Dear Commons Community,
New York Times columnist, Frank Bruni, in his newsletter earlier this week, described things that we can take away from this pandemic that are positives or epiphanies. Here is an excerpt.
“The way in which shuttered schools, canceled extracurricular activities and closed offices compelled them and their children to spend more time together? There was stress in this, often proportional to a home’s square footage, but there was also intimacy. They liked how many nights everyone ate dinner together.
The halt to commuting? That was all upside and, along with the cessation of business travel, it produced a revelation: In-person meetings and the logistics that went into them weren’t as necessary as everyone thought. There were cheaper and easier alternatives.
Now these people brace for a resumption of social overkill, activity bloat, rush hours, staggered dinner times and airport metal detectors. They seem to regard that as inevitable.
But it’s not. At least it doesn’t need to be. From the unfathomable loss and grinding horror of this pandemic, shouldn’t we wring some positives, including a recognition that we don’t have to do everything as we once did, that bits of what was imposed on us over the past 12 months amounted to improvements and that some of the alternate routes, contingency plans and risk-conscious behavior that we latched on to have lasting merit?
I’m talking about big stuff like remote working — and the flexibility that it affords — but also small stuff, like hand washing. It shouldn’t take a pandemic to prompt us to do that repeatedly throughout the day, just as it shouldn’t take a pandemic to make us more conscious of our ability to spread illness. Why not wear masks when we leave the house with bad and contagious colds? (This has long been customary in parts of Asia.) Definitely, we should stay away from the office if we have any sort of potentially communicable bug and retire the idea that it’s stoic — valorous — to show up and soldier through our sneezing, coughing and such. No, it’s inconsiderate. Bosses must make that clear.
Did you find that extended contact and deep conversations with a tiny bubble of people was more fulfilling to you than brief contact and shallow chitchat with a huge, rotating cast of them? You can structure your life that way by choice going forward.
Did you discover that daily walks outside and more quiet, contemplative time did your soul good? Then don’t jettison them when the world whirls back into frenzied motion….”
…. Most of us have made significant sacrifices during this extraordinary and harrowing period. Some have made profound, acutely painful ones. There may be more of those to come.
But while the trade-off isn’t in the vicinity of equal, we’ve also learned something (I hope) about our responsibilities to one another and what matters most to us. It would be a shame not to heed those lessons.”
I agree fully with Bruni. My wife and I are about to get our second vaccine shot next week after a year of social distancing, wearing masks, and taking more walks. While we miss seeing our children and grandchildren, we have never been so close.