Some words may never take back their original meaning after the global covid pandemic. Words such normalcy, intimacy, communion or social gathering, may not only fall out of popular use, but may never be literally done without violating a law ever gain.
This global pandemic has pushed our understanding of human relationships more than it has tested our capacity to kill a virulent strain of flu virus. The received wisdom is that there is no cure for a virus, it being a non-living thing. There is a vaccine, which is practically a synthetic admixture of chemicals and a covid survivor’s plasma. But this is only one of the many possible vaccines that scientists are currently working on.
In the midst a national quarantine and lockdown, we find ourselves shoved into isolation. To someone who has a daily routine of commuting or driving to work, meeting people at restaurants and conference rooms, being stuck at home with extremely few prospects of practical bent is second only to solitary confinement.
On the other hand, there have been an explosion of diverse creative expressions brought on by lockdowns on the internet. From fashionable and customized creations of personal protection equipment (PPE) to avant guarde masks, as well as dance steps to the tune of a Michael Jackson song. This is all well and good as far as public taste goes.
But to me something seethes underneath. It is that people would do anything to be able to reach out, to get to the other side, because people are scared not to be able to communicate to/with one another. People are scared of long shadowy silences. When we find ourselves incommunicado it’s as though we’re dead. That only proves that for much of our lives we have grown too dependent on the remarks and valuation of other people. This is not an issue of good versus evil. This is about having an interior life, having a life within our inner selves where the only access is through silent thoughts.
There used to be a classical music station in Manila that had a weekend feature on musicians and their works and theories. I remember hearing a musician say “Silence is also music”. It homes in when you connect that to the quarantine and lockdown isolation experience: You’ re not entirely alone because being away from the crowd doesn’t make you entirely abandoned. You have your inner thoughts for company.
For the most part we are scared to be alone because we have no means with which to make sense of our inner selves. We are scared of our thoughts, because it is only in silence where our real selves speak to us: our deepest fears, wishes, loves, ambitions. Our deepest jealousies, envies, insecurities. All these things come out only when we are alone and we wouldn’t want them for company. Men and women alike, when they find themselves physically isolated from the rest of the world, either break down or take to drinking, smoking or just about anything to ward their thoughts from the inner voice in their heads.
But this is where, ironically, people who have a creative bent thrive. Silence and isolation is the best time to create, invent, and indulge in one’s imagination. For instance, since March I have come across around a dozen call for manuscripts online for writers of poetry and prose. All of which revolve around the impact of the covid pandemic on our lives. There are online solicitations for art works as well. Many of these invitations come from respected institutions such as the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. In the United States there’s Void Books and the Evergreen Review.
With the way people adversely react and take to social media as though it were their public confessor, I believe what really scares us is our inner thoughts more than a covid 19 virus infection.