COVID-19 has forced us all to change our lives. For many this has meant regrouping closer to home, family, and those closest to us, gathering around digital and real fires. At times the Covid experience feels like a reversion back to nomadic life: wandering in small groups through a dangerous world, tending our flocks.
Gone are the visits to “third places,” celebrations, or social events where we bump into people we don’t know so well. Gone is meeting new and interesting people.
I am acutely feeling the loss of these connecting opportunities, especially as we plunge into the depths of winter. All those social acts are like sugar to our system – small hits to the human spirit that keep us buoyant. Without them, we are left with a deep yearning for connection. Have you felt it?
Why is this?
One of the more compelling narratives I’ve heard recently is that Homo sapiens’ critical evolutionary leap was the development of our ability to work together and consider the well-being of others. Altriusm and cooperation. These traits are uniquely human and are what allowed our ancestors to rise to the top of the Animal Kingdom.
Consequently, we have inherited a biological wiring that rewards caring and togetherness, since our survival depended on our ability to form supporting social networks. Sugar to our system.
Conversely, this is also why social pains such as loneliness or loss produce much of the same biological responses as physical pain.
We may have come a long way from hunter-gatherers fighting for survival on the African Sahara, but if anything, the year 2020 has shown us clearly that our survival is still dependent upon our ability to connect, cooperate, and care for others.
One of the inspiring things that I have seen during Covid-times is how in the absence of social connection, people have turned to art and music to fill the gap: impromptu performances on street corners, singing from balconies, beautiful murals on boarded up windows inspiring solidarity and community, and so much more.
With Covid stripping away so much of lives, this resurgence of art and music is simply a revelation of art and music’s place at the core of our humanity, and how it is intrinsically connected to uniquely human drive to care and cooperate with others. It’s a reminder of why cave paintings and musical instruments accompany the oldest human settlements, and why historians believe that music and art helped early humans maintain social networks and create the mutual trust that enabled them to become successful. More sugar to our system.
One of Covid’s silver linings has been this resurgence in appreciation of our interconnectedness and the value of our art and music in our lives. Yes, this is a tough claim to make in the face of the national-scale divisions fomented by Trump, who has leveraged a myth of rugged individualism to turn mask wearing and Covid-belief into a culture war.
But I posit that the day-to-day reality of many is the opposite – a greater sense of how we are interconnected and dependent on each other. And also an appreciation for those things that cultivate togetherness.
A friend’s T-shirt summed it up well: “I Miss Hugs and Live Music.”
In what ways, dear reader, has Covid helped you understand the value of community, art and music? How have you adapted? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments section below.
I know in my neighborhood we have all drawn a little closer. Thanks to Covid, our family regularly drops off some of the extra food from our farm box to an elderly low-income neighbor. Now I am often chatting with my neighbors over the fence about their first forays into vegetable gardening prompted by Covid. “How are you holding up?” is a common refrain when I see a neighbor on the street or in front of their house.
Sweet sugar to my system.
PS. Stay tuned next time, when I dive into Diversity and Inclusion in Community Engagement