By Dr David Laing Dawson
I’m sure I have not used the word “intimation”, nor read it, since a High School Poetry class. And over the years Wordsworth’s phrase has changed in my memory from “Intimations of Immortality” to “Intimations of Mortality”, making it finally a word and a phrase that exactly suits the moment.
For on another day the same as the last, checking the worldwide coronavirus numbers and then sitting by the window watching the leaves finally unfold in the colder than usual May, the word ‘intimation’ settles with full meaning in my mind. Not just a feeling; not just clues; not simple hints; not information exactly; not merely foreboding; not only an unsettling mood, but some combination of all these. Brought about I’m sure by the change in routine, the uncertainty, the threat of illness, the quiet in the streets, and the world encompassing information.
And there it sits; and I should allow it to sit; and I should live within it for a while to see what I learn.
But we run from it exchanging cartoons and memes and black humour with family and friends. We return to what we imagine was a simpler age and garden and bake and knit and build and paint and write. And we binge watch old series where people smoked and watched television in small boxes and phoned each other from heavy contraptions on a desk.
And I write a blog describing all the good things that might arise from this pandemic, the changes societies could make in response to the crisis. But there are other possibilities too: the rise of nationalism, polarization, a fatalistic view of climate change, the rise of tyrannies, a return to the status quo with more inequality, and less attention paid to the hidden population of mentally ill.
I watch CNN in the evening and ignore CBC though I am a fourth, maybe a fifth generation Canadian, and this because my intimations tell me to watch America. Canada is muddling through this without excess rancour and discord, as it is bound to, finding compromise where ever possible, its citizens obeying most cautions, laws and directives, sacrificing comfort and pleasure for the common good.
But the USA is where the action is, where the polarization increases under duress, where racism rears up, where the social contract is broken, where guns are carried to protests, where the selfish I openly struggles with the We, where each blames the other, where politicians regress to school yard taunts, where expedience trumps knowledge, and where this might all go the wrong way.