I never want it to sound glib or cheesy but I genuinely feel there are always positives to come from the darkest, scariest situations. Fear, panic, and misinformation seem even more contagious than the virus itself. But so is kindness. Genuinely, scientifically proven. Your act of compassion can cause ripples out to two or three degrees – as far as your friends’ friends’ friends!
And despite the images of empty shelves and panic-buying, there are also countless stories of people helping and showing small but beautiful gestures of kindness. From the postcard campaign offering help to those who need it, to distilleries and perfume makers (including Louis Vuitton) producing free hand sanitiser. Retailers big and small – the small doing deliveries where they can and big supermarkets prioritising the vulnerable and elderly. In spite of everything, there is a lot of human kindness happening out there.
Despite the potentially terrible consequences for the entertainment industry there has been creative joy. The amazing scenes of Italians serenading each other from their balconies. Artists big and small hosting free online gigs. Korg and Moog are giving away their synthesizer apps for free. Penguin Books are supporting independent bookshops who are offering home deliveries.
I’m incredibly excited to see how people’s creativity develops over the next few weeks and months.
And there is environmental good news. Air pollution in China and Italy has plummeted. After just a few weeks of quarantine, the famous canals of Venice look clearer with fish and swans seen swimming (although this is likely to be more to do with the lack of boats stirring up the canal bed). And it’s this potential for a huge environmental impact which really got me thinking.
This planet has been through a huge amount of trauma of late. Not just ecologically but politically, humanly and economically. In the grand scheme of human existence the last 300 years since the Industrial Revolution has been an absolute whirlwind. In the last few years it feels like everything has been accelerating towards a precipice. Every one of the last three years (at least) has ended with people saying, “well it can’t be as bad as the last one can it?”
You know how sometimes when you work too hard or party too hard and you get ill? They say that if you don’t allow yourself to rest your body forces rest upon you. I wonder if our planet is doing the same here. It has been suffocating. And now, finally, she has a chance to breathe.
And we all need this.
We all need to stop, take stock and re-examine what is really important to us. I’ve been talking about “wanting and miswanting” this month and never has this been more relevant. What makes us miswant for things that, not only don’t make us happy but serve us no purpose and cause problems for so many others?
Life drastically needs to slow down. Human beings urgently needed to slow down. We didn’t heed the warning signs and now it’s being enforced upon us. And that we have been given this opportunity rather than the whole planet exploding into a ball of fire should be viewed as a huge blessing.
There’s a huge part of me which is hoping that this will cause real and lasting change in our human existence. Imagine if everyone took this chance to realise what was important in their lives. To start to value what material goods we actually want or need. To assess how much leisure, entertainment and art means to us. To comprehend just how important the human connection of friends and family is.
But for now, the most important thing is to take a breath. Stop. Ground yourself. And breathe.