Freed From Desire

I had such a lovely evening yesterday. The wonderful Natasha Eves has moved just down the road from me and, after a few months of strange isolation in the big city, surrounded by people but talking to no one, a developing weekly habit of going round for dinner and drinks has been much welcomed.

Last night we ate enchiladas and talked about music for hours and hours. I was reminded of a brief obsession everyone had in 2017 with GALA’s “Free From Desire” — an anthem for Acid Communism if ever there was one, and particularly Fisher’s Lyotardian left-accelerationist version, where “breaking free from desire … doesn’t mean to withdraw from our capacity to desire but to let go of the distinction of what is the pleasure in desire and in suffering”; an trip beyond the pleasure principle.

This feels like an oddly prescient suggestion at present. As my social life slowly starts to recover, it is interesting to hear what people want to do next. No one I know seems to want to go back to the pre-lockdown lifestyles. People are taking up new habits and hobbies — some of which they never previously enjoyed; others that they enjoy but feel guilty about enjoying. I certainly feel strange, considering all I’ve written about community in recent years, being driven by a desire to go live a quiet life somewhere else.

In light of a life under lockdown in a densely populated city like London, I am aware this desire is driven by a slightly intensified misanthropic tendency. At the same time, I want to recalibrate my communities and find the joy in them again — rediscover community freed from desire.

1 Comment

  1. I live in a small college town surrounded by farmland in a rural state. And the college students have been missing all summer with no classes going on as would be typical. The downtown was particularly empty and is only now slowly recovering.

    That is a far different experience than what you describe. I can’t say I’ve experienced any loss of community. During the entire covid season, I still went to work as did everyone I personally know. I began spending more time at my parents’ place and so, if anything, my socializing increased.

    I also kept in contact with my closest friends. Even with social distancing, my friends and I would go for walks while wearing masks. The friend I’ve known the longest had a health crisis and is taking time off from work. This has given us the opportunity to see each other even more regularly for almost daily walks.

    I can’t say that lockdown overly altered my lifestyle. Nor did it do so for many other people I know, besides my parents who in their retirement belong to lots of groups. It’s clear the world has changed, though. The one thing I miss are the simple things, such as being able to stop in at the local independent bookstore that remains closed.

    It will be interesting to see what society will look like on the other side. College students are beginning to return, but it’s quite likely that many won’t return this year at all. The public schools in this town have decided to remain in lockdown and will continue to do classes online. It’s a very slow reopening.

    What I fear is a large number of the small business around here won’t survive. This probably means a further takeover of the economy by Amazon, Walmart, etc. Amazon built a distribution center at the edge of town and now Amazon delivery trucks are seen everywhere. Also, Target built a new small store directly downtown. I don’t welcome this change.

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