Rosa’s Lounge, Armitage Ave., Chicago (January, 2020)
As I drove down the Kennedy freeway, heading to downtown Chicago, traffic is eerily light. My beloved bars, hangout places “par excellence”, have all closed their doors. My favorite restaurants are all closed too and not even take-out food is to be had. A few people walk down the ample sideways, hastily, avoiding eye contact at all cost. Most are wearing masks, an ugly and disturbing sight in itself. All movie functions are cancelled. No concerts, no sporting events, no gatherings of any sort.
Life, as we know it, came almost to a full stop. Financial worries aside – and I am not pretending this is a trivial issue for many of us, mind you- this forced time at home is exactly what we need. Here is why.
The nature of our frenzied lives is hardly ever put into question. We assume that high speed spinning is the true normal. Our lives go from one thing to the next and we keep spinning, faster and faster, full of ourselves. But what if we got it all wrong and our concept of normal is not an absolute?
The usual complaint one hears these days is “I am bored” or “I feel trapped”. The intensity and frequency of these voiced complaints signal that this experience of being stuck at home is precisely tailored for our times, the exact remedy for our malady. We just don’t know how to live with ourselves anymore. We put so much premium on the outside that we neglect the inside. We rather be distracted by the outside world instead of plunging into our own.
But these weird times are, in fact, a wonderful opportunity to rethink normal and an invitation to just be with ourselves. Hard work it is, no doubt about it, as most of us are still figuring it out. Yet, this is work that we have been avoiding behind the hustle and bustle of the world. There is nothing wrong with reading a book, talking to your family members in meaningful ways, doing gardening, embellishing your home, doing a little yoga or engaging in meditation, or just watching a very good movie. Perhaps we will finally get to enjoy a movie with lots of dialogue and little “action”, how is that for a change? There’s nothing wrong with a life in slow motion. There’s nothing wrong with savoring every little moment in its plenitude. We definitely can use some boredom. Notice I have not included reading the news or social media in my list.
Soon, our outwardly life will come back, rest assure of that. Our cars will again be crowding the Kennedy from North to South and West to East. We will start polluting our air again and we may even continue our labor of adding monstrous amounts of green house gases into the atmosphere. However, not all needs to be exactly the same as before. Maybe -only maybe- we will be wise enough to carry a bit of what we have learned these days into our new life, post-virus. A change is, indeed, well overdue *