What’s the point? (or, Fifty days of lockdown)

“What’s the point?”

I hear it more frequently than I ever have. “Shave? What’s the point?” “Set an alarm? What’s the point?” “Buy a new shirt? What’s the point?” I said it just yesterday. “Because, I mean, what’s the point?”

Startling is the nihilism that so quickly creeps into our everyday calculus. How starkly these now-fifty days of lockdown, avoiding infection by COVID-19, can illuminate the superficialities, dispell the facades throwing shadows that typically smooth reality’s hard, sharp edges into something like comfortability. And how fragile is that precious sense of forward movement, of purposeful momentum, that motorizes our habits and attaches us to ourselves.

Local and global economies slow, flail. With its buzz muted in a way I’ve never felt, capitalism’s pressures on the shape and tenor of everday life is disturbingly obvious. What Astra Taylor calls our ever-humming “insecurity machine” sputters, actually finds itself momentarily disrupted. The prop topples; the frame cracks. For a few precious moments, we grope for new coordinates and precarity’s pervasiveness becomes acute. Time stretches, bends, warps. “What day is it, anyway?” “A new month already?” “Do you remember the last time we even went to a restaurant?”

Some of us may never contract COVID-19. But we’re all carrying it. Shouldering it.

“What did people even do before this?”

That one shook me at first. Thinking about it now, though, I see the promise in it, the blessed amnesia of it, the space it offers for imagining-otherwise, outside the spatio-temporality of capital’s blistering pace and disorienting blare.

It’s the glory and the freedom and the hope of asking: What’s the point?

# May 9, 2020