Well, it’s been about 4 years since last week…
— Alan Arkin quarantine ditty
As quarantine restrictions are slowly being lifted, I reflect on our enforced break. I have found it similar in many ways to an unexpected hospitalization or a prolonged recovery from injury or illness when every aspect of your life is disrupted. I know that, for each of my shoulder injuries and surgeries, it felt like my life had come to a complete halt and been put on hold, forcing a break in the forward movement of my worldly life. The same applied to Sara’s hospitalization for colon surgeries — everything stopped and nothing was “normal” for a long time.
It has also reminded me of working the night shift at the Brown Schools. Our treatment facility teemed with life by day, with scores of staff and residents busy and active all over our sprawling campus. But a good night shift (11pm to 7am) should look like nothing happened. Our grounds at about 4:30am, deserted, dark with lighted buildings and sidewalks was easily one of the most peaceful place I’ve ever been.
Nature seems to have been enjoying a respite from our frenetic human activities while we’ve all been in lockdown. Perhaps this is the planet asking us to slow us down and work reverse the damage our industrial “civilization” inflicts on her.
Watching wildlife suddenly flourish where we have chased it away to build our little boxes of houses, factories & office buildings, it’s hard not to believe this break from our typical pace helps us all out, even if we humans have to take bit of a break from our breakneck — and indeed, break-WORLD – activities.
In the spirit of using our hiatus as a hint to change our ways, I’m posting 3 articles about how we might try to do just that.
Hiatus as an opportunity to remake cities
As traffic has evaporated, car crashes in the city have dropped more than 50 percent compared with the same time last year.
So have injuries to drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists. The air is cleaner, the honking but an echo.
Choosing how we make our cities
This pause has allowed urban residents the chance to listen, see and feel what a potential future car free or “car lite” city could look like.
The World Health Organization says walking and cycling are considered the safest means of transport to reduce exposure to COVID-19. So cities around the world have been building new cycling paths and scaling up their car-free street initiatives. Now, it looks like many of these environmentally-friendly changes will be permanent.
Finally, in the prolonged period that we must still endure as we recover from this pandemic, we could all use a little practice in patience. Maria Popova wrote about the art of waiting in her thought-provoking blog, Brain Pickings. I was particularly struck by this quote from author Jason Farman:
Waiting isn’t an in-between time. Instead, this often-hated and underappreciated time has been a silent force that has shaped our social interactions. Waiting isn’t a hurdle keeping us from intimacy and from living our lives to our fullest. Instead, waiting is essential to how we connect as humans through the messages we send. Waiting shapes our social lives in many ways, and waiting is something that can benefit us. Waiting can be fruitful. If we lose it, we will lose the ways that waiting shapes vital elements of our lives like social intimacy, the production of knowledge, and the creative practices that depend on the gaps formed by waiting.
Take a deep breath. Continue all day. Learn the gentle art of being still. Awaken to the true cycles of nature which always include rest and, yes, even, decay. Every day, the world spins and we have another chance. I’ve heard it said that every new baby is Life’s way of saying, “Let the experiment continue.”
And, of course, there’s a Grateful Dead song lyric that captures this time and our spirit (there always is!):
We will get by.
We will get by.
We will get by.
We will survive.
See ya on the other side, friends.