Okay. Unless you have been living under a rock in the Hoh Rainforest in the Olympic mountains or holed up in a cave in the Himalayas searching for Nirvana, you know there is a killer virus sweeping across the globe at an alarming rate. We had heard about it a couple of months ago. But it was far away, in another land on another continent so although we felt compassion for those people dealing with this, we all just continued with life as we know it. Until we weren’t. Until it reached our shores and in a matter of weeks, life as we know it has completely changed.
I’m rather stunned at the speed in which everything has locked down, falling like the tiles of a domino game and yet speed is what is needed to address this threat. As I write this, most of us are self quarantined in our homes, only venturing out for life’s necessities which are becoming less and less available the deeper we get into the crisis. Ironically the item that has become the flashpoint of this event, the butt (no pun intended….no, wait, I fully intend this pun) of most of the jokes and the memes and the one that has all of us scratching our heads is toilet paper! What about this virus has people hoarding toilet paper, empty shelves as far as the eye can see? How does the lack of toilet paper translate into panic and fear? I read a post from a former student of mine whose parents had been refugees to this country when she was a small child and she wrote when we refuse refugees and immigrants fleeing violent homelands, let’s remember we fought over toilet paper! Food for thought.
It’s difficult to even put into words what we are all feeling. Schools closed, churches and mosques, parks, libraries, theatres, music events, museums, bars, restaurants…all of those places that humans depend on to gather together and celebrate life, places we have for so long taken for granted would be there when we wanted and needed them. Businesses closing, flights grounded or flying half full. Discrimination rampant because it’s easier to blame someone else, although this virus does not discriminate. Jobs disappearing, unemployment numbers skyrocket overnight, drive through school meal programs to address a growing need. Entire countries are on lockdown. We are all feeling this. There are so many stories being told and that will be told before this ends. We even have a new expression for this new normal: social distancing.
It is often said that art imitates life but what happens when life imitates art? There have been some incredible futuristic books written about threats to the human race and our way of life; Animal Farm; 1984; The Handmaid’s Tale; The Andromeda Strain. Suddenly all of those stories we considered science fiction are now just science. Human nature with an unknown factor thrown into the mix, in this instance a deadly virus. I have always loved reading SciFi and fantasy because they consistently have the underlying human theme of good vs evil mixed with lots of lovely, messy human (or human-like) interaction. Star Wars. Star Trek. The Chronicles of Narnia. These characters always face overwhelming odds like we are facing today and prevail. There is hope.
In the 1980s Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn wrote a song titled “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”, whose lyrics have stayed with me since then and seem so appropriate now. Cockburn writes that even in the most dangerous of times we can be human and experience love but he reminds us that anything worth having should be fought for. He urges us to “kick at the darkness ‘til it bleeds daylight”. We need to start kicking that darkness now. Humans have faced cataclysmic devastations for millennia and survived and come through stronger than ever. But first, we have to overcome the panic and fear.
Lovers in A Dangerous Time
I just read the best quote from Victor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor, who wrote: “When we are no longer able to change a situation we are challenged to change ourselves”. Nothing could be more appropriate right now. It’s okay to admit that we are all pretty scared. We don’t know the endgame or when we can call checkmate on this pandemic. But we can look at the silver linings. That we are all forced to slow down and be with our loved ones. In Italy where millions have been forced to stay in their homes in a nationwide quarantine, people have sat on their balconies and sang with each other over the alleyways and courtyards. Musicians have stood on corners offering music. The Seattle Symphony has made videos of their concerts available to listen to at home. World-class museums now have virtual tours available.
I have always wondered why it takes a devastating crisis for us to appeal to our better angels. Despite everything, the response I see to what is happening in the world is beautiful. Communication despite social distancing. People taking care of one another. I haven’t seen so much kindness in a long time. We can take this unexpected opportunity to play board games with our loved ones, to read, paint, draw, garden, write and yes sing. Stare at the stars. Count our blessings even as I know so many are suffering financially as well as physically during this crisis. Helping as we can in this new normal. I fully believe this too shall pass. Life will be different going forward because the mode of adaptation is never revealed until we are through the darkness. I believe in that light at the end of the tunnel. And just maybe the best change of all will be how we treat each other in the new normal. Take care of yourself in these dangerous times. Keep hope and faith…and let’s keep washing our hands. Stay safe, my friends.