VOICE | Alan Gratias is Covid’ing In The County & Building ‘The Next’

After nine months of sheltering-in-place at Waldhaus (House in the Woods), I have experienced several eureka moments. The first was how pleasant and safe it is to be quarantined at home in Prince Edward County. Isn’t this the way communities are supposed to work?

My biggest ‘aha’ moment was the realization how readily, even eagerly, people talk about an apocalypse, not in the sense of wiping out humanity, but in the sense of the end of the old order and the shaping of a new one. How much Covid-19 is changing the world is an absorbing conundrum for all of us. When we live nano to nano getting through the day the best we can, it’s easy not to notice how profoundly our lives may be changing.

“Are a ‘prepper’?” a friend asked me when I first moved into my digs in a heavily forested property outside of Picton.

“A prepper?”

“You know, a doomsday believer preparing for a cataclysmic event.”

He meant it as a joke, but then the Covid hit and there was real talk about things coming to an end. 

Indications of the extraordinariness of the times are everywhere. 

It’s true, there are multiple human-made cataclysms waiting to happen. Maybe the world as we know it is in bad shape and about to be knocked out. You only have to binge on Netflix and YouTube to see the obsession with the apocalypse. The Covid pandemic has brought home the idea of the crowning of a new world. It’s eerie to live through the slow demise of one order and the birth of a different one.

Indications of the extraordinariness of the times are everywhere. You might call it a transformative moment. A pandemic offers an X-Ray of society, allowing us to see broken pieces. Once we realize we can take advantage of this ‘anthropause’ and shake up the status quo, a self-preservation instinct kicks in.  

Now, this is not a morbid topic, like trying to predict a Sixth Extinction. This is more an adventure in creating domains for ourselves, like private terroirs, as a singular way of moving forward. 

My own family is a sort of ground zero for this sort of thinking. My twin brother Deo says, “the planet is on fucking fire.” He can be full of shit, my D, and overflowing with exaggerations, but he is capable of surprising insights.  “Our job is to make our way to safety,” he says.  

As much as I want to push back on a dominant sibling, Deo is a powerful persuader of the notion that we need to prepare for what lies ahead. He is always saying that we should imagine different outcomes. “Take advantage of these shadow times, “he insists. “Rearrange everything.”

 “Since we crawled out of the slime, we have been worried about the end,” Deo continues. “There has never been a generation that didn’t fear it was going to happen.”

He makes the prospect of the apocalypse seem like a moment of grace.

“We have to get started,” Deo says. “Make decisions about how we want to live, where we want to live, and what we need to realize these ambitions.”

“Sounds like you don’t have much confidence in the future of the world, Bro Gloom,”  I reply.

“This Covid pandemic will break something open,” he reassures me.

“I wouldn’t be so optimistic,” I say. “Things may change very little when this is over.”

“Now more than ever, we need to hear the sound of people’s voices. People want the authenticity of human narratives.”

Part vanity, part showrunner—that’s my twin, his message is straightforward: we have an opportunity to take the best of what we have to create our own domains, each unique, each tailored to our needs. There is a moment for all of us when we realize, in a haze of uncertainty, that our old life has ended and a new one begun. Covid-19 has forced a reckoning on our systems and poked at structural fault lines and this is an opportunity to reimagine how we live. Perhaps Covid-19 is not a disease, but a symptom of an exhausted planet; we are the earth and we have everything we need to heal it—the cure of C-19 is here and it is us.

Yearn: The Journey to Next

In that spirit, and with Bro Deo as wayfinder, I took on as a personal Covid Project to develop a game that captures the notion of creating our own domains with a self-determined gestalt of components. First we have to decide where to build our domains, remote and secret is good, and then, what assets to gather to build our society. If we take charge of our own future, things might turn out better.

I have called my Covid entertainment “Yearn: The Journey to Next”. How do YOU want to live in your own terroir? What can YOU not live without? ‘The Yearn’ is the desire to live in a world of our own making. The Yearn is a quest to remake the society according to our own dictates. It’s about choosing the best of this world to take over the threshold to ‘The Next’.

My Covid entertainment is a card game that lies somewhere between bridge, poker and Cards Against Humanity. There are 97 cards divided among Domains, Elements, Kismets, Raptures and Extinction. The idea is to build up the highest values cards (1-13) in Domains (where is your safe haven?), and each of six Element Aspects (what resources do you want to bring along with you to your singular Domains—people, animals, nourishment, playlist, arts and tech). Play may be disrupted by Kismets (your winning karma), Raptures (a divine moment) or Extinction (farewell to all that). If you choose to bring your dog and family with chocolate, Netflix and Google to your bolt hole in the Caribbean, you will be comfortable, but be forewarned, this is not a winning strategy.


My Covid diversion is very much a beta version in need of fine-tuning, but the existential questions remain: What’s your Yearn?  Where’s your Next? And, how will you get there?


Written for LIFE AU LAIT by the indomitable Alan Gratias

Read more by our great friend, here and here.



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