Tuesday, 5 May
Now past 50 days and I wonder whether I will reach 100 days before being able to see the people I want to meet and travel to the places I want to go. But it doesn’t take long before Tigger bounds back and pushes Eeyore aside and I start to think again about what I can do rather than what I can’t. And I very much want when all this is over to be able to have a hug me moment and think that I have used the time well and played my cards sensibly.
I decided to complete a project instead of making incremental progress on a number of fronts and finished indexing my collection of over 250 translated laws. Some of them I’ve hardly looked at before. I’m struck by the variation in quality – there were some brilliant translations where the translator had found a good solution to some problem that I’ve shuffled around for 30 years. And others, while not shoddy were far from brilliant, some of them where the translation had probably been made at the behest of a public authority and done on the cheap under the terms of some botched procurement. This project took a couple of days and I should have done it years ago.
I also decided to “celebrate” 50 days of isolation by doing my first architectural walk in Uppsala (pics on facebook). I’d postponed this through fear of not being able to multitask with photography, reading an architecture book, controlling a bike and social distancing. But I thought anyway I’d give it a try – I could always abandon it if there were too many people around and the squeal of brakes from other traffic users with unrealistic aims to use the same space became too intrusive and drowned the baroque music in my headphones. In fact, I needn’t have worried as there were very few people around and I could park the bike at each location and walk while taking pics.
I enjoy making the familiar unfamiliar with perception sharpened by a good guide. I have been amused when reading of animals like deer with their accustomed passages through the forest but I’m not so different. Passing through an area often, it soon becomes familiar and the route taken feels like part of the natural order of things, forgetting or no longer aware of the choices involved. These architectural walks change this – I’m in an area, Fålhagen, just east of the railway in Uppsala, which I think I know well but a couple of buildings into the walk, I’m disoriented – I can see some buildings I know from afar and I know roughly where I am but there is a lot that’s strange and fresh.
It’s important to get beyond “premature closure” in order to be able to see what’s around; to be open to what’s actually there, to stop censuring the odd and divergent as irrelevant and to go beyond recognition to attempt understanding. Closure, a switching off of curiosity and awareness, is adequate species behaviour to tell us that this is not dangerous, this is OK, this is like it usually is, but it’s not adequate for observing and learning and getting beyond the frontiers of what we already know. To do this, we have to overcome false familiarity, to see the strangeness behind banality, to realise the limitations of what we think we know.