I can’t see you, so you can’t see me

Darkness comes early
This time of year
Making it hard
To recognize familiar faces
In those of strangers.

Charles Simic, Hide and Seek

Isolated in a pandemic, we are both hiding and exposed.

We join videoconferences, but don’t turn on our cameras. We hide behind digital identities, but we are tracked extensively by the platforms that support those identities. We silently and secretly navigate our shopping purchases in digital marketing pathways that influence our choices and behaviour. We go out in public briefly for exercise or shopping or protest, but we are wearing masks. We have never been so hidden. We are totally exposed.

One teacher,
One doctor, one ecstasy, one illness, one woman, one man
May hide another. Pause to let the first one pass.
You think, Now it is safe to cross and you are hit by the next one. It can be
To have waited at least a moment to see what was already there.

Kenneth Koch, One Train May Hide Another

No matter how much we hide or we isolate, we are not the hermits of old scratching out an existence in a remote wilderness. We are part of community. Even if we went out into a wilderness today to live alone, our digital communities, our relationship connections and the community infrastructure of support would follow us. We may not want to be found but drones will find us, devices will track us and should we need it an air ambulance could come airlift us out. We may want to hide but our world leaves us still exposed.

Like many, I had always assumed toddlers hid their eyes to hide because they were egocentric. The theory went that they assumed that their lack of sight applied to all. However, recent psychological research suggests that toddlers base that behaviour in reciprocity and mutuality. Perhaps we are more deeply engrained in the elements of community than we realise. There may yet be hope for humanity.

Be kind—love what you see—or go
To sleep and stop dreaming you’re one of us.

Gary Lemons, Nowhere to Hide

There is comfort and protection in the hidden, especially in times of trauma and of loss. I have days where pulling the covers over my head and waiting things out seem like wise strategies. However, ignoring the world and hiding from connection is only a deferral. The answer is in the work of community, not in perfecting invisibility. The joy we seek is out there with others, not hidden away. Even if we run for it, that life will come find us and make us work to earn it.

today if ever
to say the joy of trying
to say the joy.

Philip Booth, Saying It

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