The Metropolitan Museum of Art
August 2, 2020

Normal

Tonight I jogged past the Metropolitan Museum of Art and stopped hard in front of its grand steps. Sometimes it hits like a fresh slap, just how much the world has changed. I thought about those in-between days in March when New York’s institutions began closing, one by one. Office buildings and schools. Libraries and museums. I remembered how I thought this would be temporary, that things would return to normal in a few weeks. That was nearly five months ago.

When does returning to normal become impossible? Maybe there’s a parallel to the psychosocial shifts following the Great Depression or World War II, the gradual realization that life will have a new cadence, that the rhythms of the past can never be recovered.

I often think about all those paintings inside the museum, hanging unseen in the gloom.

In 1993, Octavia Butler imagined a climate-ravaged America circa 2020 in The Parable of the Sower. She anticipated the spirit of today’s Democratic Party with its feeble slogans like “build back better” when she describes a presidential candidate as “a kind of human banister . . . a symbol of the past for us to hold on to as we’re pushed into the future. He’s nothing. No substance. But having him there, the latest in a two-and-a-half-century-long line of American Presidents make people feel that the country, the culture that they grew up with is still here—that we’ll get through these bad times and back to normal.”

Giving up on normal seems like a critical psychic adjustment these days. Normal wasn’t great, anyway. We’re being pushed hard and unnecessarily, but maybe someday we’ll find a better rhythm.


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Each night in 2020 I'm writing a short post for a series called Notes From the End of a World because I want to etch these days into my memory before I forget them. Before the world changes completely.
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