Last night I texted an acquaintance of mine, he’s the booker at the Colony, a really great club here in Woodstock. He’s had me perform there a bunch, doing solo stuff, some cabaret shows and the annual New Year’s Shows with my band The Silver Spaceship. He’s a good guy.
He’s also a musician, goes on tour a lot. He’s married and his wife is a singer songwriter, she’s been getting a lot of attention lately. But the big news, and the reason I reached out, is that she’s pregnant. Like, over nine months pregnant. Like, baby is gonna come at any moment. Like, coronavirus baby. Quarantine baby. How is that gonna work?
I imagine it’s a really nutty, scary and strange time for them—preparing for childbirth is already heading into a wilderness but add a global health crisis and, well…
This morning I saw on facebook someone posted a couple pictures of his dad and said, “My dad died last night,” followed by the dates of his dad’s birth and yesterday’s date.
These events, birth and death, are the most common, the most natural of our existence. Of course they will continue unabated—and yet doesn’t it seem like everything should stop? I mean if I can’t go to the movies, shouldn’t babies have to wait? If I can’t run out and get my favorite non dairy, sugar free frozen treat shouldn’t people have the decency to stop dying for a minute? Please.
Bobby and I have been talking about how this moment is sort of like our World War 2…not in its details, we’re not being bombed, there isn’t a genocide taking place (not a new one, anyway) and war hasn’t yet broken out—but, in its global brace, the way it has wrapped us in a shared experience, an entire planet of people facing the same threat, that seems similar. Often, this is what bonds us, a common threat. We even like to believe that it brings out the best in us.
Think about how we have talked about World War 2—“My war years,” an uncle or grandfather might say while reminiscing, “best years of my life…” and these were years he spent being cold and starving, but ALIVE. Then there’s that name they’ve given the folks who lived through those years, The Greatest Generation.
What is it about humans that longs for moments of hardship to come together? Why in the aftermath of shared tragedy do we suddenly become kinder? More compassionate?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is a bad thing. I’m not complaining or criticizing. But noticing that about us. This is something we do. We do that.
Remember New York City after 911? People would take your arm at the crosswalk. Strangers would smile tenderly at each other on 8th Avenue. The kindness we all exhibited to each other was extraordinary. When someone dies, we suddenly remember how great they were. In some ways, we are our best during crisis…it stops us, strips us of our trivialities, restores our principles, reminds us what really matters. I think this is what many mothers learn—at their best, their priorities become clear because they’ve been through the fire.
Destruction is part of the creative process. It requires breaking things to make something new. The abstract expressionists broke form. Picasso broke the portrait. The impressionists broke light. Pena Bausch broke the silence of dancers. Martha Graham broke open modern dance. Billie Holiday broke everyone’s heart with her jazz. Joni Mitchell broke open the chords of the guitar.
And now we’ve been broken—our civilization, may we call it that? It’s broken, everything is broken. Systems stopped, businesses shuttered. People dying. The cavern of uncertainty gapes before us.
But, if we believe that destruction is the precursor to creation, then it follows that something new is being born, right now.
New ways of being, of thinking, are springing up like fresh blades of grass. And not just a few but millions upon millions of new ideas and possibilities. Just look at how the species has responded to this crisis in the last week? There has been an immediate explosion of creative solutions.
Paradox—a seemingly contradictory statement or situation that, upon examination, proves itself to be true. We are living in a paradox—the fear, uncertainty and radical unlikelihood of this moment is inspirational. Good things will come from it. Even great things.
I hope you’ve seen the pictures of those beautiful silver dolphins who’ve just returned to the canals of Venice. They’re swimming in waters they haven’t been in for decades. They raise their heads out of the water and it appears that they’re smiling. Of course, they’re just being dolphins with their dolphin faces but can we— hopeful, sentimental humans that we are—can we resist the idea that they’re happy? Maybe even excited?