Faced with a crisis of indeterminate length, our inclination is to fear for the future, to plan and plot and scheme for ways to survive what we pessimistically assume will be a time of dystopia, violence, and want. We concoct elaborate distractions from the monotony of the present and fail to consider the past. This misplaced intellectual energy wastes the gifts of each day and ignores the cycles of devastation and rebirth that have characterized terrestrial living far prior to the arrival of homo sapiens. A resilient, if often idiotic, species, history shows that we are biologically and spiritually predisposed to tremendous advancements in the wake of great challenges.
Patience has never been our strong suit; we grow increasingly antsy as the years pass and our thirst for instant gratification grows, aided and abetted by the unrealistic promises of tech titans and other charlatans of the professional and political variety. Boredom, lack of creativity, and a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of freedom are not excuses for rushing that which must naturally run its course. Certainly, in my more passionate moments, which are not scarce, I can be incredibly impatient. But, as a keen student of antiquity, I can easily divine that this current critical moment is one for caution, for circumspection, for the long view.
The sacrifices of our self-isolation are merely payments into our civilization’s future account. Despite the patriotic memes that dominate social media, nothing is truly free. The costs of collective progress must be borne by all, not only by those who volunteer for the task. We are not at war; the demands of our time are paltry. And, if not being able to work is the greatest inconvenience, perhaps this is the perfect time to rethink the impulses and necessities of a society that elevates accumulation of capital over the well-being of its citizenry.
Our long quarantine is the perfect gestation period for the great renaissance that is to follow. Artists, musicians, writers, chefs, tinkerers, and thinkers are already hard at work in their various lairs, concocting and crafting. Remote means have allowed us access to the initial fruits of their labors, but there is an underground earthquake of creation that will unleash a tsunami of wonders. The pandemic having revealed deep and concerning flaws in our system, there are countless solutions being bandied about in Zoom chats, on socially-distanced sojourns, and in the reveries of the exhausted.
There are calls for revolution coming from both ends of the spectrum, from the recalcitrant reactionaries and the idealistic utopians. Clearly, I am in the latter camp, but I am not wholly unrealistic. I know that the most effective way to agitate for change is in a more palatable, iterative manner. Revolution instills fear, due to the abrupt nature of its outcomes. Fear begets resistance begets counterrevolution begets abject failure, no matter how noble the intentions.
Renaissance is inherently unobjectionable, even to Francophobes. The very term connotes a gentle reordering, a wave of enlightened progress, another chance to get it right. Historically speaking, renaissances have fostered new perspectives, new movements, new potentials. Never mind that these supposedly novel ideas were actually just rediscoveries of that which society had inexplicably forgotten.
If not truly dark times (please stop equating “lockdown” with Nazi or Soviet genocide), these days are at least shadowed with doubt and dread. Our arrival here is a direct consequence of our amnesia as to history’s lessons. Our memories must be jogged by our era’s instigators so that we emerge from our cocoons, reborn.