Zach Beauvais

Looking up the trunk of a busy, monochrome plane tree

Pandemic Notes: I’m done breaking things down, I need to build them up again.

Written by Zach Beauvais

Apr 14, 2020

I’ve been exhorting people to create. To reach out, and make something, in this pandemic – this soul-sucking time that suffocates spirit by cutting off humanity from our lifeline of humans. Creating extends. You reach for tools, for cameras, you stretch before and after you make.

You don’t reach to read the news, you haunch, hunker-down. You turn in with your arms, back and shoulders – and keep turning your eyes, mind, and reason. All in.

You try to unpick, to break apart the things in front of you to make sense of them. This is fed by stories, stats, data, opinion and analysis. Then, you’re doing analysis: breaking things apart to find out what’s happening next.

But, analysis is destructive. It leaves behind broken wholes. You have to think, apply your own mind – with it’s eclectic collection of contexts. And, to get the thing you want: understanding insight, you have to build something.

You make sense of analysis not by analying (breaking down, quantifying, reducing to components), but through _creation._ You take remaining parts, and inspire them with your own thinking, meditation, or simple existing understanding – maybe, dare I say, wisdom?

Analysis takes place hunched over, turned in, focused on the thing at hand. It excludes outside, it ignores promptings from intuition, and it creates a morbid morgue of stock-parts of understanding.

You don’t reach, you mantle like a goshawk, until you see for yourself what makes up this thing.

News about the pandemic is broken. It breaks down. When it’s actually working, it’s producing data, facts, figures, numbers, and relationships between data.

But, when you try to make sense of it, you imbue the analysis with your breath of creativity. Just by learning something new, you do the opposite of analysis (breaking down). You build up, you create, you begin the process of synthesis. Putting together is creation.

That’s why taking a photo, painting a picture, baking sourdough bread, successfully changing a nappy, and playing the violin, talking to a friend in a way that builds them up. Synthesis is creation, it’s edification, and it’s ours to use.

Also, creation is what’s attacked by stress, fear, and species-wide empathetic pain (that drain we feel because we’re all human, and we’re (uniquely to our lifetimes) all suffering.

I’ve been shit at this.

I haunch for hours, pulling apart this coronavirus until I know what an enveloped RNA-sequenced bastard of a disease is with no virology experience.

I extend this psychic demolition to my own life: how secure is my job now – and in 6 months? Can we evict our bad tenant without making the situation worse? Can we move house if we need to?

Can I start _any_ of the exciting, live/career-changing project I’ve just planned? Can I live a good life that helps my kid, my wife, and my community?

What this looks like in practice is that I take my camera out – a synthesis machine. And, I frame up some compositions, and can’t see a thing worth making. I write words down into a CMS, and I can’t say more than knee-jerk boilerplate words. I can’t play the drums, carve spoons, or draw.

And if you see the timestamp, I can’t sleep either.

But you know what?

I do want to understand, and will pursue the destruction of analysis when I need to.

But I’ll also continue to pick up my camera. I’ll still try to reach in preference to hunching. I’ll call you, and talk about art, writing, craft, and love – the edification of making. Because, that’s my life’s purpose.

It’s unfocused, it’s badly disciplined, and I’ve got context-lenses that make it hard.

But, I will do anyway.


[Synthesis]: {“In the philosophy of Kant, the action of the understanding in combining and unifying the isolated data of sensation into a cognizable whole.”}:…/Ent…/196574…

Here are some of my defiant efforts at picking up the synthesis box.

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