As someone who loves to feel productive every day and keeps the calendar full, I am trying to learn how to change my pace. Like most of you, I am sheltering in place and slowing down in order to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We, as a society, have forgotten how to be still, and yet this is an essential skill to allow ideas to come. Have you noticed how many people have had time to make things and post their creativity to the internet lately? Songs, poems, and hundreds of people dressing up to recreate masterpieces from Art History, whimsical memes, and Rube’s Goldberg machines. But these are also days to invite ideas that can change your life or change the world.
This isn’t the world's first pandemic, so it’s not the world’s first quarantine. Schools across England closed during the plague of 1665, including Trinity College in Cambridge, who's student, Isaac Newton, was sent home along with his peers. It was at home, not at school, where he played with prisms, invented calculus, and discovered gravity! Six decades before that, the bubonic plague caused businesses, including the theatre shut down. That's when many believe Shakespeare wrote King Lear.
|a view from one of my neighborhood walks|
Here’s what I'm seeing now that people are able to take their time: The lawns in my neighborhood are better manicured. People are planting and weeding gardens. People are making meals and baking from scratch. They are getting outside to take daily walks, talking with their family around a fire pit. Gardening, cooking, walking, family bonding: these are activities that should be done every day for basic mental and physical upkeep, not just when a government official tells us to “shelter in place.” The life we are used to living is so out of balanced that a granola bar for dinner on the dash between math club and soccer practice and a monthly walk around the block seems normal. If we can’t learn to maintain some sort of balance after the quarantine, we will have wasted a golden opportunity. If we can’t slow ourselves down, something else will happen to slow us down. (My dad calls that “forced relaxation.”)
Breaks are built into the day at companies like 3M so that employees can get ideas, which is why they have 55,000 products: more than one for every two employees! Slowing down allows you to find solutions that you won’t be found until you can clear your head of all piles of information getting in the way. We must never be lazy about thinking, really hard thinking is like doing the hard pedaling to get your bike to the top of a hill. When we sit back and empty ourselves of assumptions and pre-mature conclusions, new thoughts surface and we gain ground like we’re coasting downhill. Some of those new ideas are bound to be really good ideas, inspired even. It is in the stillness that inspiration comes, you can't force it. So do some yoga, eat an apple, take a walk, and take your time.