In January I was approved for a one-month show at the local art gallery. I have been printing and framing images and planning an artist’s talk in conjunction with the show. The prospect of showing a cohesive body of my work to the public as actual physical prints and visiting with people about my work at a gallery opening was energizing to me. You can probably guess where this is going – the gallery is closed and the show has been canceled. (Decision made well over a week ago.) I was planning on a blog post this week showing the installation, but now I am choosing instead to share a few thoughts on the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on our lives.
I’m disappointed my show was canceled, but I’m not looking for sympathy. Compared to what many people are dealing with, the cancellation doesn’t even rate a minor inconvenience. I feel greatly for those whose livelihoods are endangered, and for those who have suffered in any direct way from the virus itself.
My biggest fear concerning the coronavirus is that when the greatest threat has passed we will have not taken any lessons away from all of this. And by we, I mean in this case all of us as individuals, as well as society as a whole. Hopefully each of us will look back and acknowledge how fortunate we are in this country, that most of us have access to basic needs like food and water, heat for our homes, and so on. Perhaps we can be more thankful for what we have, and more empathetic toward those less fortunate than ourselves. And maybe social distancing will help us see how important face-to-face human interaction is, leading to deeper non-virtual relationships in the future.
Is it possible that this will spur us toward some radical changes in how we live and take care of each other? Perhaps we’ll consider a universal basic income, so that individuals working in lower-paid but important service sectors (including education and health care!) can have a decent standard of living. (It looks like we are getting a one-time version of that anyway, but paid for on the backs of future generations rather than the large corporations that would foot the bill for most of a UBI program as envisioned by its advocates.) Social distancing may show us that many people who are commuting to work each day can effectively work from home, and should continue to do so after the worst has passed. This would be helpful to our environment. Sure, many people rely on their workplace for social interaction, but with the time saved by not commuting they could socialize more with their families and/or close friends. Seemingly radical ideas like the six-hour work day might take hold. The list goes on. Many ways we go about our daily lives and livelihoods are byproducts of long past eras, and could stand to see a bit of scrutiny. The current state of affairs might be a catalyst for change.
What I’m saying is let’s take this crisis as an opportunity to rethink how we live, and to be thankful for what we have. For those of you who think I have strayed too far afield with this post, I’ll get back to photography on the next one. I have a start on something, but it is going to be a hard one – I may not have it ready for a while! Gregg
Death Valley, California