Like many of you I am spending too much time with only myself as company recently. This leads to thoughts which become more and more fanciful when not given the benefit of being spoken aloud and tested with a human being. Like you, I need people around to tell me when I am talking rubbish. I need the sound of human voices. Text doesn't work, even with emojis.
I know I am not alone in this. I have become something of a phone psychologist or FaceTime psychotherapist during lockdown. I am finding that many of the people at the other end of the phone are also in dire need of some common sense counselling. I am happy to oblige. This mostly consists of "where did you get that idea?" and "don't be so ridiculous" type sentences. My type of reality does not soothe. It bites. I could never be accused of being non-directive.
Even back in my full-time psychology days I was always suspicious of the talking cures that claimed to be non-directive and to allow people work out their own issues. I never believed the solution is always within the person. I was fortunate to interview Carl Rogers, the main proponent of the non-directive movement, when he visited Ireland not long before he died. It gave me some satisfaction that even he backed away from the idea as we talked. It seemed to be more of an aspiration than a doctrine. Listening is all very well, but mostly I think we need to roll up our mental sleeves to fix things.
Spending too much time alone can lead to eccentric behaviour as well as worthless thoughts. So it was that I found myself instructing Alexa to play John Lennon singing Imagine on repeat. It has always been one of my favourite songs and, while I was not quite picking out tunes in case this plague does me in, I was giving it the once over to see if it still encapsulated my philosophy of life.
By about the fifth repeat I really began to listen. Sure I agree with all of the imagining no countries and having nothing to kill or die for and no religion too. I know the European countries well enough to know how often the borders have changed. Thankfully we are now European and on the same side. I can give a go at imagining 'no possessions' and rapidly switch to less possessions and a few more for the dispossessed. John may have been a dreamer, and these days we have more time to daydream.
I will go along with him a lot of the way. Incidentally, despite writing Woman, Lennon was not much of a feminist. It was many long years before Yoko received due credit for her part in writing Imagine.
And then I heard it… "Imagine all the people, living for today." How did I miss this for years? This is way too close to mindfulness for my liking. Sure I can live in today, but I don't like to forget the influences of yesterday, or the pull of future that I want to imagine and figure out how we will get there.
When we get out of this current situation there will be those who have suffered personally and will never forget these months. And there will be the majority who will just go back to doing whatever they did before. The idle, fanciful and ambitious thoughts that we had when there was ample time will become just… idle.
We need to grab some of the thoughts by the scruff of the neck and do something to get from where we are to where we would like to be. And could be. If this crisis has done one thing it has shaken us out of our complacency. Forget about imagining.
Focus on planning and doing. Or we could go back to hearing the numbers of people waiting on trolleys, or homelessness, if that is what you really prefer.