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It was last April, in a piece titled “What is Essential,” we again mentioned John Cage, then in the context of the pandemic quarantine discussion:
In John Cage’s “Lecture on Nothing,” we find the following comment: “It is not irritating to be where one is. It is only irritating to think one would like to be somewhere else.”“What is Essential,” April 24, 2020
Of course, some places are more irritating than others, some conditions worse, but it seems common to living in any means people like to get away, out of town, go up to the cabin, drive out to the beach, go camping, sail the seven seas, see the world, go somewhere, anywhere, but somewhere else.
Not talking here about those forced to leave home, from war or famine or wildfire or flood, abuse or political upheaval. Catastrophes are not “irritations.” A catastrophe is sudden and overturning; an irritation is slow and creeping, an itch one can’t quite reach. An earworm. One can live with any number of irritations, but one can not go on as before during or after a catastrophe. “Would like” suggests preference, unrelated to need, not desperate, but a privileged choice.
“Where should we spend the weekend, in town or in the country?”
“I don’t know. I’m bored with opera.”
The COVID19 virus affects different people in different ways, depending on predicament, but literally everyone on the planet Earth has been affected, to one extent or another, slightly or severely. Wouldn’t it be nice to get away? Maybe that’s the attraction of Perseverance, of Mars, of space travel.
“Earth is irritating.”
“Let’s go to Mars.”
“I’ll book a flight today.”
Can a simple irritation, almost unnoticeable until all goes quiet, grow into a catastrophe? It seems unlikely. Irritations come from within; catastrophes come with the wind. There’s talk of getting “back to normal.” That too seems unlikely. In fact, in any case, wasn’t there something particularly irritating with what was considered normal?