Amidst all of the scary news reports and shelter-in-place rules everywhere, there are good things going on, caused by the very same situation. I thought I’d list several of them here:
- We’ve all slowed down or stopped our activities and are spending more time at home, with our families. The frenetic pace of the world, chugging on all of the time for no apparent reason, has slowed down quite a bit. We now have time, time that we didn’t have before, to be with ourselves, to sit and ponder, to read a good book, to wake up and look around, to assess our lives, to think about our goals and projects. We have time to connect with those we love, even if it is only through video chats, but it’s more than we had before.
- The world is a much quieter, more orderly place. Have you noticed how much quieter it is when you go outside? The chaotic movements of throngs of people, crowding our field of view, the constant din of the world pounding in our ears, is no more. Isn’t it lovely? All of the hustle and bustle and sirens and traffic and noise have now disappeared. The idiots who’d rev up their cars and turn their subwoofers up are now indoors, and good riddance to them. They’re keeping quiet and if they’re not, I encourage you all to call the police on them. Now we can actually hear the chirping of the birds in our cities. We can hear the breeze blowing through the trees and by our houses. We can take the time to see it caress the fresh blades of grass that are just coming up. We can actually take the time to smell the flowers.
- Pollution and carbon emission levels are down everywhere. A tiny little virus has accomplished what decades of talks between high-level world leaders couldn’t accomplish. The planet has a chance for a proper spring, with fresh, clean air and water. This is a massive accomplishment.
- Cities are cleaner. Not only are some of them actively scrubbing and disinfecting their streets, but they’re cleaner because all of the people who would be mindlessly littering them are now shut in. Each city’s street cleaning crews now have a chance to see the results of their work from one day to the next, instead of seeing idiots throwing garbage on the streets right next to them, as they’re cleaning.
- The hygiene and public behavior parts of the new social distancing rules are a godsend. More people are finally washing their hands (and hopefully showering more often too). Knobs and handles in public places are finally getting disinfected. People are finally keeping their distance in stores and markets, instead of breathing down your neck in a queue. People are finally covering their mouths when they sneeze or cough. For years and years, I’ve gotten mean looks and veiled threats from people when I’ve told them to keep their distance from me, that I wasn’t comfortable having them so close to me. Now it’s finally happening by itself. For years and years, I was disgusted with the men who went to the bathroom and didn’t wash their hands, and then expected to shake hands with me. No more hand shaking now!
- Telecommuting is now a must, whereas before it was regarded as a nice perk. I’ve been advocating for telecommuting for a long time (since 2006). I’m glad to see that companies are now making telecommuting arrangements wherever possible.
- Travel has come to a screeching halt and thank goodness for that. Mindless, idiotic travel had become the norm all over the world. It had gotten so bad that it was normal for young people to fly from one corner to another of the various continents on weekend booze and drug trips, or for sexual miscreants to take “sex trips” to certain countries. And then of course we had the throngs of people, wave after wave after wave, who’d hit the major tourist hot spots in an endless assault on historic monuments, crowding out everyone including themselves. This was wrong. Travel is a good thing, a very good thing, but only when done mindfully, politely, considerately, taking in the sights, taking the time for reflection, taking the time to learn about the cultures you’re visiting, slowly proceeding from one place to the next, being careful not to intrude, not to litter, not to abuse. I truly hope that in the future, when travel bans are lifted, some sort of rules are put into place to ensure people never travel idiotically.
- Governments all over the world have hopefully come to realize that they must put most (almost all) of their transactions with people online. In other words, as a tax-paying citizen of a country, you should be able to conduct most of your business with the government of that country (be it national, county or local) via the internet, instead of being forced to go to some office and waste your time in a queue. This crisis should speed things along in that direction.
Clearly there are costs for all of this free time that most of us have gotten. Let’s hope that they are mostly temporary, and that they won’t be too much of a burden for us all to bear. It’s easy to let thoughts of “what might tomorrow bring” get you down, but it’s vitally important that during this time, this unusual respite from the daily grind, that we take the time to breathe, literally and figuratively.