I’m happy to say that I’ve had a good quarantine so far. I know some people haven’t and I consider myself to be incredibly lucky. So this article is less about how to Thrive in quarantine (because all my advice is predicated upon being incredibly lucky) and more about how I’m feeling about the state of the world in the hopes that it will give voice to some things you may be feeling. This is basically what I’d tell you if we were having coffee together… remember when that was possible? Hopefully we’ll both walk away feeling a bit better.
I’ve had many video conferences in the past decade but they’ve rarely been social occasions. Since the Shelter In Place order started, I’ve had several “dinner parties” with friends from around the world. These meetings would never have taken place before COVID-19. They’ve all been fantastic and for a few hours, I forget the sense of isolation I feel from being stuck in the house. It’s not just that I’m stuck in the house but that the very idea of plague makes all strangers seem like “others” to me. I used to go out in the world and enjoy my casual interactions with strangers, now they’re all fraught with suspicion. The lack of those little bits of community is starting to add up. So on the one hand, I’m able to build a community of international friends, but on the other, my local community is disintegrating.
My wife and I live in a beautiful place and we have a one year old son. We’ve been going on daily bike rides and we’ve even made friends with some neighbors, from an appropriate social distance of course. My son is thriving under all the parental attention and he’s just old enough to be really fun to play with and not so old that he gets bored easily. He’s learned to walk since we’ve been at home. There’s really no downside to this. The bonding is amazing and I get to watch my son grow at a critical time in his life. From that perspective, this has been a blessing for my family. If you’re at home with your family, you’re so lucky! If you’re single or you have no children, you’re also lucky, enjoy all the free time!
I’ve started several “virtual collaborations” with other musicians who also have home studios. If you spend any time on social media you’ve probably seen collaborations like this. The funny thing is, this is how I’ve been working with my colleagues for years on commercial projects and now that there’s a bit less music to write for clients, we’ve been able to use this workflow to create some art music. I’ve also been practicing like crazy and playing “virtual duts” with friends just for fun. I think some really interesting art is going to come out of this tragedy. Close collaboration with people from great distances is going to become even more common. The barriers of geography that have separated artists from one another throughout, and even before history, are going to be permanently dissolved.
Of course, every silver lining has a cloud. The cloud here is not only the actual tragedy which is real and terrifying but the fact that it’s brought some of our darkest divisions to the surface. From the start, COVID-19 was a problem with no good solutions. Now, it’s gone on for so long that we’ve already become obsessed with the analysis of our early performance and the politics of hindsight is starting to replace the unity of disaster.
The dangerous combination of endless information, economic stagnation, effortless communication and boredom have combined to amplify the voices in our society that we’re usually too busy to pay attention to. The paucity of national unity, which for years was obscured by the fog of prosperity, is now all too clear. In this sense, we are woefully unprepared to meet this moment. While I’m currently happy, healthy and lucky; my anxiety for tomorrow is growing with every moment that I’m stuck at home.
However, our country has been through more than a few major and minor tragedies in living memory. I’m often (always) guilty of jumping to the worst case scenario and I’m often (always) wrong. I’m not a futurist after all. There’s no reason to believe that COVID-19 will be any different, and the statistics seem to indicate that we’re already on the mend.
Unfortunately, statistics belie the fact that each one of those infected and the people caring for them are living a minor or major nightmare. As I sit at home, playing music, writing articles, watching my son grow, I feel terrible that there isn’t more I can do to help. But there isn’t. Maintaining social distance and trying to stay in touch with the people I love is the only constructive thing I can do. I don’t think I’ll ever feel like just living through this time was enough, and I’ll probably always remember this feeling of helplessness. But helplessness is the soil in which to grow gratitude. So for everyone out there who’s serving, helping, thriving, getting by, or struggling, I’m grateful for you and I’m grateful to you.
This will be over soon, I miss you so much, and I can’t wait to have coffee with you again.