October 31, 2020

How can we possibly live without community, and did lockdown show us we don’t have to?

Jen Stout

Blog/essay on Medium.comIsolation, lockdown, belonging, 2020

This was written as a shout of anger and sadness about the way we live, its built-in loneliness. It was rewritten as an essay because the story resonated with people. It’s about searching for something akin to the island community I lost – and the unexpected glimmer of it, in a tenement stair during lockdown. Atomisation in our society is well-documented, much-discussed. ‘Community’ is a worn-out word. Solutions are thin on the ground; life grinds on, we prioritise careers. Little time for home and folk, and that’s just the way of it. But it can’t be, because the epidemic of mental illness is intertwined with our loneliness and insecurity. My own life’s twisting trajectory from Shetland crofts to the tenements and pubs of Edinburgh and Glasgow provided the material for this essay; my training as a journalist, the ability to tell the story succinctly. A deep need to explore belonging and spirituality (in its broadest sense) led me to talks with Alastair McIntosh, and his ‘basket of community’ image prompted this essay. I believe we’re at a turning point in thinking about how to live, and think we can learn from those strange days in spring.