The longer we are in lockdown, the more philosophical I become about notions of time. It’s been seven weeks now, and in some respects that time has flown by. It’s the end of the first full week of May, and April seems to have passed in a blur. It’s equally true though, that there have been occasions when I have had absolutely no idea what day it is. At those times, I haven’t been helped by the comedians on social media who (taking today as an example) post things like : “For those of you who are confused, it’s Thursday today and tomorrow is Bank Holiday Monday!” My head is scrambled enough as it is, without these sorts of tautologies to contend with!
There is a danger that in our desire to come out of lockdown, to move back to something nearer to the normality that existed before March, that we miss the opportunities that are happening in the here and now. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Frodo says to Gandalf : “I wish it need not have happened in my time.” Gandalf’s reply could well be the leitmotif for our times : “So do I”, he says, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Mother Theresa put it even more succinctly : “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” Living for the day, making the most of each moment, looking for the good things that we can take from where we are. These are truisms, probably even clichés, but they have also helped me to try to make some sense of the bizarre times that we are living through. It’s why I’ve come to appreciate the opportunities to get out into the countryside during my exercise hours; and why I now appreciate the chance to sit in the garden for half an hour at lunchtime enjoying the warmth of the sun on my face. These are privileges that I had previously taken for granted, and that I have now really come to value as a result of lockdown. And I really do appreciate how lucky I am to be able to enjoy these things when the same restrictions are so much harder for those in urban areas with no access to open spaces.
It seems likely that by the end of this coming weekend, we will be starting to emerge from lockdown – however slowly and cautiously. We will be taking our first faltering steps into the ‘new normal’ that will be a world living with coronavirus, rather than one locked down in order to protect ourselves from it. The transition is likely to take several months, and its very likely that things will never quite be what they were. Through it all, its worth remembering the profound words of Anthony Oettinger : “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.”