When I think of life-altering events, none will compare to the current crisis we are all living through. It takes precedence over any recent disaster, including the many catastrophic hurricanes in recent years, and in my opinion, even September 11th.
I recently had a conversation with a close friend who lives in Tribeca. We both agreed that the Coronavirus overshadows the grief we experienced during and after the attacks on September 11th. The most significant difference lies in the ability we had then to be comforted personally by friends and family. I vividly remember being forced to leave our cars above 14th Street, in an effort by NYPD to keep the streets open and easily accessible to those on the ‘front lines’. We walked together to our destinations, often had dinner with friends who shared the despair and anger we all felt. The community of friends, commiserating with us, during that time, was a cathartic and soothing comfort.
Today we are alone; isolated and locked down, suffering this great pandemic with nothing more than the company of the internet and new forms of social networking, a very sad replacement for the personal contact with others. And I must add that I remain thankful for those newly devised computer functions, mainly ZOOM and WhatsApp for allowing us the small privilege of seeing other familiar faces. My cousin, a pediatrician who has remained on the front line and working at Mt. Sinai Hospital, has formed a cousins cocktail hour on Sundays through ZOOM. It has become my one and only excuse to apply make-up, earrings and other frivolous accessories to make it appear that I am reasonably unchanged.
I cannot help but wonder how our lives will be affected, when this isolation will be over and when we will be assured that it is safe to return to our daily activities. What precautions will be mandated, what travel restrictions will be held in place, how long before we’ll be able to ‘breathe’ air that has not been deemed harmful? Have we made alternate plans for ourselves in the event that life will not return to normal, whatever this ‘new normal’ will be and if so, where will these roads be taking us?
I am beginning to contemplate the meaning of returning to life. What lessons will we store for the future, and how long will we remain grateful that we survived this crisis? My optimism overrides fears, and I believe that before long we will have the opportunity to clean our slates, and perhaps refresh the ‘start’ button. I do not believe that any of us will miss hoarding toilet paper, and hand sanitizers when this will finally be over.
But I also wonder if that broad and general feeling of ‘we are in this together’ will be missed. I cannot remember another time in history when we were so closely in tune with the world. We have been a nation that worships large and vulgar forms of ostentation and putting profits before people. If there are lessons to be learned, this may be one of the upsides in understanding how imperative it is for us to cherish human life, while remembering that we came very close to losing it. Will universal healthcare become one of the leading issues resolved in the coming election, and will we, after witnessing the lack of leadership now, finally elect a leader who is equipped to handle crises while also handling the nation? These are purely mind games at this moment, as there are still so many unanswered questions.
With that thought in mind, I recently received a newsletter from a former film client who now heads a global marketing research group. In her letter she quotes one of the most articulate messages from the author Arundhati Roy who writes that, “historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”
For all of us, the Spring of 2020, will be a time to shed not only the layers of clothes that have kept us warm, but to shed the fears of this past winter with a new and highly focused awareness of the fragility of life. Moving forward holds an even greater meaning now. Perhaps we should consider the bounty of the earth and the profound clearing and cleansing of waters, during this pandemic, as a reminder that the planet needs as much nurturing as our souls, while concentrating on the premise that our future depends on it.