Finding hope in changing perspectives in time and space. Reflections at the end of 2020.
When I was 13 I had the good fortune to visit the west of the USA. For a month we drove through Arizona, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico and California. Each place had its own magic, but one place in particular reminded me that the magic comes together with risks, even outright danger. Approaching Death Vally (a place which makes no effort to romanticize its intention) an unmissable sign read: “Survival hints ahead!”
Zooming in on familiarity and vital differences
During 2020 I have more than once thought about that experience. How the world can be both magical and dangerous at the same time and how we all need to find survival hints ahead. The people who write such important flyers for unsuspecting tourists must obviously benefit from real-life experience with the dangers of the place, the habits and common (deadly) mistakes of the visitors and the noble art of getting both the warnings and the hints across without deterring the would-be visitors completely.
Napa Valley and Death Valley are both valleys. Both offer great experiences. It is possible to die in both places, but in Death Valley it is likely to happen much faster if you don’t understand the risks. Zooming in on the vital differences between the two valleys is critical for survival. It is too easy to find false reassurance in the familiarity and thereby miss the critical differences. “It is just like the flu” can be both true and false depending on your zoom focus, but consequences can be as dodgy as driving through Death Valley thinking it is like Napa Valley.
Worst year ever?
In 2020 I have often heard that “this is the worst year EVER!” Now, ever is a rather long time and in practice for most people it simply means “since last Friday.” Remembering the experienced Park Rangers (as I imagine they must have been) who put together the vital survival hints for the traversing the Death Valley, I believe it is worth while to zoom out in time and space to see what other people, who have experienced unimaginable adversity, did to cope with their lot in life.
An excellent place to get some perspective is Dan Carlin’s podcast series Hardcore…