We’re told that we’ve reached the COVID-19 peak, that we now have to look towards a ‘new normal’, that the economy has to rise again, first to its knees, then to full height, that easing lockdown also has to be gradual. True. I can’t wait to cuddle my granddaughter again, to see my brothers, and to meet with friends or relations face to face. And yet in a strange sort of way I feel we’ve been cleansed, improved; that the ‘new normal’ is somehow better than the old, that by concentrating our funds on people who care for us rather than on useless chattels or greedy investments we have learned the real value of money. Social distancing has, quite by chance, taught us that we may have undervalued what it is to be physically close to someone, how a ‘high five’, a spontaneous hug, even an affectionate peck on the cheek can elevate the moment.
Just now I’m watching couples walk past my study window. That never used to happen, at least not often. It was a case of ‘through the car door and out again the other end’. People seem to have re-learned what it is to stroll … and I’m not talking much-vaunted exercise, which is of course important, but the chance to take in your surroundings, the beauty of trees for example, or of birdsong … and the air – how much cleaner is that, now that traffic has eased (and should ease more). And speaking of song, there’s of course music, whether making it yourself or listening to others make it; and reading those books you always intended to tackle but never had the time. Proust maybe, or Tolstoy, Dickens, or the novels of Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates. New-found talents are also important: writing, drawing, painting, photography and other ‘new’ ways of experience what used to be a dusty old, world. If you have a novel waiting in the wings – go on, write it!
My great worry is that once the locks are off and ‘normal’ is no longer quite so new, we’ll return to the bad old ways, start rushing around again, forget what the recent past has taught us, not that the economy must once again maintain a healthy complexion – that’ll happen soon enough – but that our personal economy must factor in what should be the most crucial aspect of our lives: love.