Let’s not lose what we’ve gained during this period of ‘lockdown’. Having just read in The Guardian a selection of observations by New Zealanders recently freed from some of their restrictions, I get the impression of a jack-in-the-box that had been quietly enclosed in its container, suddenly released or an elastic band that had been stretched, only to snap back to sting the finger.
Whist our quarantine period is a trial, both economically and psycho-socially, it has not been all bad. I have been reflecting upon how it has dragged us back into the 1950s, a time of peaceful optimism when life was less stressed, less hurried. It was a time when people were more likely to sit on their front verandah and chat with passersby, and when neighbours would take the time to run an errand for you when they were going to the shops or help you out with a chore in the garden.
Yes, I have missed my coffees at the cafés, but I have enjoyed driving on less-busy roads with an absence of impatience and road-rage. And while I miss not seeing my children and grandchildren, I have actually been communicating with them more, thanks to Zoom, FaceTime and the fact that they have more time for me.
Sure, we haven’t been able to go to films or attend concerts, but hasn’t the plethora of online entertainment been wonderful?! Many people have learned how to work from home, too, thus eliminating the (often long and arduous) daily commute. The elevated level of concern for healthy hygiene has not only protected people from the coronavirus, but turned an expected serious flu season into a virtual non-event. And doesn’t it warm the soul to observe the way people have exhibited a keen sense of humour to lift their mood and thumb their nose at the virus? Even politicians, for the most part, are eschewing petty politics in order to work together to get necessary things done.
The world’s greenhouse emissions have, for the first time, gone backwards, and pollution has faded from the urban atmosphere. People are spending less, saving more and finding real value in things other than money: e.g., relationships, culture, the environment, time for dreaming, spirituality, exercise, et al; not that they were unaware of this treasure, but many had forgotten in their pursuit of things material.
The suggestion in The Guardian article was that New Zealanders, when freed from restrictions, lost sight of the good things in their haste to return to life as it was. Let us not squander the lessons learned in our isolation, and moderate our return to ‘normal’. Perhaps we have been given a rare opportunity to create a new normal: returning only to the best of the old normal, while retaining the good things about life that we have relearned during our period of captivity.
Bob Thomas, May 2020