Updated: Mar 24
On the first weekend of an announced pandemic, the city of Sydney were onto delivery services like white on rice. Despite seeing countless articles and videos online that supermarkets were already cleared by a panicked public, I believed the stories to be exaggerated until I arrived and couldn't buy Peanut Butter, or anything to put it on for that matter.
Now is the time for food brands to scrap shit flavours, because if the public won't buy a pumpkin flavoured rice cracker during a food shortage they probably never will. One of the only aisles not ransacked was the Mexican section which was confusing because I thought everyone loved Tacos. Approaching the canned goods I matched the hysteria and embraced the prospect of a Mexican themed self-isolation, throwing as many cans of beans, chickpeas and tacos into my basket as I could physically carry. As I left the store toilet paperless, I overheard a man asking whether there were any wet wipes left to wipe down his trolley and realised I had felt this sense of paranoia in a supermarket just once before.
Capitalising on the Uni Holidays, my friend and I were blazed leisurely browsing the aisles for snacks when I spotted my former high school teacher. While there are worse authority figures to run into in this state, I tried to avoid him much like you would a stranger coughing during a pandemic. Far less agile than I would have been otherwise, he called out my name as I attempted to hide behind a cardboard cut-out. Eyes fixed in blazed position, I turned (albeit) slowly to greet my former teacher while struggling to hold numerous items that would resolve a clear case of the munchies.
Unfortunately in 2020, this feeling of paranoia isn't a result of substance and won't wear off in a few hours. In the midst of Countries closing boarders and individuals encouraged to self-isolate, the pandemic has shattered some very powerful societal illusions. Perhaps the most poignant being that the lead in Cast Away could also contract the Coronavirus. Societal attitudes we’ve upheld in Australia such as “she’ll be right!” are quickly being dismantled, because while she will be right we also want to contain this wily minx. Yesterday I read a sensationalist article that contained a LIVE death tally of COVID-19 as if we’re playing in a video game and can re-spawn. It‘s no wonder people are experiencing fear around their mortality.
Speaking of which, I’ve been reading a book called ‘Fear’ written by Zen Master, Scholar and Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. Who I imagine probably gives off a similar vibe to the character Master Oogway in Kung Foo Panda. When considering mortality Hanh talks about the cause of the ‘Original Fear.’ He discusses the traumatic nature of birth in which the baby is ejected from what Buddhists call ‘The Palace,’ which your mum would be pleased to know is named after the womb. For nine months the fetus lives in complete serenity before being ejected into the world where it is faced with its own mortality and survival. Supposedly, we continue to carry this instinctual fear into adulthood. Hanh suggests that in confronting this fear and accepting our own mortality we should not fear age, or place unhealthy dependencies on material things or people. Natural human tendencies which arguably have resulted in the construction of the darker side of our culture.
Perhaps in times like this it is more important than ever to confront and celebrate our mortality by embracing the present, Master Oogway best captures this in his last scene before dissipating into Cherry Blossom petals when he says, “yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present”.