Listening to The Signal, I hear about the phases of dealing with the restrictions and fears brought about by Corona Virus. Phases not dissimilar to those of grief.
One of the key suggestions they had was to step back a little – don’t read every news article, don’t watch every press conference with the health minister. This is because, they say, numbers examined every day have no meaning. It is the trends you need to look for and they are better noted over a period, not on a day by day basis.
I am not here to comment on the ease or lack thereof of taking this advice. Or the effectiveness. I know it’s hard to keep up with all the new rules and fines and business closures. I know there’s a kind of addictive cycle that it’s easy to get into. And so far, we haven’t been engulfed by the second wave here so I really can’t complain.
But what interests me is the idea that if you look too closely, you can’t see anything. I feel like there must be a prettier way of saying that. Last night I tried to write a poem but it got too abstract and when I read it to P, he had no idea what I was on about.
About a week ago I received an email from the Sydney Morning Herald (I’m a subscriber). This one was written by Peter Hartcher and was about China. He gave a sort of history going back to 1979 when Deng Xiao Ping came to power in the Communist Party and how it was Deng who opened China’s door to the west. Hartcher gave a very evocative description of being in China in the early ’80s and watching a man carry a billiards table on the back of his pushbike. This man, Hartcher points out, was an entrepreneur. He invested in the table (one of the western luxuries embraced by China) but had no room to put it in nor truck with which to transport it. So he would rent it out to people or businesses and would pedal it (teetering) from customer to customer. But along with billiards tables came other western ideas and habits which many Chinese did not like and Deng was not always popular. His response to his critics was:
“If you open the window, the flies will get in.”
The Chinese have an apt way with analogies like that. Having lived there for a year, I can imagine this simple saying written in a few elegant characters, and if said properly in Putonghua, it would flow like a song from the lips. A language that turns aphorisms into poetry will always hold a special place in my heart.
And so I am hunting for the perfect encapsulation of that notion of peering so closely at something that you can no longer truly understand its total form. Maybe something like
“An ant may truly see a grain of dirt but a bird will grasp the garden that birthed the dirt.”
It’s almost there but needs tweaking. Any suggestions?