The Value of Innovation, Imagination and Vision in Lockdown

Where there is no vision, the people perish. ~ Proverbs 29:18

I sincerely hope you are safe, healthy and mentally strong during this strange and unprecedented time.

After lockdown I was so caught up in getting stuff done I was overdoing it. I didn’t pay attention to the mild cold I couldn’t seem to shift as home quarantine came into effect, and boy did I regret that. I have come out the other side of a rough exchange with Covid-19 and I’m grateful to be here writing!

After three weeks of convalescence (2 of which were complete rest) I am almost back to normal. Whatever normal is. Some of my friends have also been laid up for weeks and have experienced similarly scary symptoms.

I have resolved to make less excuses to myself for all that I haven’t yet done and at the same time be proud of all that I have achieved in half a century. I am reminded that life is a journey, not a destination, and part of the joy is in travelling…

The Coronavirus has profound implications for each of us, for humanity collectively and for our planet. At worst it is utterly devastating – thousands of families have lost loved ones, jobs are on hold, households are coping with reduced income, and many are frightened and anxious about the future.

Mankind is being tested on every front. The situation humanity now faces is nothing less than the management of evolutionary change in order to survive long-term.  

Across the world difficult decisions about when and how to come out of lockdown must be taken.

If you live in the UK, where our incompetent and culpable government was slow to react with testing, contact tracing, providing PPE, (even for just our frontline medical staff), initiating nationwide lockdown, closing borders and introducing quarantine measures for new arrivals etc. then it will be all the harder.

There is now strong evidence this Brexit government refused vital life-saving equipment from the EU on ideological grounds.  They are lacking in both humanity and ability; ergo the biblical quote I started with sadly sums up our predicament.

I am hopeful that having been treated so well at St. Thomas’s Hospital that Mr Johnson will have a new found respect for our NHS and pull out all the stops to do whatever they can to get on top of the situation, even though the Corona-horse has already bolted.

I was also lost for words that a president could advocate injecting bleach! It’s easy to feel disheartened with such numpties in charge; so it’s all the more important for each of us to handle our particular circumstances as best we can.

I am reminded of the famous JFK quote: Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.

Of course we expect the nation’s safety to be prioritised, and I for one hope there will be full enquiry into the government’s mishandling of the crisis. But also we have the ability as individuals to act, to help ourselves, our families and our community. I have seen so many heart-warming stories among the corona carnage and tragic stories.

For every example of ‘covidiots’ ignoring social distancing advice and leaders exacerbating already difficult situations, there have been instances of mass collaboration on a global as well as local scale. Billions of us are in self-quarantine to protect the more vulnerable in society and help prevent the overwhelm and collapse of health systems.

It’s amazing what we can collectively do when we agree on a beneficial shared outcome, despite different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs. If we can do it for our health, then surely we can also do it for the planet?

A heartwarming video of animals encroaching on human territory for once!

In the UK Captain Tom Moore has been one of these selfless and courageous individuals. So far he has raised over 32 million pounds for the NHS, as of today, his 100th birthday! And just as importantly, he has raised the nation’s morale.

Now that life has slowed down for many who have either been furloughed or made redundant, people are communicating more and re-establishing lapsed connections.

Musicians have been live streaming from their homes and making vital contributions to our cultural and creative life in lieu of being able to attend concerts and theatres. I had the pleasure of meeting the virtuoso violinist Maxim Vengerov a few years ago in Oxford:

Some of us are working harder than ever – namely our frontline healthcare professionals, medical support staff, grocery workers and supply chains. The NHS staff are risking their lives every day to treat the constant influx of Covid-19 patients. When I was briefly in Stoke Mandeville Hospital they were amazing. But they did not have face visors and scrubs.

It’s right that we support and applaud nurses and doctors, they are real life heroes. I’m sure this proposed payment from the government will be helpful to bereaved NHS families, but surely they would rather have their loved ones alive and well, kitted out with the correct protective gear!

Parents are now teachers, and as much as I love my kids it has added considerable stress and work to my already overloaded life. I’ve since learnt to let go of the worry and embrace the chaos.

Need I say more…

Before I got sick I wrote about focusing on what we have control over. It’s the best way to alleviate anxiety about the uncertainty. We are living in uncharted territory right now, but through all the disruption, chaos and fear there is hope for a brighter future if we have vision.

If there’s one thing we are being made to do it is to adapt. Accepting and adapting to the way things are will help us through this challenging time in the best way possible. Leadership isn’t just something we expect of elected politicians, we can develop leadership qualities to serve each other and our communities.

