Whilst home staying alert, most of us did pile on the pounds over the last few weeks.
Something else, however, happened: we got creative to stay sane, to keep in touch, to get on with our work or invent new ways of making a living.
As the barriers of socialisation went up, those of inhibition collapsed: this is not the time to be afraid of trying new things.
Reflecting with a friend during a socially-distanced bike ride, we figured that something more than a human reaction to a crisis is happening: we are all discovering hidden superpowers!
Technology is making the difference
My point is that the amazing technology we are all suddenly using (or using a lot more of) was obviously here and ready but most of us did not have the time, inclination or trust to really explore how it could enhance our lives beyond the obvious.
We are like superheroes unaware of their true powers suddenly thrown in at the deep end…
…and boy, can we swim!
In the midst of our initial, tentative reactions as we struggled to work from home, set up video chats with elderly relatives and organise virtual evenings with friends, bigger stuff started to emerge.
By now we all have stories to tell. Here are a few of mine, the kind that inspired me to make this point.
A human touch
My friend Pat Scalabrino has been a touring musical entrepreneur all his adult life. Legend has it he has not had a haircut since our school days.
Lockdown was a cliff drop.
Yet, a couple of weeks in, from his living room in Verona, he helped making an inspired and inspiring song, Human Touch.
A song that flies across continents and across languages, featuring Michele Luppi of Whitesnake fame, chinese tenor Wang Kai with Changchun Film Orchestra, Jovana Curovic with QRT (Queen Real Tribute) – everyone working from their home in some corner of the world.
The real human touch for me was seeing Patrizio cursing in venetian dialect as he struggled, using American-Chinese translation apps, to communicate effectively across the globe.
The Grand Tour
Tourism, like any socially-focused activity, is one of the sectors hit hardest by the virus.
Another long-time friend, Mario Bernardi, rapidly converted his top-notch cultural tours of Italy into virtual zoom + facebook broadcasts. From Chester, where he lives with his family, near the Welsh border.
Mario started with trials for close friends and, after almost instant success which landed him interviews and articles on his initiative (early-mover advantage!), he now offers them for a fee to groups of families, club members, corporate teams from anywhere in the world.
Mario told me how, as he deep-dived into the ultra-rich online resources made available by museums/galleries/cities, he saw how virtual visitors could access details that are difficult or impossible to see in a real-life visit.
At https://www.thegrandtoureurope.com/, you will find different offers including free tasters on the “secrets of the Sistine Chapel”. If art and cultural travel is your bag, don’t miss it!
Blackheath Halls Opera
Here’s a Community example. Over the last few years I took up classical singing lessons and quickly realised one of the key benefits of living in a big city, namely that if you have any kind of hobby, all kinds of options appear before you as soon as you start searching.
A few steps from Blackheath’s Conservatoire of Music is our local theatre, Blackheath Halls. Now, as luck would have it, over the last 10+ years, Blackheath Halls stages, as part of their Outreach program, an annual Opera.
The backbone of Blackheath Halls Opera is strong with top-flight professionals (music directors, choreographers, production teams, key musicians and singers); to complement them, the support team, the chorus and orchestra come from a pool of 150+ local amateurs and volunteers, including the budding artists from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.
Well, you guessed it… despite the fact that singing is probably one of the riskiest communal activities and not the obvious target for teleconferencing tools, everyone attuned their skills to the available technology and…
… hey, presto!, the fund-raising Opera Gala Night scheduled for the 10th of May took place on Zoom (and is recorded for posterity here on YouTube). It will soon be followed by a section from Puccini’s Tosca with contributions from 100+ people.
Blackheath Halls, during these testing times, will be grateful for any support from donations.
A smile works in every language
It’s always good to end with a smile. This one involves Tee Dobinson, a business coach and writer, a gifted illustrator, Robert Shadbolt, and a team of friendly translators for a non-profit initiative.
Tee is a friend and co-opted me in this happy project, aimed at children and adults alike, to remind us all of the power of a smile. Her Smile Story literally speaks for itself, so I won’t go on about it but encourage you to find the 5′ it takes to listen and look.
And if you are interested in the many translations that are being published online (including my own one in Italian), simply look up Tee Dobinson’s YouTube channel.
My point… my point is that while we are staunchly trying to make lemonade with the lemons we were given, many novel and meaningful things are happening:
- we are learning to talk and work effectively with different people in novel ways, not just passively using clunky technology, but configuring it and employing it to suit;
- we are interacting with people we normally would not interact with – or not in the same way, finding new affinities as we all struggle to cope with different aspects of the same problem;
- the concept of distance is being redrawn: on one hand, we are as far as we’ve ever been from our neighbours; on the other, closer than ever to people in different time zones;
- we are finding that some things are better done from our living room;
- … etc … I am sure you could add to a long list
…we are finding our superpowers!
Lockdown truly sucks, let’s face it. Many people are asking the rhetorical question of whether life will return to what it was once it’s all over.
I believe the future will gleam with teams of slightly over-weight superheroes who will thrive by seamlessly navigating back-and-forth from physical to virtual worlds: the Era of Hermes!
Stay safe. Keep learning. Add a link to your own great stories!