What light is there at the end of a scary, unprecedented tunnel like the coronavirus pandemic?

By Rebecca da Silva

When the world is in crisis, as it is right now, we start to yearn for things we never really held all that dear to begin with. Like date nights. Nights out. Going away for the weekend. Even the thought of going to the gym seems thrilling right now. But our spin classes will be patiently waiting for us on the other side, and while we’re here—in this weird, new world of COVID-19—there are some positives. Quite a few, actually.

When normality is suspended, we’re granted the rare opportunity to look at it. To really look at it—and ask questions about our priorities, wants and needs. Were they as important as we previously thought? Were there things, fundamentally important things, that we’re only really appreciating now? Quite possibly: yes. So as scary and unprecedented as all of this is, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe even a light we couldn’t see before.

You okay, boomer?

From her petal-filled bathtub, Madonna described COVID-19 as “the great equalizer”. Hardly a masterclass in credibility, granted, but what she said is right. People of all ages, races and backgrounds are falling ill with this virus. It is unbiased and egalitarian in the worst possible way, which has brought health and vulnerability onto all of our agendas. We’ve gone from feeling invincible to realizing we’re anything but. We’ve gone from not knowing our neighbors to making sure that Dorothy next door has enough milk in. Just weeks into this terrible outbreak, it really feels like we’re starting to rediscover what it means to be part of a community. And it’s on us to keep it up—because chances are, Dorothy’s been drinking tea all along.

Rethinking ‘normal’

Life in lockdown is a weird one. In one sense, a literal sense, it’s tiny. We’re indoors, unable to do an ever-growing list of activities. But in another sense, things have gotten so much bigger. We’ve suddenly been given all this time to think—and the freedom to think about anything. Our jobs, our routines, the people we choose to invest in and, if you’re feeling particularly plucky, maybe even the muddy waters of self reflection. Now’s the time to consider whether we want to take any of this new world with us when things eventually go back to normal. I, for one, will be telling the people I love that I love them more often.

On a more culturally important note than me-me-me: the environment. While we’re all going stir-crazy in lockdown, Mother Nature is out there living her best life. Take China as an example. Shops are shut, factories are closed and people aren’t travelling. Meaning? A huge drop in the amount of fossil fuel being burned. According to the Centre for International Climate Research in Oslo (CICERO), the air quality there has significantly improved. It’s a similar story in Venice. The city’s famous canals are currently out of use. No water taxis, no tourist boats, nothing. Local residents are saying the water’s now calm, but more remarkably, clean. The cleanest they’ve ever seen it—and that’s after just a few short weeks. Food for thought.

Getting creative with reality

As the old adage goes, necessity is the mother of invention. When we have to do something, we’ll find a way to do it—even if everything has been turned upside down. History’s full of examples of people doing just that. During the 1973 oil crisis, engineers were forced to think of oil-free ways of heating, lighting and powering the world. That thinking turned into inventions like solar water heaters and energy-saving light bulbs that we still use today. So, the question is: what might COVID-19 inspire? I think we can all agree that virtual house parties are a fantastic start. But there are other, admittedly more useful things emerging, too—from hands-free door handles to banks being run from bedrooms. Once this awful pandemic passes, maybe we’ll have a new and improved approach to the way things are. A virtual cheers to that.

But, for now?

For now, we do our best not to go crazy and think. Just, think—about the lessons we’re being taught in all of this madness. Maybe it’s that we need to invest more time in particular people, or live more environmentally conscious lives. Whatever it is, now’s the time to reflect. I mean, it’s not like we’ve got much else to do, is it?