By Eric Heltzel
My wife reminded me that we have been quarantined for most of a month. Normal? It is starting to feel a bit that way. I live in a fairly rural setting and can go outdoors at will and not be near other people. Wow! Walking in the woods, playing with the dog, doing projects around the place all give me joy. I never thought that I would be so thankful for the internet! It allows us to be able to connect. I am able to stay abreast of what is happening in the world, communicate with friends and be entertained. It also helps me to realize the seriousness of the COVID 19 pandemic.
I read a quote from a Conservative newsman saying the we need to get back to the wonderful life that we had before Coronavirus reared it’s head. This gave me pause and made me ask about what was so wonderful before. There is the obvious, moving about freely, being able to buy toilet paper, go to farmer’s markets, go to a restaurant. Then I thought about the struggle we have in my family to get affordable, effective health insurance. I thought about all the homeless people I see when I go to towns and cities. I thought about friends and family that live from paycheck to paycheck and are unsure about how to pay the rent. The inequalities in our society and the celebration of greed. Wonderful?
I celebrated the fiftieth Earth Day in my own subdued way. I remember the first one when I lived in Boulder, Colorado. It was an interesting day. We all talked about ‘The Greenhouse Effect’. What do you know? It is here. Many of our concerns about environmental degradation have come to pass. Habitat loss followed by wildlife extinctions. Increased pressure on Public Lands, more roads, more traffic, just more. In 1970 I was convinced we would have mass starvation in the next decade. Didn’t happen. Technology helped us avoid that scenario. Even then, we discussed the likelihood that diseases would be spread globally because of the increased prevalence of air travel. Hmm? I have been blind-sided by the creation of floating islands of discarded plastic concentrating in the gyres of the world’s, oceans. This is a tough one.
Ah, technology, part of the problem, part of the solution. People are looking to science to solve the Pandemic problem. Shazam! All fixed. Well maybe not. The interesting thing that we don’t always want to accept is the variety of things there are in the natural world that we don’t control. Bacteria and viruses evolve and mutate and strive for survival like all living things. There is a wish that we can make the world in the image that we crave. Science can help us with that but our behaviors may be equally significant. There is little doubt in my mind that there is more about COVID 19 that we don’t know than we do. Even with the help of our technology we are basically flying blind. From what I can tell there isn’t even hard evidence that once you have recovered from having the disease you have antibodies that will keep you from getting it again. Coronavirus is not a static entity. The good news is that neither are we.
As we all hunker down and shelter in place and try to be smart with our interactions with others, we should take pause and sort through what we want to include in the New Normal. I looked at photographs taken this last week in India showing how for the first time in many years the air is clear enough to be able to see the Himalayas. We are driving less and seeing an improvement in air quality. Perhaps there might be some positive effects from this pandemic? Recognizing the value of a quality environment. Being able to have clean air and water. Listening to the birds greet the morning with their joyous song. Having telephone conversations with friends. Finding a smile with which to greet my wife. All howling together at 8:00 PM to show support to our medical workers.
I long for the ability to go and visit others. To enter houses and businesses without fear of disease, both getting it and spreading it. The chance to get together and play music, exchange ideas, laugh, travel and all of that normal stuff. We long to once again be fat, dumb and happy. Perhaps what we are dealing with will help us sort out what is of value. Do we need lives that are frenzied and overwhelmed by commitment? Do we have to have ramped-up activity that puts an ever increasing strain on our natural resources, our emotions, our psyches. Do we need to have things so convenient that we throw away huge volumes of plastic that just won’t go away?
COVID 19 seems to be bringing out a lot of good in people. People being generous and supportive of one another. I don’t have any idea how all of this will play out. I do know that things will be changed. I do think that we have an opportunity to reflect and sort through what is important. To make personal observations and decide how we want things to go forward. One of the best things we can do is sort though all of that and take our ideas to the ballot box in November. Good luck to all. Breathe deeply and find joy. What do you want to be the New Normal?