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The Eternal Return

Existentially speaking, we are all "beings-in-the-world". This means that we are all connected to each other, all the time, even if we are in different parts of the world and have never met. Actions and decisions taken in one part of the world impact our existence. I cannot survive without the air I breathe, the food I eat, and the human relationships that I form. All these actions rely on the natural world and on other people. I am simply one part of the world, interconnected with it, impacting it and being impacted by it. Autonomy and individualism is an illusion. The current situation has brought this into sharp focus.


We are all struggling to adapt to the new reality of "being-on-line". We can still speak with our friends and families, our colleagues and loved ones - but we can no longer be with them physically, unless we were lucky (or unlucky, depending on your perspective) enough to be sharing the same space with them on lockdown day.


On lockdown day, the way we were living on that particular day became the scope and extent of our existence for the foreseeable future.


Nietzsche had an idea about the "eternal return". It's a little bit like Groundhog Day - where you are condemned to live the same day over and over again for eternity. It's a challenging idea. Is the life I am living today the one that I want to be living - am I happy to live this day, today, over and over again for the rest of my life? If not, what choices will I make and what changes will I make? What do I need and who do I need to enable me to live today over and over again for ever? Not just to get through today, to bear today, but to live fully and meaningfully and joyfully in accordance with my own purpose and desires.


As lockdown progresses, we may find that the choices we make gradually change. Perhaps yesterday it was fear-based choices - making sure of safety and security for self and others. Perhaps today it is hedonistic choices - wine, chocolate, TV - or relational choices - spending quality time with those we love. Or perhaps it is achievement oriented choices - staying busy and striving to stay afloat or progress at work, making money, learning a new skill, getting ahead.


Perhaps also at some point, as we all progress through these cycle of choices, we may eventually land at meaning based choices. What is the meaning of my life? What is important to me and, since I am a "being-in-the-world", what is important to the world and to others?


I am not suggesting this as yet another pressure to get it right, or to prove to ourselves or others that we have done lockdown well. We will all muddle through as best we can. However, in those long stretched-out moments, in those darker moments, can we resist the urge to fill the moments quickly with work, another snack, another video call, and instead ask ourselves: if today is the day that will repeat over and over for the rest of my life, how do I choose to fill it?


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