Sunset over Mordor

With yet another lock-down to be expected in a day or two, I can only sit at home, work remotely, and do something with my spare time when it is still cold and unpleasant outdoors. Fortunately, I am among those who are not touched in any way neither privately nor professionally by the pandemic.

But due to the pandemic and the unexpected change of status quo, I was willing to leave academia for good. The year of on-line lecturing without actually seeing the students and the abundance of remote academic seminars got to a nuisance. Some of my fellows could not go through the pandemic without being in touch on-line. Some of them living alone did not go well through solitude and expected constant on-line contact with others. Some had enough of their spouses and kids being all time around and treated the on-line meetings as an excuse. Short ‘operational’ meetings that normally took place once a month changed into forced out long-lasting, terribly boring and indeed annoying on-line discussions once or twice a week. No content. Just idle talk. But you had to be on-line. Newly discovered MS Teams was aptly overused. My fellows began to show worthless ‘Facebook symptom’ of measuring success by counting those connected on-line even if you can neither see them nor hear from them. I thought I was not able to go through yet another term of this annoying routine just to do so. It was too much. I had to make a hard choice. No, I was not released. The boss of the boss did not agree.

But having thought I would be released, I changed an external advisory position into a regular job landing in a company that made a reasonable use of the new way of work. Most of people working there are younger than me and are much more better in making use of digital tools enabling us to work remotely. As a result, by watching them and adjusting I changed the way I work, I hope for good.

I think everybody must find a way to go safely through the pandemic time both physically and mentally. For me, by choice and reflection, it is time to stay quiet for the time being and simply rest from the day-to-day hyper activity. Maybe change the way we work for good but with a new balance, not longing for how it used to be. The world we knew, whether we want it or not, disappeared forever. I think this might be a chance for many to stop for a moment and if this was the case, to get rid of too hasty, too multitasking way of life. To get to a new balance in life. Filling in for the old ways of doing things might be just losing the opportunity to make a quick change and enjoy life in a new order of things.

My new employer made a ban on coming to work unless you have been tested negatively for coronavirus and allows us to be on a call only a couple of hours daily but work in hours of our choice. This allows me to take breaks and provides for some diversity in the daily routine. Looking through photographs of beautiful places I visited in recent years is soothing and diversifies the on-line meetings and long hours of modeling formulas in an excel sheet.

The photo I picked up to show you today I did three years ago in New Zealand. I called it ‘Sunset over Mordor’ as indeed that what you can see on the photo is the sun setting down over mountains, behind which the makers of the Lord of the Rings located the Mordor staging area. For those who do not know what I am talking about, Mordor was a seat of a terrible dark force in a famous book and a film made upon it.

Not all of us decided to climb the ‘Mordor’ mountains as the walking route had to be planned for more than eight hours with no possibility to shorten it. I skipped the route and instead, in the meantime, went with three other fellows to visit underground caves in some other part of the New Zealand Northern Island. We had, of course, to come back to pick up the team who went into the mountains. And we had to wait for them for an hour or so because the route time turned out to be an underestimation. I made a choice that day that turned to be a shot into the bull’s eye. The visit in the caves was not as tiring as a long walk in the mountains, but I spent an interesting two hours underground for the first time in my life watching this kind of rock formations created by nature up close.

On leaving the ‘Mordor’ area, I managed to take this photo from our van, saying farewell. Then we hit the road again. We still had plenty of beautiful spots to visit ahead of us. With the sun already behind the mountains, there was no sense of looking back. Let bygones be bygones, as a wise man said. No regrets.