Legends from our own lunchtimes

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Solastalgia.
Sunday 29 March - Australia - 3969 cases - 156 per million population


It's odd.   The world is in the same boat and there is undoubtedly a tide of concern for one's fellow man swelling from beneath a turbulent surface.   There are certainly those who continue to row in the opposite direction, to be unhelpful, criticise and disobey because they can, but the most concerning is a growing feeling of displacement, dissatisfaction, or even anger which is also becoming evident, even among those for whom this is out of character.

We are not exempt in our house either, despite our comfort and even happiness with our situation, our angst is not directed at each other but usually rises against an inanimate object such as a television or computer screen, as each continues to pour the world's bile into our house. In our online worlds, little niggles that would normally go unnoticed between friends are turning into running battles.    As Professor Julius Sumner Miller once would ask: "Why is this so?"

Ten years ago, when faced with significant uncertainty (our house was in the process of being resumed), we felt similar emotions.  We weren't unhappy at all, yet there was something happening in our brains which left us less than content.   It had a name as it turned out, and when we discovered that our irrational emotions weren't irrational after all, it was (mostly) easy to redirect them in a constructive way.  

Let's go back in time to see what we discovered:

FRIDAY, JANUARY 08, 2010

The pond is alive at the moment, another lotus flower will be at its glorious peak today.   Their subtlety is an extraordinary contrast to the vivid blues and yellows of the water lilies on the surface, and our little native bees are going gangbusters flitting between them all. 

I must buy the timber to build a new hive today, ours is now long overdue for a split.

As I sit and watch it all a cloud descends.   It's not black or dark or the sort of cloud that makes one perpetually sad or melancholy, but it is none the less a cloud with the merest hint of those ingredients, a whiff of sadness round its edges perhaps.

While we were wondering about all that, and what picture to post for today, Sue phoned and said "solastalgia" was what we were feeling, and our world of hitherto inexplicable emotions suddenly had an explanation;

"It's the homesickness you feel when you're still at home."
… the distress caused by the lived experience of the transformation of one’s home and sense of belonging and is experienced through the feeling of desolation about its change. [snip] 
The diagnosis of solastalgia is based on the recognition of the distress within an individual or a community about the loss of ‘endemic sense of place’ and the loss of a sense of control of its destiny. 
In essence, solastalgia is the sadness caused by environmental change.  
The concept was created by Glenn Albrecht, a professor at the School of Environmental and Life Sciences at the University of Newcastle, after he noticed the depression amongst rural farmers in drought-stricken lands. The drought had caused increased workloads, debt, and fear about future security — and, interestingly, the small changes in their own front yards formed powerful triggers and metaphors for their despair. Albrecht’s studies showed that farmer women would be enormously more upset over the loss of their gardens than their mortgage or income. (“Losing a garden is often quite dramatic,” as a colleague noted. “It’s often the only thing that’s between them and a vast landscape of dust.”)
That's exactly it!  "The loss of a sense of control over its destiny".


It has a name, it's definitely how we feel, but I still don't understand how we have allowed ourselves to succumb to such an illogical malady. "Despair" is not how we feel admittedly, far from that, but we are acutely aware that we are seeing the last season of our frangipani blooms, and that the already vacant houses in our street and the next are starting to show the first signs of unkemptness as our community crumbles before our eyes.

Perhaps when someone actually makes a decision, removing our uncertainty, these feelings will pass.

2020 Footnote: They certainly did, as indeed will the ones that we are currently feeling.

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5 comments

Joan Elizabeth said...

Wonderful to have you posting again Pete. I have been thinking of you more lately, as I always do at this time of year, wondering when you are due to depart and fully expecting that you would be staying put this year. At the moment we are in Kandos with plenty of things to occupy us. I am posting weekly on my current blog mybrightfield.blogspot.com if you want to know what we are up to for the duration.

bitingmidge said...

Thanks Joan - we have been slowly catching up with everyone, proving that unlimited calls really mean that - you are on the list! Obviously the planned road trip went awry as well, and we are staying as far away from trouble as we can!

Don and Cathy Jo said...

Sorry but we don’t understand “resumed.”

bitingmidge said...

That's an interesting cross-cultural thing I hadn't thought of! Read instead "compulsorily acquired by government" in this case to build a bridge that never happened!

Don and Cathy Jo said...

Ah, yes. Here it’s called “eminent domain.” There is a large swath of homes in LA that was acquired by the highway building folks maybe 20 years ago (or more) to build a hiway extension. Local opposition put a stop to that and they’re just now selling those off as they’ve finally given up on the project.

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