by Mari Maldal (2nd Year Philosophy & War Studies).
In Albert Camus’ book, The Plague, Camus describes the unfolding of an event that has become very familiar to us during the last year; an epidemic. I want to start with highlighting this section of the book, which describes the lockdown ending:
“[O]f all those days and weeks and months of life lost to their love made them vaguely feel they were entitled to some compensation; this present hour of joy should run at half the speed of those long hours of waiting.”
Like most of us, I had many plans for 2020. My friends and I were going to travel around the UK, go to concerts, work our way through the entire menu at Spoons, and eat crappy meal deals at the Maughan while complaining about how much work we have to do, while doing absolutely nothing. I had finally discovered the free coffee machine in the Philosophy building and I was planning to make that international tuition fee worth it. This all came to a sudden halt when the world got put in a time out.
What I believe I lost the most, beside all of these exciting events, was time. Just time. Time with my friends. Time to finally being independent. Time to grow, and to create, and to be. Your student years are supposed to be some of the best years of your life, and they were finally here. It seems like a cosmic joke to get five months of it, only for it to be ripped from your hands, and end up back in your childhood room. It certainly feels like something was taken from me. Was it?
If we buy into the idea that the future exists in a similar sense as the present, it seems reasonable to me to claim that the only future that is real, is the one that is actualized. Therefore, saying “we were robbed” is a sentiment that acknowledges the feeling of being wronged, but can we really be robbed of a future that was never going to happen?
It may seem counterintuitive to suggest this. Naturally something was taken from us. If a robber steals my computer, the court would not tell me that the future in which I kept my computer was never going to happen, so I might as well accept my new computer-less existence. Of course the virus could have been avoided. Had we prepared more, had we listened to the scientists, had things unfolded differently…
But this didn’t happen. What I am questioning here is whether the future, an unfolding of a state of affairs, can really be thought of as a material possession. Was the covid-free future taken from me, if that possible future was never going to be actualized in the first place? If a person buys a computer from the store, do I get to claim it was stolen from me, because I had the intention of buying it?
I guess what I am trying to do here is to rationalize the notion that a covid-free future was never really mine in the first place. I only ever had the idea of it. Perhaps this is just an attempt to make myself feel better, to accept the current situation as solidified in reality. What has been one of the hardest things for me about this last year, besides the sickness itself, is the memory of how things used to be. Camus describes the feeling perfectly here:
“A loveless world is a dead world, and always there comes an hour when one is weary of prisons, of one’s work, and of devotion to duty, and all one craves is a loved face, the warmth and wonder of a loving heart.“
Perhaps all this talk about being robbed doesn’t matter. Perhaps, while it may be irrational to say we were robbed of a covid-free 2020, we can simply say we were robbed, period. A big part, if not most, of the human experience is not rational at all. This last year has been incredibly hard, we have all gone through something very painful, and we have experienced our hopes and plans for the future taken away. This is a wrong indeed.
And yet, someday, not too far from now, we will meet again. We will step out of our bubbles and into the world, feel the sun on our faces, and smile. It will be alright. For while that hope of the future may have been taken from us, the crime committed is perhaps more closely described as an involuntary loan, rather than a permanent theft.
We are approaching the finish line, and we can see, in the distance, if we look hard enough, a little, bright thing with feathers.
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