It’s 2021, and we’re still in lockdown. About this time last year, I remember seeing photos coming out of China. People panicking due to some strange flu going around. Meanwhile, nobody here was paying much attention to it, yet. By March, we started locking things down. It’s been almost a full year of this shit already, with no end in sight. Prior to COVID, being in Ottawa in the wintertime was already like living a mini-pandemic every year, anyway. There’s already not much to do here. When winter hits, it’s doubly tough. The real difference this year is that you can’t just buy a train ticket on a Friday night and say, “hey, there’s always Montreal!”.
You know what I miss the most about regular life? The chaos. I mean the real nitty-gritty, full of mistakes, nighttime chaos that can only happen when you’re around people who know how to have a good time. I miss the madness. I miss the kind of nights when you can’t even remember how you ended up sleeping on the floor, but there you are. And, I’m not even talking about being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. I’ve had plenty of these nights sober. It’s amazing what the euphoria of a moment can do to you.
What I miss the most is the company of people who are imperfect. Not dangerous, just imperfect. People who are wide open, blunt, and in some cases, maybe even too brash, but fuck it, that’s who they are. I miss the people who often said “what if” and led me down dark alleys at night because they saw something ‘cool’ that turned out to be a dirty rag that looked like a pink poodle. I miss the stuff that wasn’t planned, didn’t have a purpose, and happened when you least expected it. I miss the artists, the explorers, the musicians, the fags, and the old bitches who kept up with the rest of us, in the name of art! I even miss the assholes who started fights but never followed through with it because, fuck it, let’s party. What can I say, we had a high tolerance for stupidity.
I saw an article the other day that proposed that maybe we’ll see another “Roaring 20’s” when this pandemic is all done and lockdowns are lifted. I LOL’ed. If you know a thing or two about the arts and history, you’d know that if you want a really great arts scene, you have to make room for chaos. You have to have cheap housing, cheap food, and plenty of spaces for artists to play in. You need studios in run-down buildings, and working class people writing novels on the side. You need a 1920’s Parisian culture that welcomes non-conformists, and ‘dangerous’ thinkers. The leftovers of the pandemic won’t be like the leftovers of war. There will be consumption, and parties, and concerts and events. But it’ll be nothing like the 20’s. These days, we’ve replaced puritanism with more puritanism. The kids aren’t even having sex anymore. Sadly, there’s no lost generation, this time around. If anything, I suspect that the next generation of brilliant artists won’t even be found in the cities. They’ll be creating on farmland, in forests, and in small communities. Chances are, they’ll be very lonely.
For a little sliver of time in my life, I lived in chaos, and it was wonderful. I’ve no regrets. I’d love to relive it, and I’m sure I have a few more chaotic weekends in me before I get too old for that shit. I think that living moments like that reinforces the idea that you really have to ‘live’ to have something to talk about, or to create about, in the moment. You have to experience something beyond normalcy, you have to shove yourself against boundaries and spit in their general direction to know anything about life. Nothing drives me more crazy than an artist living in comfort complaining about having it hard. Have you ever had to re-smoke the butt of your cigarettes just to get a bit of a rush ’cause you’re too broke to buy yourself a pack? Ever stood in line for food and get an earful from a priest, only to get handed a previously opened box of Kraft Dinner taped shut as your weekly allowance for food? You can’t live through the demise of other people. There are too many artist-philosophers these days living in fully furnished university residences. An MFA isn’t a true replacement for a life lived; it’s just an expensive ticket to conformity. And they think we’ll see another Roaring 20’s. *facepalm*
These days, I crave nature. I think a lot of us do. Trees don’t judge us, animals rip each other apart, insects die under a pile of snow. There is a dark chaos I seek in nature. It’s why I was so attracted to the microscopic world last year. Nothing is manufactured in a few drops of pond water. Everything is raw, the creatures are wild, the greens are vivid and sharp. Maybe a life lived doesn’t necessarily mean a life lived in despair. Maybe it just means a life full of exploration and exposure to the things that don’t always make much sense. It means being exposed to things that aren’t always pretty, or fair. I’m always looking for that. I’m always looking to get stumped. I’m looking for the adrenaline rush of the unexpected, the visceral shit that keeps you up at night, full of wonder. I love living through questions. It’s great stuff, but I have to admit, that if I could choose nature or people, I’d choose people. And I’m saying that as someone who’s planning to move out into nature for good, soon. But I will always choose people. Because chaos with people is more enriching than anything else. And we need moments where we just let go and see how our energies jive with other human beings. We need exposure to people who are different, and we need hardship for growth. I live for chaos, because it teaches me what’s beautiful about life.