As I write many people have started returning to offices and factories, garden centres are open and non-essential shops are next. We can look at a new house, buy a new car and go on a picnic. It almost feels like life is returning to normal… but of course it isn’t and it won’t for quite a while.
Some of us are still working, some of us are on furlough, those of us with portfolio careers might be doing a bit of both. All of us are finding new ways to do things and, in many cases, new things to do entirely. Whatever we are doing, it seems that almost all of us are waiting for normality to return and, whilst we wait, exploring new ideas.
Epictetus was a Greek Stoic philosopher who was born a slave and became a free man and teacher. As a stoic, many of the quotes attributed to him are particularly apposite at the moment (‘there is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will’), as well as more generally (‘we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak’), but what particularly strikes me during Coronavirus is Epictetus’s remark that ‘[people] are disturbed, not by things, but by the view which they take of them’.
Talking to my children and their friends in their late teens and early twenties, I am aware of a sense of doom. These young people were still at primary school when the financial crisis hit but after the long slog of austerity they had reasonable expectations that their futures looked fairly bright… until COVID hit. Now they have not only lost their last days at school or chunks of their university lives, they are worried that they are going to lose their careers.
There’s an awful lot of cleaning, DIY and gardening going on in the land at the moment. Stuck in the house for most of the day, we are starting to notice and become irritated by all those unfinished jobs, never undertaken projects and ways in which we could have made our environment nicer. From improving our domestic backgrounds in Zoom meetings to growing our own veg, the nation has embarked on a range of projects.