Sebastian Herold

July 23, 2021

The New Now — In respect of the “Great Pause”

The restaurant next to our apartment has reopened its outdoor patio for the first time since the pandemic began, and I’ve never actually thought about what it’s like to relearn the simple but complex smell of a crowd.

Nothing will ever be the same again. That’s a truism. Of course, nothing will ever be the way it used to be because that is the fine but goddamn fundamental dividing line between the concepts of past, present, and future. What we’re really saying, especially in relation to the pre-pandemic era, is that we will no longer be able to reject the pressing issues of our time as naively, as carelessly, as escapistically as we did before.

A few days ago I was in a crowded indoor market for the first time in over a year and, my gosh, did it feel like a play. Or like the Truman Show, except Truman smells a rat right from the first minute. That’s about how I imagine virtual reality at its very best: super real, but also not real at all. I couldn’t place this feeling I had in this market hall at first. Now I understand it better.

It’s a kind of suspense effect that resonates these days. An underlying uncertainty that colors the normality that is now slowly reappearing and makes it seem oppressive and deceptive. We have rebuilt our shaky house of cards. On very thin ice.

If this pandemic can serve as a catalyst for anything at all, it is as a flawless marker that has exposed the systemic failures of a globalized society. I submit that most people in this profoundly confusing 2021 carry with them the constant unease that things can no longer go on as they once were. If science is correct, the Coronavirus will most likely be as endemic to humanity as the annual flu epidemic. Reality has not yet ended our slumber.

What is there to do now? How can we think about the new Now? Another summer of uncertain vibes?

In that respect, one might say: thank you, Great Pause, for pointing this out. I hope we will make the best of it.

“Some days you wake up and immediately start to worry. Nothing in particular is wrong, it’s just the suspicion that forces are aligning quietly and there will be trouble.”