I’ve been taking walks in the hood every day during this quarantine – by myself at times, and with my kids every time. Sometimes I get two walks in a day; a longer walk or run by myself (for the sake of my sanity), and a shorter walk with the kids (or a longer one if I didn’t have one by myself). Usually this walking happens after everyone – everyone of the kids, anyway – is done with their digital learning day work. It’s a bit of a recess and a time for exercise. Sometimes the kids play in the driveway afterward.
I think this is the most exercise the middle-schoolers have gotten in a long time. Sadly, in our American public society, we don’t believe in exercise and playtime enough to put it into the curriculum of middle, high school, and college… or even to include it in our adult work schedules. We would work so much more efficiently, I am certain of that, if we had time to play and exercise every day. We’d be healthier, too, mentally, spiritually, and in our relationships. But alas, we don’t have it in our curriculum, and so we have to make time for it for ourselves and sometimes we’ve been working more than eight hours a day, and then some, (because that’s what this relentless, unsympathetic system demands from us) and by the time we get home we’re too tired to do anything else, and so we tell ourselves we’ll do it tomorrow, until tomorrow becomes the next year and we’ve blown up like porkers.
In this quarantine time, though, during these walks, anyway, I can’t help but to think about Ray Bradbury’s short story The Pedestrian. It’s a sci-fi, sort of dystopian, futuristic story in which a man – Leonard Mead – goes for a walk around the empty city on a cold November evening. As he walks he notices lights from screens flickering behind drawn curtains, and sometimes he sees shadows of people moving about on walls of homes where curtains are not drawn. As he walks, he enjoys different things in his surroundings and we are made aware that every day for the past 10 years since he has been walking, he has never met another person out and about walking. As Mr. Mead is about to reach his home, he is stopped by a police car, which the reader learns is the only police car left in the city because there is no crime and no need for police. Because of other details in the story, I assume that there is no crime because everyone is locked up in their homes, watching screens. Eventually what happens is that Mr. Mead is taken by the police car (which is empty and controlled by a computer or remotely controlled) to the “Psychiatric Center for Research on Regressive Tendencies.”
Anyhow, all this is to say that, while I have personally been enjoying this quarantine time – which has been a time to slow down and actually live with and look long at the faces of my husband and children, and also a time to spend more with God and have him work on my soul – it’s also been a time when we’ve been rather locked up. We’ve been on our screens a lot, and besides going out for daily walks, we’ve been inside a lot. And I don’t like it. It’s not healthy. But, it is what it is right now, and I am just praying that this kind of stuff doesn’t continue on, and that we human beings will not get to the point like they did in the Ray Bradbury story (which, by the way, is set in 2053) where we lock ourselves up in our houses with our screens for the sake of fear.
On Sunday, I forced the entire family to stay off of screens, and I must say it was tough (especially for the youngest boy). But eventually – late at night – everyone was fine with it and we were actually all playing games together at the kitchen table.