12 Things We Learned in 12 Months of the Pandemic (Part 3)

Part 3 of a 3-part seriesRead Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

9. AnneMarie Luijendijk (Head of First College, Professor of Religion, Chair of the Committee for the Study of Late Antiquity, Princeton University)

I am still processing what happened this past year: the immense tragedy of the pandemic and the important urgency of the Black Lives Matter movement.

These are some impressions of what I have I learned in the 12 months now since staying home:

That I love my family and that, thankfully, we got along with each other even in the lockdown and quarantine (and that we are fortunate to live in a spacious house);

That I deeply miss seeing my oldest son and my parents in the Netherlands. But as a silver lining, I have called my parents every day since the pandemic began.

That we have to continue to fight against racism and for equality and to call out the real, frightening evil of white supremacy.

That encountering people in person works better for me than from behind my computer at home.

That you never accidentally run into somebody on Zoom; no spontaneous conversations; brief encounters, jokes; and that I have missed that.

That I am OK with it if my children attend Zoom school in their pajamas if they want that.

That we led a very intense life before the pandemic (and I wonder how we did it and if we can ever go back to such a high-paced life again).

That I should have written a diary during the pandemic—but I just felt too exhausted every night.

That I am going to celebrate when this is over!

10. Raphael Xavier (Professor of Breaking, Princeton University, professional artist)

What have I learned over the last 12 months of COVID?

The first thing wasn’t about learning. It was about realization and reflection. I was really down from March 15th- April 15th. Then I went into a space that was so familiar to me as a child. Creation mode! 

The second thing I learned during this time was that all the things I did as a child were the same things I did as an adult. It was the same feeling of doing things to have fun and be creative. I wasn’t going anywhere. I didn’t have anyone to answer to. All I had was time. Time to get my head clear and free of uncertainty. As a dancer and a working artist, this was the time I needed for reflection. Get back to the moments that made me feel good about myself. So that’s what I did. 

The third thing I learned was that everything is temporary and if you are prepared for anything, you can get through anything. And now I am O.K. ;-)~ 

11. Jeanne-Rose Arn (Law and Philosophy PhD candidate, Cambridge University, Gates Scholar)

During the first month of the pandemic, one thing that struck me was the emergence of a sense of fear of other people. Every human being—including neighbors, friends and even relatives—came to represent a potential mortal threat, and distrust became commonplace.

This fear, I believe, has come to undercut our fundamental belief that together we are stronger than when isolated and alone. Yet, this belief is so engrained in us that it may contribute to making us who we are. Thus, in shaking that belief, the virus may have shaken our own sense of self. And that has made us miserable.

Today, the fear of the virus is largely gone, yet something remains. That is, the realization that our beliefs, even those most engrained and fundamental, can vanish in an instant. The impact of this new-found fragility is uncertain and, I fear, may prove long-lasting.

12. Danny Mindich (Undergraduate student, Harvard University)

The Hunting of the Snark, Lewis Carroll. Fit the Second: The Bellman’s Speech

He had bought a large map representing the sea, 

        Without the least vestige of land:

And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be

         A map they could all understand. 

“Whats the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators,

        Tropics, Zones, and Meridian Lines?” 

So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply

        “They are merely conventional signs!

“Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!

        But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank

(So the crew would protest) “That he’s bought us the best–

        A perfect and absolute blank!”

Most people, upon recognizing the threat of COVID-19 and the enormous life-changing repercussions of its control, opened up their metaphorical life maps that they’ve long before constructed and set aside. Just weeks before, we all coast by solely on our vague memory of our voyage’s path. This sudden period of intense stress, hastily scribbled shortcuts, and despair for the future came upon quickly and forced each of us to take a long hard look at who we are and where we are going. But the Bellman made an explicit and seemingly nonsensical decision to set out on a dangerous months’ long journey with an entirely blank map for direction. 

While Lewis Carrol’s adult characters are rarely remembered as paradigms for reason, I think we all can learn from the Bellman. A precisely drawn map is not necessary and may even hurt the capture of a snark. If you find me looking lost or asking for directions, help me, but please know that I am right where I want to be.


Part 3 of 3.

Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

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