Stay connected

Well. This is happening.

How do you survive the confinement for weeks on end? French aerospace engineer, pilot, and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who spent six months in the International Space Station, has, for understandable reasons, been much quoted on his advice for how to manage. Aside from urging on us the essential message of staying at home, catching up on some reading is amongst Monsieur Pesquet’s advice, including revisiting some classics and favourites.

Personally, I have not, as yet, experienced this much-fabled ‘extra free time’ people are speaking of with regard to self isolation. I am very fortunate in not having fallen ill. Though between adjusting to working from home and setting up the family to do likewise, establishing a new routine, wrestling with some relatively new technology, ensuring healthy meals, exercise, and starting to supervise home schooling, chasing my tail has continued. For now. I suspect it won’t be long before the time starts to grow baggy, and I’ll need the discipline not to veg out in front of the telly.

To that end, like many others, I am looking to refresh my reading list. Amongst the many pleasures and other benefits of reading, it keeps you connected. You see the world through the eyes of others; gain insight into their experiences; develop empathy.

You know, my son said yesterday, all this has made me think of The Machine Stops. Ah! So he did read it. I recommended it when he was covering the dystopian novel at school, but wasn’t sure he’d looked at it. It’s actually a long-short story, by E.M. Forster, author of A Room with a View and A Passage to India, amongst others. But The Machine Stops is sci-fi, published, incredibly to me, in 1909.

“Only connect!” is the famous epigraph to his novel Howard’s End, Forster’s exhortation to forge personal connections, to empathise and unite with others across what appear to be divides and barriers between us. The Machine Stops, then, is a warning about what happens when we cease to connect. In it, the human population has lost the ability to live on the Earth’s surface, confined to isolated rooms below ground, essential needs met by a god-like, global ‘Machine’, communicating at a distance by what we may today recognise as video conferencing. branimir-balogovic-fAiQRv7FgE0-unsplashVashti, her body a toothless pulp, for lack of need for muscle and chewing, is content with this world. Her son Kuno, on the other side of the world, is not. Kuno wants more from life, having understood there is a people on the Earth’s surface, seeks a connection with his mother, and senses the Machine is breaking down. The title of the story gives the ending away – but it ends, too, with hope.

Apologies, this all sounds a little grim, and at a time when we’re already getting our heads round the change and uncertainty of recent events. Not to mention future ones. But is it also a positive reminder. Technology can be a threat in replacing face-to-face social contact, but at least it is available for us all to keep in touch. I am going to spend some time tonight getting my Dad to be able to Skype. I think seeing our faces when we call will make a simple difference.

Another quote from E.M. Forster may be timely; it is one I’ll keep in mind whilst supporting my son over the shock of having his high-stakes summer exams suddenly cancelled: “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.“

Stay safe and keep connecting.

See Thomas Pesquet’s How to Cope with Social Distancing here:
Photo credits
Photos by Bruno Martins and by Branimir Balogović on Unsplash

13 thoughts on “Stay connected

  1. As always an enjoyably good read Libre Paley, I’ll soon be plugging in and charging a little used kindle. Take care 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I thought I wouldn’t get used to kindle books, but it happened. Wonder if we’ll get used to this existence!?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 😕I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to living this way, but gotta keep positive and I have a feeling technology may save us yet🙂X

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I never read that book – never heard about it either. I, too, feel like this extra time everyone is talking about is some fable. With the kids at home all the time – it’s cold – my quiet time is a non existent thing these days. I read today somewhere that parents will find this vaccine before the scientists do 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I haven’t read much Forster either, and I read that story back in school a mumble years ago! Yup, it’s no peace for the parent right now, I don’t want to read any more articles on taking up needlepoint or redecorating the house. Different planet!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I didn’t know of that work of Forster’s. Just one example of how blogging is a great help.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is not what we usually associated with Forster. I s, blogging another great example of staying connected.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A good quote. It is worth spending some time reflecting these days… 🙂
    Forster? I thought I had his “phone Passage to India” somewhere, from my father’s shelves, but can’t seem to find it. Darn.
    Be safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is fairly obscure I think, not sure how much science fiction he wrote, but the Edwardian / Victorian sci-fi genre is fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jacqui Murray Mar 27, 2020 — 3:25 pm

    Change is inevitable isn’t it and not always on our timetable or by our choice. But it happens. Mankind if nothing else has proved his resilience to change.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A weird combination of change and stasis at the moment. Yes, time to stand ground together for common good.


  7. Absolutely love the quote! Hope you were successful in getting Skype to work with your dad 🙂 Stay safe and take care ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Think he will still be more comfortable with the phone 😊 Thanks for stopping by and take care.

      Liked by 1 person

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