Clerestory Magazine: "Who Is My Neighbor?"
In submitting to limits — reduced private space, access to a smaller geographical area — I’ve discovered that more choice isn’t exactly an existential good.
To say that the pandemic slowed life is uncontroversial. Across the world, many people ceased travelling, commuting, and disposing of their leisure time freely. Digital streaming infrastructure groaned early on, but it held, and we were invited to stay home; alone together. Because many of us were already inclined to spend countless hours jacked into the borderless expanse of the internet, that’s what happened. The internet allowed us to document new domestic pursuits for commiseration and clicks and pretend that our preferred and chosen communities were as close as the nearest screen.
But the internet tries to make the world small by offering to bring us the whole of it in a highly compressed, flattened bit-stream. That’s not the whole story of life in lockdown. The pandemic also served as a reminder of a basic truth. Contra the internet’s logic, the world is already small — if only people consent to live at a human-scale.
Without a car or an Amazon Prime subscription, two choices made more plausible by my neighbourhood, the limits of a pandemic were an occasion to re-learn the bounded joys of locality.