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Opportunity and Empty Roads

Blog Post No 13. (21/03/2020) - Und was Bleibt?

The streets are very quiet today.

That’s because Fargo-Moorhead has been cancelled within a week’s notice. The ‘slowdown’ happened very fast, within a period of five days or so. First, the other universities in Fargo-Moorhead decided to transition to online classes, then stores and restaurants began closing one by one. By Friday, our school, Concordia, reluctantly decided to make its own transition to online classes. At this point, the exponential growth of the Wuhan virus had outpaced all of my predictions and left me a little stumped. Back in January, it was an unfortunate curiosity courtesy of China’s heavy handed centralization. By February, it was a national tragedy with global economic implications. By early March, a pandemic was clearly on the horizon. I had a hunch the virus would make landfall here later in the month. It instead decided to make itself officially known to the greater Fargo-Moorhead area this Tuesday (the 17th).

My social life was already being pared back by degrees at this point. Classes were cancelled just before the virus was confirmed, in a stroke of good planning. I am lucky enough to be living off campus this year, so I was spared the abrupt indignity of being kicked out of a dorm room and sent back on home on a last minute 500 dollar flight. I can’t say the same for most of my friends. Some had the chance to say goodbye, others didn’t. Exams were cancelled, presentations postponed and research conferences delayed. And what next? When would this all end?

Of course nobody has an answer to all that. Otherwise there wouldn’t have been so much panic about the availability of toilet paper and the annual global GDP growth prospects. The uncertainty is intoxicating and has left many people feeling rather ill. While our college has optimistically scheduled classes to recommence on April 13th, I expect the outbreak will be characteristically non-compliant. I’ve learned enough from my previous miscalculations to have a wide range of speculative outcomes, which I will address in future blogs. For now I have an enormous opportunity in front of me. The work and the classes that have held me back from many an opportunity have been cut back and I am staring long, empty, lonely days in the face. I can scarcely imagine a more fortuitous set of circumstances.

What do we do when the old habits and barriers of our old lives fall away? I will be taking this time to reflect, speculate and work on the things that matter to me. I have lost weeks worth of learning, but I can more than make recompense with new articles, blog posts, book edits and research projects. I’ve been itching for the past four months to tell all manner of stories but only now will I have the time to do so. Those of you who do follow my blog can expect a relative renaissance of activity, with tales of Teutonic mishaps and speculations about the post-pandemic future of our world. Do you want to know how Romanian dance artists work London streets, or what really goes on in the UK's Parliament? Maybe I might interest you in a tale about the polite mime-pickpockets of Amsterdam or the thrill of a Viennese disco.

It may be growing dark and lonely outside, but I can feel a spring breeze or two between the winter winds that linger here. In a time of considerable uncertainty there are two chief certainties left to us. One, things will change. Two, there is no greater opportunity than in uncertainty. I hope to provide a glimmer of companionship and adventure through these little posts. I am bursting with To my few but cherished readers, let’s walk down this empty road together!

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