Aging is another word for living, so it has been said and wise words etc. but somedays the living is bloody hard. I say this from my comfortable home with great privilege, of course. After a 24hr colic attack and nausea, which felt like labour without the breaks between contractions. Anyway, it's over for now.
We are in the dark grey rainy, sleetish, dull November phase of the year. Feeding peanuts to the jays from the kitchen window every morning is the highlight of our day. After that, we withdraw into our grumpy selves. I cleared out some of the paper files that crowd my desk. How exciting. Last week, the pension people called to tell me that my pension has been finalised and that the statement is "in the post". I forgot to ask what they actually mean by "in the post" and whether this means I will actually find out - if anything - how much I'll get and most importantly, when? But everybody was extremely polite.
I've been thinking about this here for a while. My early childhood was pretty wild, I ran after my sister with a gang of kids around the neighbourhood. We were in and out of each other's houses and gardens, building dens in the forest and climbing trees on good weather days, playing in basements and garages and barns when it rained. School interfered to some extent, also the piano and sports stuff my mother insisted on, but nobody really cared where we went in our free time as long as we were back for dinner.
When I think back to my daughter's earlier years, living with others involved also other kids that were around all the time, big messy gardens and trees to climb, later in paradise, life was always outdoors, many children every day, lots of paddling, swimming, snorkeling, catching fish in the estuary, collecting breadfruit and making charcoal from coconut husks. Years later, when we already lived in this city, a visiting friend from Denmark looked out over the endless rows of cars parking along the footpaths and asked quite perplexed, where do the children walk and play. Later that year, we visited her in Copenhagen in her small suburb where the cars must be parked way outside the living areas and the streets were full of children playing safely.
Modern loneliness masks itself as hyper connectivity. And so people have easily 1000 virtual friends, but no one they can ask to feed their cat. That loneliness, which is really a depletion of the social capital, is extremely powerful. […]
One question I keep asking that I had no idea was going to be so pertinent: When you grew up, did you play freely on the street? … And the majority of the people learned to play freely on the street. They learned social negotiation. They learned unscripted, un-choreographed, unmonitored interaction with people. They fought, they made rules, they made peace, they made friends, they broke up, they made friends again. They developed social muscles. And the majority of these very same people’s children do not play freely on the street. And I think that an adult needs to play freely on the street as well.
For us as adults, that means talking to people in the queue with you, talking to people on the subway, talking to people when you create any kind of group. Book club, movie club, sports club. You stay in the practice of experimentation, doubt, of the paradox of people: You need people very much but the very people that you need are the ones that can reject you.
We do not have the practice at the moment. Everything about predictive technologies is basically giving us a form of assisted living. You get it all served in uncomplicated, lack of friction, no obstacles and you no longer know how to deal with people. Because people are complex systems. Relationships, friendships are complex systems. They often demand that they hold two sides of an equation. And not that you solve little problems with technical solutions. And that is intrinsic to modern loneliness.