Hard to believe but there was a time before all this, a time when, from our current perspective of lockdown reality, a lot seemed all the more promising and bright. Absence indeed makes the heart grow fonder and it appears that absence, too, of normality as we knew it has produced memories of a “before” that is partly imagined, touched up, better than the actual event at the time it happened.

In hindsight we ask ourselves if the partially happy go lucky past was in fact such a joyride compared to our pandemic everyday existence (away from the line of fire, as such)? The answer, in my view, is neither this nor that, nor here nor there. What is important is to reflect in earnest and compare the different worlds representing different chapters of our two realities. This time of extended isolation from friends, family and confidants, has enabled an internalising of emotions and our stepping away from the hype and the rat race while we try to look within for answers or just a sense of calm in the middle of the still raging COVID storm. Our long-suffering natural environment has, in turn, thrived like never before (with nature only really free to breathe and grow uninterrupted prior to human existence on this planet; ages and ages whence). Yet although our new methods of interconnecting electronically in greater numbers across the globe has proven quite viable also in the long term (another advantage of having to find alternatives) our prior existence not overshadowed by COVID-19 no doubt had its charms.

On reflection, and as 2020 is now entering its final stages with September around the corner, autumn for us in the North while spring seems alluring to those in the hemispheric South, I feel a sense of gratitude for the opportunity we (those of us lucky, as yet, to have survived the virus physically unscathed, although not emotionally unscarred) have been given to really understand what mattered before and what is essential in the aftermath of this life-changing, unquestionably epic year. Spontaneity, heart to heart connections, a free-spirited expressing of emotions without holding back, as we now move into a new era those close to us should be priority number one while Carpe Diem rules the day. What was treasured then becomes essential now; human connections gain real value, far surpassing materialistic obsessions and blind consumerism. Pre-COVID fanaticism, objects, gadgets and knick-knacks, frantic traveling as a way to physically move from A to B while we frantically snapped away in foreign lands and captured the moment for photographic eternity, in the frenzy of it all we forgot to bring our emotions along for the ride. A time of hype, a time of aimless rush, of materialism, of insatiable needs and a cramming of activities into every moment of ever day.

“Dusk to Dawn”. Photographer: Jytte Holmqvist

In a future world where a virus will hopefully no longer dominate the social and political agenda, we will presumably have gained a real appreciation for a type of travelling that, rather, takes us on a journey inward  ̶ one that allows us to build bridges interconnectively, human to human. It is time for mindfulness, time for reflection, and time for us to be willing to see the bigger picture.  

Let us use this opportunity to rewire our brains and change our mindset, appreciate what we have and count our blessings. As the Maori proverb goes, in response to the query what is the most important thing in the world: He tangata, he tangata, he tangata (It is the people, it is the people, it is the people). Words that have stood the test of time and speak of an undeniable truth.

Human interaction, the ability to prioritise and being present in the present. People united at the core. That’s how we conquer fears and doubts, cast away the darkness and gradually welcome the glimpse of a new dawn.