I saw one of my favorite bands perform live today.
Well, “live” in the sense that at the same time I was watching them online, they were playing together.
Well, “playing together” in the sense that although each was playing an instrument alone in their own home, they somehow managed to sync up with each other across the internet.
In the last three months, I’ve seen choirs and orchestras perform in the same way. And I’ve watched individual dancers all following the same choreography, spliced together to make a single performance. I’ve even strolled through virtual art galleries, clicking through amazing photography and paintings.
I’ve seen more concerts, performances, and art shows in the last month than I’ve seen in a year or more.
The same goes for my social life. A year ago, my husband and I moved away from Utah to Colorado. Because I work out of my home office, I find I rarely leave my house, and we have yet to make any friendships in our new neighborhood. I would call my Utah friends occasionally, or send emails or texts, but we no longer had weekend barbecues or holiday parties with friends. And yes, I was growing increasingly lonely.
Then COVID-19 struck, and the world discovered video meetings. A friend suggested we try one for my husband’s birthday. So we logged in and spent 3 hours laughing together, each couple in their own kitchen drinking their own cocktails, but it truly felt like we were all in the same room. It was as cathartic and fulfilling as rain falling after a drought.
And that was just the beginning. In the last two months, we’ve had more video parties with more friends than we had in-person in two years, even when we all lived close by. I’ve had friends tell me they’ve been contacted by other friends they haven’t heard from in years, just to make sure they’re okay. Everyone is reaching out to check in, say hi, and see faces other than the one in the mirror.
This pandemic has been brutal in many ways. The lives lost, the educations interrupted, the emotional and financial impact on families, the devastating hit to the economy… all are horrific.
But I hadn’t anticipated some of the lessons we’re learning. Like the fact that we human beings apparently need art and human connection just as much as we need food, shelter, and health care.
In post-apocalyptic novels, the technology is usually gone (at least for the average person). After the invasion of aliens, or the subjugation of the ordinary masses by the hyper-rich elite few, or the rampages of—pay attention here—a viral pandemic, there are not enough humans left to keep the infrastructure going that we depend on. Humanity is plunged back to the pre-industrial era, trying to relearn how to farm, make clothing, and treat medical issues without the benefit of Google. It’s usually a harsh, unforgiving landscape of mayhem and desperation.
Now granted, our population hasn’t yet been devastated to fiction’s post-apocalyptic level, fortunately. But still, I am surprised and truly comforted by how much art and music and laughter are being shared everywhere. Despite keeping our distance, somehow it feels like we’re drawing closer together. And in an era where the arts are treated like an afterthought (what my grandmother might have referred to as “the redheaded stepchild”), the internet is exploding with art being made available for free to everyone with an internet connection, often created by the people hardest hit by this pandemic. It must be because we’re collectively remembering that art is what keeps the soul alive when the mind and body are being battered.
So if the world truly upends itself someday and we find ourselves in that post-apocalyptic hellhole fiction promises us, I am now positive that art will find a way to thrive. If we lose the internet, art will spring up around us on porches and back steps, as we’ve already seen it do. It will hang from balconies and be spray-painted on city buildings. It will be chalked on driveways, sung across backyards, and danced across an empty street.
And we ordinary humans will find a way to find each other again, whether it’s over a video connection or waving to each other from sidewalks or sitting in folding chairs six feet apart on a summer’s day.
In these times when poisonous politics, unrestrained greed, and callous disregard for others seem to be our society’s defining characteristics, it’s heartening to learn that art and the simple desire to say hello are the life-rings rising above the noise to keep us afloat.