Well. Now we are here. What does it mean and where do we go? We are still in the grip of a pandemic. Remember when it seemed like it would be over in two or three weeks?
As the weather gets colder and the poor air quality and dryness are predicted to make things worse, will we actually have the information we need to tackle this thing and bring it to its knees? Will we get to free testing and widespread contact tracing? As we get used to this new “lifestyle” I hear more stories about drinking, drug abuse and mental illness. Are the holidays coming? Santa will be wearing a facemask? He’ll be delivering vaccines?
Remember that thing called hope? What do we need to do to find our way back to a future that we can feel normal about? Let’s take an inventory of what is good:
The election is (pretty much) over. Can we get around to caring less about national politics? Can we watch less television and look at less social media? Can the nightly news be boring? Can we find better things to fill up our lives?
I am just starting to see more creative posts coming from the arts community. Many creative people who have tried to make a living in the arts seem to be engaged in some version of standing on a corner with a cup plying their wares. Something new and exciting has to come out of that. The Renaissance came immediately after the Bubonic Plague.
I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at my feet lately, checking to see if I’m still standing on solid ground. These late autumn days are beautiful and it’s really nice to run into people on the street and stop and talk for a few minutes, while standing safely apart in the outside air. What is going to happen to that when the weather gets colder? Am I going to find myself shivering in the wind just to have a few minutes of actual conversation in real time with a real person? Outside heaters, fire pits and string lights have been sold out online, indicating that I’m not the only person with this thought.
I’ve learned a few things from this:
Space is important. A fancy apartment in Manhattan that can only be accessed via a small elevator and has no rooftop garden is not as desirable as it used to be. There is no substitute for fresh air.
We need to hug each other. And shake hands. And kiss. I miss all of these things. I didn’t realize how valuable they are as ways to reinforce our connection to each other. We need to go outside.
Kids need physical contact in order to learn. There is definitely a great value in online learning and we need to work to make it more effective. But online learning needs “in person” augmentation. Confidence, physicality and being grounded are all attributes that cannot be learned online. We don’t need to be together all the time, but we need to be together some of the time.
There seems to be a profound sadness emerging as the pandemic lengthens and we realize how lonely we all may be.
From my present vantage point, it looks like we are facing a dark winter. What can we do to make it better? We need to talk to each other, keep in touch with each other, and help each other with kindness, empathy, humor and innovative ideas. Will somebody please invent a better mask?
I’m so grateful to be living on the East End. Living in a beautiful place where I can go outside and rake the leaves and pretend the pandemic is over is priceless. I keep wishing that I could jump on a plane and get away from the virus, but of course there is no safe destination to go to. And there are many places that are worse than where we are! The safety of sitting in a train or a plane is still doubtful. Drive to a warmer environment? I guess we could risk that.
Well maybe it’s just time to get around to that novel I was going to write someday. Or that new degree I was going to get online. Or that new skill or hobby I was going to master. Or all those great books I was going to read!
Some people work very well alone. I’m not one of them. I have a feeling I’m going to start calling up people I haven’t spoken to in a long time and just ask them what’s new. Not text them, actually call them up. Even Facetime them, so I can see how long their hair has grown or how sleepless the look in their eyes is.
In the movie “The Shining,” Jack Nicholson spent endless hours typing the same sentence over and over on a typewriter, as he sank deeper and deeper into possessed insanity. Is that what’s going to happen to some of us?
Some people we know have died and they will be missed. At this point it looks like many more are slated to die. Can we do something to turn that around? If we don’t pick ourselves up and make something of this, it will be a long, hard, boring and ugly winter.
George Cork Maul is a composer, pianist and performance art specialist who specializes in artistic collaborations on the East End. He is a student of phenomenology, wave patterns, string theory and waterspouts, and makes pizza for Beacon staff meetings.