In a previous, pre-pandemic life, I was a range of job titles: artist, photographer, musician, sales assistant, manager, urban farmer. But I’m not going back to any of that.
We are more than the sum of our past.
Truth is, that the pre-pandemic world sucked. It was a greedy, self-centred, insular place where so-called succesful people were utterly compartmentalised to ensure that they would eat-sleep-consume-repeat until death put an end to the dreams that they would never fulfill. Less fortunate people, the vast majority, were exploited so that the few would feel better about their sad lives surrounded by gadgets and trinkets. Exploitation — of humans, of animals, of eco-systems, of life itself — was the order of the day.
Once liberating experiences — travel, free-love, festivals, raves, carnivals, etc. — had become nothing more than commodities. Trainspotting for middle-class hipsters who thought that they could add a little personality to their bland conformity if only they had enough tattoos (no offence to trainspotters… you guys are far freer than the average tourist). Neoliberal norms and values had tainted every aspect of modern life.
Then, among the tragedy of human and non-human suffering (never forget that the majority of viruses are created through the exploitation of our non-human kin), with the needless ending of the beautiful untold stories which are each human life, we were given a taste of what we have been missing. We began to read the books which had been gathering dust on our shelves (carefully dusted now to make a pleasant backdrop for our Zoom conferences); we began to paint, to write, to learn an instrument, to have conversations… anything to drown out the banality of television.
In our confinement we found our freedom.
We cannot go back. In pre-pandemic times we had allowed the system to suppress our innate creative urge. So much neurosis, anxiety and existential despair (which had reached epidemic proportions among those who had* everything) stemmed from the denial of our creative urge and our disconnect with nature and our physical selves. But creativity lies at the heart of what it means to be human.
We are the creatures who evolved to become creators.
The truth is that our lives were stolen from us. Who among us can read Mary Oliver’s beautiful lines without a pang of regret in their heart?
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Here. Now. In honour of those who will not see the other side. We must build better. Grow better. Love better. Be better. We must no longer be defined by job titles and economic worth. Exploitation — of all things and for whatever reason — must be our common enemy. Love of life must be our common goal. The future belongs to those plant the seeds, not they who steal the fruit.
Let’s make good sh*t happen.
*Having. Possessing. Owning. This attitude belies the problem at the root of society. Erich Fromm described the difference between the ‘having’ and ‘being’ modes of existence in his books To Have or To Be and The Art of Being, which should be read as guides to a post-pandemic world.. we are Human Beings after all 😉