Imagination and Innovation during historical epidemics

Our ancestors had to cope with the Bubonic Plague, Black Death and Spanish Flu of 1918 to name but a few historical scenarios.

The Decameron (or Human Comedy) was written by Giovanni Boccaccio in Florence following the 1348 plague, and was completed by 1353. The collection of one hundred short tales is told by a group of 7 women and 3 men as they hunker down in a Tuscan villa to avoid plague ridden Florence. Stories within a story.

A Tale from The Decameron – John William Waterhouse c.1916

Being the 14th Century there is no social media or television, and without distractions they each set to storytelling for ten days. They tell tales of love, life, fortune and power, much as we might do right now if we were suddenly deprived of the internet! The work provides a snapshot into life at that time and influenced Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales.

A fascinating book talk on The Decameron by Marilyn Migiel:

The famous diarist, Samuel Pepys wrote about his melancholy experience of living in London during the Great Plague of 1665. Some of his entries in Lapham’s Quarterly make sobering reading.

Albert Camus’s 1947 novel, The Plague is having something of a renaissance at the moment. A substantial body of literary works over the ages serve as an escape from reality (well, almost), but perhaps not this one!

William Shakespeare was no stranger to existential angst, growing up and writing during outbreaks of the Plague. His works are immortal…

It was commonly believed that Sir Isaac Newton found inspiration at Trinity College Cambridge during the plague, although this interesting article in The New Yorker points out he was well on his way with his learning and research both before and after the plague.

Whatever you are doing in lockdown, I hope it is nourishing your soul in some way.

There was a particular quote by Napoleon Hill that kept flitting in and out of my mind over the last few weeks as I was feeling sorry for myself and struggling to regain my energy, joie de vivre and motivation.

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”

Covid-19 has wrought adversity, failure and heartache on the world like nothing in living memory. Aside from our personal and collective suffering over the pandemic, the Coronavirus has also shown us the dysfunction we have created in the world, effectively holding up a mirror…

Not just to the plundering of the natural world and the pollution we are responsible for, but our corrupt political systems and economic wastage. Philip Pullman makes a compelling case for change…

Douglas Rushkoff illuminates the way forward with the economy in the USA, but the principles of supporting local businesses rather than just large corporations could be applied in principle anywhere.

Humanity is at a cross roads. What can we learn from this pandemic?

From a health perspective an urgent priority is finding a vaccine and an accurate antibody test,  and people are rightly focusing on their health and what they can do to improve it, (also a passion of mine), but it would be prudent to assess the fundamental issues of how we operate in the world.

Maybe the next great clean energy project will come out of this…

And the world will be watching China, where somehow the coronavirus jumped from bats to humans. Will China keep its ban on wildlife sales?

For the time being we are breathing cleaner air around the world:

Out of our darkest periods in history there always springs new hope and fresh ideas.

Spring is in full swing in the Northern Hemisphere, unfurling her burgeoning, colourful buds. Perhaps you have been able to enjoy the solace nature has provided during lockdown. I’m now getting back to doing my regular walk in the woods.

Just as nature signals rebirth, regeneration and renewal, so it can be internally.

Detail of the procession and musicians in Spring by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema c. 1894

Will we choose to do things differently? Work together to make a better, safer, more sustainable, inclusive world?

During my bed rest I asked myself what the Coronavirus had meant for me and my family. What did I need to face? I had some uncomfortable but necessary revelations.

It was a forced time of reflection that has brought about renewed clarity and purpose. It felt good to live more simply and to spend time with my family rather than working myself to the bone to cross off a list of never-ending chores.

Everyday minutiae become immaterial in those moments you fear might be your last. You remember what is truly important in life. I have renewed my daily gratitude practise. I am thankful that I managed to get my health into a strong position and was able to weather my personal Covid-19 storm.

I have vowed to be kinder to myself and those around me and work towards my inner vision with joy in my heart despite the circumstances.  I take each day as it comes, while simultaneously holding a vision for where I want my life to be.

As much as this time is placing restrictions on us it is also a moment of opportunity. It’s our job to sow the seeds of hope, to be diligent farmers of our own lives in order to reap a more abundant future harvest.

Lockdown doesn’t have to be stagnation, we can innovate, imagine and plan for the future with forward motion.

“Commitment and creativity cannot be captured and handcuffed. Inspiration cannot be jailed. The heart cannot be contained.” ~ Gary Zukav

2 thoughts on “The Value of Innovation, Imagination and Vision in Lockdown

  1. Great to have you back. Talking about writers on pestilence, I was reminded the other day of Daniel Defoe’s little known work “Journal of The Plague Year”. Despite the poor governance political leadership has provided, our collective determination will prevail.

    Liked by 1 person

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