Our tendency is to defend ourselves against chaos, trying to reduce the impact of randomness on our lives. We try to adapt with rituals and beliefs that help us manage the challenges of our existence, as Mihaly Csikszentmihalhyi says in his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
As we enter the ninth month of this chaotic year, I have settled into a sort of uneasy rhythm. I’ve adopted ritualistic habits in an attempt to contain this global experience into something manageable, in order to avoid so-called psychic entropy and sense of overwhelm. The ritual of applying alcohol gel at the entrance and exit of every shop reminds me of the blessing with water when I enter a Catholic Church.
Many of us have felt lost in this new world, particularly at the beginning of the pandemic, when our social and professional lives came to a grinding halt. We have started to realize that there is no “going back to normal.” This season of loss and lostness rattles us from our attachment not only to our previous lives, but to previous selves. We are invited to “lose ourselves to find ourselves” (Mark 8:35). We are in the middle of what Robert Frost described as “two village cultures faded into each other,” where we are “lost enough to find ourselves.”
Even though we feel we are standing still in this great pause, we are laying the foundation for what is ahead. “The future is alive in the present,” psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz reminds us in The Examined Life: How we Lose and Find Ourselves.
We often think about the future as some kind of destination. But it is present with us now, in the form of an idea or fantasy. How we live now, through this moment, sows the seeds for our future. “The future is something we’re creating, that in turn creates us.”