer

Bought time. COVID-19 is the gift that keeps on giving. All the deadlines have been extended. Tax returns, application dates, returns and special offers. If you weren’t a procrastinator before, you’ll be a convert to the bliss of delay now. Wait long enough and you’ll be afforded an alleviation. Like those clocks that were an hour behind before, overdue tasks that sat undone long enough to come back around nothing wrong.

Where does this sense come from that time as been protracted? Where there were not enough hours in a day before now stand an infinity of days, weeks, months(?). How long we will be here we do not know. The unknowing is the infinite. The ongoing. ‘I’m taking an extended break’ is what they say in offices. Code for a longer-than-usual holiday. Or for when somebody doesn’t know they’ve been fired.

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COVID-19 Diary: Take It Easy Baby

 

Take It Easy Baby

In this edition of my COVID-19 Diaries I interrupt empathy-talk, question the romantic power of streamed TV, and learn about ‘Explainerism’.

 

29th March 2020:

 If I stage that drama inside me,
all it does is make me difficult to live with.

– Dougald Hine on living in Sweden during the corona crisis.

Empathy is everywhere. Except, not really. Today when I was trying to play Brian Eno’s Thursday Afternoon in full on YouTube I had to wait for an ad by Masterclass, who seem to be really capitalising on the stuck-inside-moment. This one was for Natalie Portman’s acting classes. Learn to act with Natalie Portman! “Your job is to imagine somebody else’s life. It’s the act of empathy” she tells us amateurs. I knew empathy was trending.

Later on Twitter I see Ms. Portman is interrupting the lives of others. @jesslbergman ‘instagram explore, brimming with satanic energy in the best of times, will not stop showing me videos of natalie portman preparing awful bird meals in a professional grade kitchen’

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COVID-19 Diary: Goodbye To All That

 

Goodbye To All That

In this edition of my COVID-19 Diaries I traipse from a viral theory of the earworm, through new possibilities of doing nothing, into an account of my first ‘Pair Up’ call.

 

24th March 2020:

 

I went to the supermarket with a wheely suitcase today. I don’t have one of those grandma shopping bag/carts, so one must be resourceful with what one has. Nobody else seems to be doing this that I have seen. Perhaps because the sound of those suitcase wheels is so disturbing you have to play music through headphones on the way there and back just to drown it out.

Another recovered word; piety.

Devotion. Strong belief in a religion that is shown in the way someone lives. A conventional belief or standard.

Corona piety? We are renunciating and we are trying to love thy neighbours. Never before have so many smiles been exchanged with those in the surrounding apartments. The virus is making us nicer.

 

 

There is a poster on this wall that is starting to really bug me. The previous tenant left it here. It’s by a Swiss artist, and he said we could take it down if we want. There are days when I don’t see it, and days when it is all I see. The phone bothers me far more than the penis. That gross device manifesting all over his naked languid pose and pointing towards the room. I should really take it down but every day I tell myself ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’. There are lots of procrastinations now. Because now (which is really no different than before) we have an excess of healthy tomorrows to put task to. All the time in the world to do chores or make work or achieve those niggly actions that one avoids until it’s too irritating to bear. This poster must not have become totally unbearable yet. Perhaps soon enough it will be too much a part of this room, and this time, to say goodbye to. ‘Goodbye To All That’, Joan Didion’s title for the last piece in her Slouching Towards Bethlehem collection of essays. Those four words ring and ring in my head like an earworm.

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COVID-19 Diary: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

 

Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

 

20th March 2020:

 

Empathy! Solidarity! Togetherness!

We are shouting from our balconies in between the intervals of clapping. Buzzwords of the brink. But do we really care beyond the growing walls of our personal void? Have you got the energy to give a shit about everyone else – in a practical and meaningful way? Most of us are too busy constructing our individual coping routines.

 

8AM: Wake up, thanks to my alarm in the adjacent room. I’m trying to break up with my phone at this time. It’s sort of working, when I don’t get up in the night to listen to a podcast.

8:15AM: New yoga routine. Just fifteen minutes a day but it seems to set up the morning well.

8:30AM Shower. Breakfast. Radio.

 

I was on a train from Hamburg to Zurich when I had to make a quick decision on whether to abort mission and head back to Amsterdam or not. In 10 minutes I would be in Hannover where I could change onto a train to my current city of abode. A few years ago I immigrated from New Zealand to the Netherlands, where I met my now-boyfriend (a Colombian Swede) who has since moved to Switzerland. When I left Hamburg at 8:30am, I had word from the boyfriend that he had been sent home from the office as a colleague was possibly a positive case. Fuck. This is the closest we have come. Should I stay (on the train Zurich-bound) or should I go (back to Amsterdam, in case a lockdown occurs)? I stayed.

Now I wake each day in a city I do not though. Although that doesn’t matter. We could be anywhere.

 

‘It is only irritating to think one would like to be somewhere else.
Here we are now.’

– John Cage

 

It’s Day Three in Zurich. The day rolls on in an oscillation between knowing exactly what I am going to do, and not being sure due to an overabundance of options. In a moment, everything can be possible and everything can matter – and in the next, nothing matters at all.

 

I’m bored

I’m the chairman of the bored
I’m a lengthy monologue
I’m livin’ like a dog

– I’m Bored, Iggy Pop (1979)

 

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