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April 4th, 2020
People generally squander their free time. This isn’t due to some sort of intrinsic laziness, but more due to an unexercised muscle. A physically weak person generally defers away from lifting the heavy object. Likewise, a person who is used to having their schedule, routine and tasks dictated by someone or something else is unlikely to be well equipped to generate a structure for time when some of the free stuff comes around. Free time for people who abide by schedules and tasks determined by others usually allocate all of their free time to relaxation and unwinding from those tasks and schedules.
Free time is, a little scary for most people. It is the epitome of ambiguity, it is life staring you in the face asking: what are you going to do? It’s your move.
We covet certainty, thinking there is safety in the predictable and so we eschew anything ambiguous. Free time is stuffed with distraction in order to beat back the ambiguous challenge of free time.
When catastrophe strikes, a lot of structure vanishes, often overnight. Modern society is a grand effort to tame ambiguity with routine, habit, and structure. And when modern society takes a hit, we lose some of the comforting certainty of these routines, habits, and structures.
Individuals grow dependent on these operating systems, and flounder when they vanish.
The most important catastrophe skill is knowing how to handle ambiguity.
A person can be a society of one, outfitted with their own operating system of structures and heuristics. But like any skill, these need development and practice, which requires time and energy, two things that people enmeshed in the structures of society lack. Free time is usually squandered not for a lack of responsibility but due to a lack of energy – that energy having already been spent on the tasks and schedules dictated by others. With so much of our life devoted to the employment and designs of others, we are caught in a catch 22. So few professions offer part time work in a manner that can sustain a decent life, let alone grow it.
Catastrophe offers a difficult but huge opportunity, especially one like quarantine, which many of us are trying to navigate. For those of us with far more free time than usual, we can begin to create a society of one.
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