When the telos gets broken ….


I didn’t post yesterday because it was one of those energy sapping days.  I foolishly read an overheated news piece involving millions of pounds of investment into developing a new kind of nitrogen fertiliser that will contain GM bacteria that allow cereal crops to make their own nitrogen – marvellous (I’m kidding – it’s potentially disastrous). And so it went on.  I tried to write using the new and greatly improved Project Gutenberg editing interface but I simply couldn’t get the hang of it and in the end a whole chunk of yesterday’s post disappeared into the ether. I spent hours on the allotment with Madame, planting out, and then more hours trying to make the diverter on the water storage system work properly instead of sending most of the rainwater under the shed. After more hours today I ripped out the old system and installed (bodged) a new one that looks messy but at least captures all the rainwater. Nothing went disastrously wrong and yet nothing went well either.

It’s not that I feel depressed – I know what that feels like and it’s horrible and disabling; but thinking about it today, I reckon I’ve nailed the cause for my sense of unrest.  There are many things that I think we need, to flourish as humans, but among them are two that are particularly under threat in the present pandemic. The first is telos – the sense of where we’re going and what we’re for – what we’re intended to become; and the second is agency – the capacity to direct our energies towards objects that we choose freely.  When things are going well the first – telos – gives us a sense of what it is we’re growing towards, and the second – agency – allows us the freedom to conduct our lives in the way that leads to our goal. When these are broken or denied to us we lose any sense of belonging and it feels as if we’re in a tunnel that may emerge somewhere we didn’t choose and don’t want to be, and that’s when we lose any sense of delight in things that normally fill us with joy.

Without being too dramatic about it, the flow of life has turned into a torrent and the lies, evasions and incompetence of some of our elected leaders suggests that they took a wrong turn some while back and are actually taking us towards the rapids instead of away from them.  Cue dramatic music but also a huge sense of disappointment and loss.

The hedgerows are full of flowers, cow parsley, mayflowers, dandelions and all the early risers.  The horse chestnuts are laden with blossom  and when the sun shines the earth seems to embrace it.  This should be one of the peak moments of the year and yet it’s tinged with loss and bereavement. We plod on, missing our families and friends; missing our normal textured lives and hoping  – some of us may even be praying – that we can wrestle a blessing out of this darkness.