Well, this stinks. Businesses closing, workers laid off, retirement accounts plummeting and, above all, people are sick and dying.
The novel coronavirus crisis is a great disrupter that somehow — despite Hollywood’s best efforts — caught pretty much the entire world by surprise. Now mired in the midst of a pandemic, we’re all seeing the bad, from the straight-up danger of the illness to the economic turmoil to the ridiculous hoarding of toilet paper and other goods people have deemed essential.
The unrelenting discouraging news of the past few weeks is wearisome. Yes, there have been instances of people and groups stepping up to help others. Those cases are inspirational, but the fact they’re countered by others who are acting selfishly, even negligently, subtracts some of the joy from the equation.
But as Mr. Frisbee (Eric Idle) sang to Brian of Nazareth, nailed to a cross atop a Calvary hill in “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”:
“Some things in life are bad; they can really make you sad. Other things just make you swear and curse. When you’re chewing on life’s gristle, don’t grumble, give a whistle. And this’ll help things turn out for the best: Always look on the bright side of life; always look on the light side of life. …”
There may not seem to be much of a bright side to the coronavirus pandemic, but then, that’s the entire point of the song: Sometimes things are bad, and you can’t make them better; but you can always change how you feel about the situation.
For example, have you noticed how much better traffic is this past week?
How about the lack of lines in stores these days (those selling toilet paper excepted)?
And though it abruptly cut short promising seasons for the Bruins and Celtics, the crisis has delayed what was shaping up to be a disappointing Red Sox season.
OK, some serious benefits, then.
It took a very short time for satellite imagery to make clear the impact on the environment that cutting off business activity and travel has had. In Wuhan, China, Europe and even the U.S., measurements have shown a significant decrease in nitrogen dioxide, a toxic irritant and a marker that indicates the presence of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.
Then there’s this: The crisis and accompanying call for social distancing and isolating has forced a rethinking of how we educate students, how we administer health care and how we operate businesses remotely. When this crisis has passed, lessons learned from these necessary experiments will likely provide opportunities for saving money and operating more efficiently.
And in being forced to work from home, and to have children learning from home, there’s another great opportunity: to strengthen connections with those that mean the most to us. It’s far too easy, with children in school, sports or other activities and parents at their jobs, to see that fabric stretched and torn. Now is a great time to stitch it more firmly together.
It’s a tough time, worrisome and inconvenient. There’s certainly genuine cause for that worry, and to take this all very seriously. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun.
“If life seems jolly rotten, there’s something you’ve forgotten: And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing. When you’re feeling in the dumps, don’t be silly chumps. Just purse your lips and whistle. That’s the thing.
“And always look on the bright side of life …”