Personal Space – The Final Frontier
by Nigel Summerley and Rowena J Ronson
RJR: Do you remember when talking about ‘personal space’ was a thing? I remember when I was in my teens and twenties, we used to kid around about invading each other’s space, and lines like ‘get out of my space’ were used, sometimes even with a hand gesture or two. Then ‘needing space’ became part of the modern-day vernacular, for so many reasons. Bringing us to the present, how do you feel about the whole issue of space?
NS: Space – the final frontier? In many ways, that’s what personal space is. It’s personal space because others are not allowed in. And when you do allow someone in, it’s something special… it means something. But of course right now, in the pandemic, we are, most of us, imprisoned in our personal space, and even some people that we’d like to come in and be held close to us are not allowed in. So our protective barrier has become our gaoler.
RJR: Interesting. I don’t feel imprisoned in my own space actually. I feel fortunate that in Tier 1 I am still allowed to let people into my personal space with protection. What it highlights for me is something else. I was walking through a small park across the road from where I live and heading for the exit. I found it blocked by a man and his dog. Under normal circumstances, I am sure he would have moved back a little down his path and made way for me to come through. He was waiting for someone behind him. Instead, and I am sure it was because I was wearing a mask, he stood his ground and stared at me. I was not given the courtesy of my personal space, and it left an impression – as I am sure he hoped it would.
NS: He was a space invader! It seems that people use space as a weapon – both defensive and offensive. Soon your Tier 1 space and my Tier 2 space will shrink to lockdown space. But on reflection, perhaps our internal space is infinite. So maybe we can retain tremendous space for ourselves, even in the face of aggressive space invaders – and the restrictions imposed by government.
RJR: I am actually really grateful for the space that this second lockdown will bring me. I have actually already retreated. I have been busy doing so for a long while. I still intend to take care of all my patients, but lockdown will bring peace back to the streets, and time for being and deep reflection; for hibernation. I know that I am very fortunate to see it that way for so many reasons. I have a roof over my head, money for food and heat and so on. But last lockdown I had my youngest son and his girlfriend living with me. This time I am preparing for an isolated and totally self-sufficient lockdown. I might well feel isolated and find myself having too much space – and slip into too much introspection. So I am already planning for how to keep my mental health buoyant. How are you feeling this Sunday afternoon pre lockdown?
NS: Just over 48 hours ago I decided to sell my home and move. Then, less than 12 hours later, the news of the lockdown leaked out and I had to reverse my plan. The search for a new space has been transmuted into a search for new ways to use the old space… Like you, I am fortunate enough to be able to prepare to enjoy my own space and make the most of it…
RJR: I can relate! I am planning on moving to Devon, where there is more space – but for now, I need to wait. These are precious and unprecedented times. Many of the Greek Islands inhabitants, as you know, hibernate for winter, and during that time, a balance and homeostasis emerges. And Greece experienced a tsunami last week, so climate change is definitely shaking us all up, as predicted. Time to think about that this winter?
NS: Of course. But then, that whole issue of climate change reminds us that in some ways we have very little space left at all… We have very little room for manoeuvre, and the organisms that live in the natural world have less and less space. So space is utterly fluid… it can be infinite and it can be infinitesimal. In the closed-in space of our hibernation, maybe we can find unlimited space for reflection…
RJR: Yes indeed. What do our readers feel/think?