If you’re feeling anything like me, this whole pandemic thing has been a pretty mixed bag. On the one hand, it’s obviously awful. Things are scary, you feel helpless, perhaps you’re ill or jobless, and it’s only getting worse.
On the other hand, there’s a sort of reimagining bubbling beneath the surface. As we’ve been forced to slow down, many of us have suddenly realized that the pace we were keeping wasn’t sustainable. Our “culture of busy-ness” wasn’t healthy, and our relationships to work, nature, and each other were suffering. This pause has forced us to rethink what we’ve been taking for granted. It has given us the chance to scrutinize our fundamental systems – and more importantly, our values – and reimagine them from the ground up.
I’m not suggesting this is fun – half of my extended family has been furloughed, and a third are still out of work. My own business is down by half, with no big projects on the horizon. It’s hard – I get it.
Isn’t there something wonderful about the stillness? If you can get past that anxious feeling in the pit of your stomach, it’s kind of nice to just… breathe. To sit quietly for a moment, forced or otherwise.
The challenge is not the stillness. The challenge is the not knowing.
If we knew this was only a blip on the horizon, most of us could tolerate it. If we knew it would all be over in a week, a month, or even a season, we’d treat it as a long, if careful rest.
But we don’t know if it’s a passing storm or the start of a tornado, a small crack in the foundation or if our entire infrastructure is about to crumble. We don’t know how to ration our emotions. So we worry. Understandably! But it doesn’t solve anything. It’s just anxious thoughts doing what they do best, trying to emotionally protect us.
It’s the Newtonian law of emotional inertia: a worry in motion tends to stay in motion. But the same law also teaches us that a body at rest will stay at rest, and perhaps so too will a mind.
I propose a new path – one that uses our situation as an opportunity to reimagine our world as we want it to be, not as we fear it is. Or perhaps if not the whole world, then our world. Our creative lives, our values, and our businesses.
Business without the busy-ness.
I’m in the process of doing this for my own work. Asking myself the hard questions. What does my creative world look like with fewer corporate projects? With half my galleries now shuttered? With online sales slowing down?
Then again, what does it look like with more time to write? The freedom to pursue my own creative vision in metal? The space to treat my studio as its own gallery?
Isaac Newton got the seed of an idea for his laws of motion while quarantined during the bubonic plague.