What have you learned?
So we're not quite in Purgatory. At least not Roman Catholic Purgatory. But I think in terms of existing in an unlimited waiting period where profound occurrences occur & we're powerless to manipulate the course of destiny quickly or easily, we are in “a Purgatory.”
As individuals born this month become the first to endure another year of “COVID birthdays,” (& for the record, that's what I would consider a bummer & not a crisis) we are all made aware, undeniably more than we would like to be, of this disconcerting, loosely-defined 1 year anniversary. The rapid decline of normalcy that occurred last March has forever altered our lives & continues to. From now on everything will be classified as “before COVID,” “during COVID,” or “after COVID” (I'm being cautiously optimistic & assuming there is an “after COVID”).
Though it may only appear as a “blip” on a timeline compared to, say, the Hundred Years' War, 2020 was an excruciatingly long, punishing, saturated-in-drama year, which literally ended on December 31st at 11:59 PM International Date Line West time, but it won't actually end until... who wants to curse us by predicting?
Now I could go on & on about “pandemic fatigue.” After all, it is currently an overwhelming commonplace sense of “meh.” I could compare it to riding a ferris wheel. After the ride itself is over, you realize the unloading process is taking twice as long as the ride itself & you just wanna get to that funnel cake booth before it closes. But dwelling on the inconvenience may easily come across as petulant whining, which, I believe marginalizes the 2.7 million (& counting) lives lost & discounts the legitimate challenges of stress & isolation, not to mention debt, poverty, malnutrition, eviction &, the big one, grief. So. Regardless of situation, I'll go out on a limb & say we can all probably agree (no matter what news network you follow religiously) that we are all just really sick & tired of this sh*t & nothing more needs to be said. Except... F*CK YOU, 2020. NO ONE LIKES YOU, 2020. DIE ALREADY, 2020. Did John Oliver just use me as a puppet?
In what will hopefully not be too harsh of a manifesto (at least not so harsh as to lose the interest of those who might be inspired to, wait for it, change their perception of reality), I reflect on what I've taken away from this... circumstance. This... shared ordeal. Some human race feedback if you will.
There are plenty of stories out there involving courage, kindness, empathy, etc. All the warm & fuzzy reassurance required to prove 2020 wasn't 100% doom & gloom exists. And believe me, I've gone looking. Because something has to break the cycle of bad news followed by more bad news followed by shocking news followed by tragic news. And I've done my best to focus on these tales of compassion in the face of adversity. But that's not what keeps my attention. That's not the taste left in my mouth.
I'm gonna treat this relentless b*tch of a year like a Siskel & Ebert review. 2020: A Soul Odyssey- Two Thumbs Down. Box office flop. Straight to video. Razzie awards across the board.
Some things that come to mind when I think about 2020: Impatience. Selfishness. Lack of consideration. Lack of understanding. Paranoia. Fear. Hate. Blame. Self-Righteousness.
Don't worry. I'll spare you an essay where I embellish each & every item to achieve the appropriate word count. No, I'll just go with one simple word to jump off from in an attempt to fully encompass the legacy of 2020. And that's ignorance.
Now it may be tempting to write ignorance off as a deficiency. A blank compartment in your wisdom. It falls into that category, yes. But what I'm talking about is bigger than that. Much bigger. It involves taking responsibility. Or rather, not taking responsibility.
To deny being ignorant is ignorance (first of all). There is inevitably something that you don't know. More than likely there are a lot of things that you don't know. And refusing to admit that is ignorance. Refusing to apply yourself in the gathering of knowledge about your surroundings is ignorance. Not listening is ignorance. Waiting for your turn to speak is ignorance. Blindly adhering yourself to a system of beliefs is ignorance. Defending all the actions of one individual as excusable is ignorance. Compartmentalizing your life so that it does not include the unfamiliar, the unrecognizable or the undesirable is ignorance. And guess what? Despite what your imagination is capable of cooking up, you are ignorant of the experiences of others.
Ignorance is rampant among us right now. And that's not to say it's new. It isn't. Of course it isn't. But don't you find it strange that technology affords us the ability to educate ourselves on virtually any topic within seconds, yet we constantly elect not to take advantage of that? Why aren't we more curious? Why aren't we embarrassed to be ignorant?
Communication is the most efficient it has ever been. But what we have here is failure to communicate. What we have here is "align yourself with a cause.” Digest data portrayed in the light that looks most attractive to you. You're the hero & anyone who disagrees with you is the enemy. Ignorance is bliss. Ignorance is comfortable. Ignorance is safe.
“I'm not ignorant.” Hah. Sure, okay. Let's see. Have you ever offended anyone? I'm gonna take a wild stab at a guess & say it's highly likely you have. Well what was the cause of that? Someone's thin skin? Someone taking something you said the wrong way? Nope, sorry. Gotta fault that as your ignorance.
Assumptions. Cliches. =Ignorance.
This is important! This is something that should eat away at you!
Now I know that a lot of people flat out don't care. They just... don't. It's dangerous how much they don't. And I can't make them. And neither can you. What a shame, right? They would rather relinquish a chance to fill in the blank. And before you assign a particular demographic to this, think to yourself “is that ignorant?” “Is that dismissive?” “Is that divisive?” “Am I part of the problem, too?” You may think you know everything about a person because of a flag or a sign in their yard, but have you deemed yourself judge & jury without ever exchanging so much as a glance? Are you in fact as ignorant as you perceive someone else to be?
I'll admit I've had my moment of being catastrophically ignorant recently. I took a controversial stance in an argument due to emotional bias. And I did myself a disservice in the process because I did not take it upon myself to be thoroughly informed ahead of that argument.
It stings to know that I'm ignorant at times. Especially because I hate to be wrong. And I hate even more to admit that I'm wrong. But... it is more important for me to know I'm wrong & learn from my mistakes than to continue to be wrong thinking that I'm in fact right. Now say that five times fast.
2020 showed me how wide the ignorance gap is. And it's troubling. Even terrifying.
What's the antidote? I'll tell you... I don't know. I'm not sure it's a reversible issue. Sure, right now might be a good time to compare ignorance to a mutating viral outbreak, but I'm not gonna go there.
But I know what I am gonna do. I'm going to (yes, switching here from the commoner's drawl to proper grammar) ask myself those four questions. “Is that ignorant?” “Is that dismissive?” “Is that divisive?” “Am I part of the problem, too?” I'm ask going to ask myself those questions again & again & again & AGAIN.
Upon exiting this "Purgatory," when the almost-within-reach-now wish has been granted (fingers crossed/hope I don't jinx us) & the mass hibernation masquerade is over, I'd like to shed 2020 like a snakeskin made from the heaviest, most chafe-inducing material available. I'd really like to do that. That would be the ultimate purification process. BUT- I think it's more important that I continue to wear this past year like armor. Like a tattoo of a secret code. Like a scar. Like a once broken bone that aches when it rains. 2020 ought follow me wherever I go like a shadow (& I hope it does), reminding me what humans are capable of &, in defiance, opt to do whatever I can to resist ignorance from taking hold. If I can do that, maybe I'll endeavor to live up to calling myself wise someday.