Creativity and connection in a time of quarantine

Watercolor by Julie Gabrielli, 10.10.15

The word, “quarantine,” comes from the Italian word, quarantine, derives from a Latin root word meaning “a space of forty days.”

Forty days is a long time! As each day brings some new shock or hard reality, I have been turning more and more to the slogan, “one day at a time.” Will we be on lockdown until June? July? August? Who knows?

Some are suggesting that this event is a kind of global reset. Mother Nature on a cleanse. Everything is indeed upside down. Several Congressional leaders, including Mitt Romney of all people, are pushing for $1,000 Universal Basic Income for every American. Also, single-payer universal health care—free testing and care for anyone who needs it. Add in paid sick leave for all workers. (Preferably not the paltry 20% that will be covered by the bi-partisan bill that passed the House.)

In many states, including Maryland where I live, utilities and mortgage companies are barred from shutting off services or foreclosing for non-payment. Landlords cannot evict tenants.

It’s looking almost like we care about one another. Instead of the usual judging, blaming and shaming people for their dire circumstances of poverty or unemployment, poor health or other struggles—we are cutting everyone a break.

I’m curious to see how the global emissions shake out during this time of rest and reset. The slowdown caused by the virus is an unplanned pilot, and a mixed bag for the environment and climate activists. The last time emissions went down was during the global recession of 2007-2008. Some have said this proves that capitalism is killing the planet and the only cure is a radically different economic system.

Spiritual teachers invite us to turn inward, rest, go into the darkness, the unknown—as if we are collectively undergoing a rite of passage into a new life. Storyteller and mythologist Michael Meade says:

“The reason for a conscious descent was to stop long enough to suffer the sense of abandonment and loss; then go deeper yet in order to make ourselves more whole, in order to return to life with a deeper connection to both meaning and purpose.”

Meditation teacher Sarah Blondin says:

“When faced with great change, we must trust what comes budding forth. We must quickly release our grasp on the old and familiar in order to plant our new garden. . . . All change has been called forth from the soul. . . . Befriend curiosity and explore what you very much had a part in creating.”

Over the past week, I’ve been invited to flip the script from mindless consumption to mindful connection. From frenzied busyness to self-care and quiet. From competitiveness to cooperation, creativity and invention.

What untapped sources of energy, insight, and creativity can I unleash by turning from obsessive over-consumption of outer-world information to deep listening inward? I’ve been tending to my health with mushroom powder and immune system tincture, vitamin C, fish oil, and fermented (pre-biotic) foods. Why not take as much care to tend my mind’s microbiome? I haven’t been binging on chips, chocolate and wine (very much . . . yet). So, why keep binging on Twitter snark, Facebook misinformation and hamster-wheel anxiety?  

Shakespeare wrote the great plays King LearMacbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra while laying low during the 1606 Plague. Isaac Newton was quarantined during 1665-1666 Plague at age 24. He made exemplary use of his time, developing a new theory of light, discovering and quantifying gravitation, and pioneering calculus, a revolutionary new approach to mathematics.

Four hundred years later, we are once again experiencing life’s vulnerabilities. Many aspects of our familiar, seemingly permanent systems are rapidly breaking down. Why are Wall Street traders still allowed on the trading floor, when we are limited to gatherings of ten or fewer? The worldwide crisis is exposing our financial system for the volatile, fragile fiction that it is. It may be built on mathematics, but as we withdraw more deeply into the safety of our families and homes, we have to admit it’s not as real as food. It’s not medicine. It’s not even toilet paper.

I’m humbled and inspired by the vivid illustration of our interconnection that is now unfolding. This web of life is not theoretical. It’s as real as the gravity that Newton observed. While physical interaction with people is dangerous at the moment, it is still healing to connect virtually. To share beauty and tell stories.

While I am only at the front end of these changes, it helps me to remember that renewal always follows devastation. I pledge to be a part of the reflowering by contributing the perspective—learned from wise, compassionate, wild teachers—that our interconnectedness is real. It is powerful and miraculous and extends well beyond the human family to the original world-wide web: the living world.

2 thoughts on “Creativity and connection in a time of quarantine

  1. A crisis does bring out the best in us but how do we continue to evolve our thinking and being once it passes? Are a few weeks or months even enough time to really shift us? What will it take? Thanks for your words of hope Julie.

  2. Thanks for reading, Marcus. Things are moving fast, but the kind of change we need is so comprehensive it can’t be done in haste. We shall see what the next weeks and months bring.

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