Even the most absurd joke often contains a grain of wisdom. When Grandpa was given a tablet as a gift, he’d never seen such a miraculous thing before. As he watched a dance video playing on YouTube, shaking his head, he said, “In the future, you’ll even be able to get out of having to dance yourself!
Here’s a few things we got out of doing in 2020, thanks to the coronavirus! Commuting to work. Inefficient meetings. Petrol, because where could you have gone? The effort of the gym. Hairdressers and cosmetics, unnecessaryily behind the mask anyway. Flying to conventions and business meetings. The burden of semi-fun dinner invitations that you would still have felt obliged to return in 2019. Tedious visits to relatives, children’s birthday parties and conversations with neighbours. What we’ve avoided most, thanks to the lockdowns, is spending our free time shopping. Shouldn’t we be rich by now?
In music, a fermata is a pause, a period of indeterminate duration in which either a silence or a sound is extended in time. In 2020, life paused like a fermata – some things were at a standstill, some things went on uniformly, what was missing was the music. And the dancing – in all its aimless and futile glory.
How will life go on after the pandemic? The emblematic experience of a break sparked hopes that we could abandon unpleasant aspects of our former lives and live in a better world afterwards. We all had time to imagine utopias, but everyone developed a completely different idea of the “new normal”. Those who’d already embraced digitalisation in all areas of life felt validated by the lockdown. In fact, the avoidance of physical contact generated a “digitalisation boost”. Even people who would never have used video calling were suddenly grateful that it existed. The pandemic forced everyone to try out the new technologies. A lot of things demonstrated their worth, and some of them will stick. There was also some exaggeration by technology enthusiasts who yearned for a fully digitalised life at home as a general model for the future. No more school, no more university, no more events, no more office, no more travel, everything can be dispensed with because everything can be digitalised, making life much more efficient.
The pandemic was also seen by people with aspirations in the opposite direction as a lesson in how to improve the world. Glory be to the coronavirus as consumers experienced how quiet and pleasant life can be if we just stop consuming. If we work less, do without holidays and avoid things that consume energy and raw materials. The competition-based society of the “Me Inc.” had found a new neighbourly warmth, solidarity and community in the lockdown. Some even hoped that the coronavirus would overcome capitalism, because it had become clear that only the state could “save” us.
A lot of people died. They could remind us that there should be a life before death, which should be as vibrant, free, creative, joyful and adventurous as possible. A life that’s not utilitarian, fearful and confined. A life that’s worth living. You can’t do without this kind of life, and you don't gain anything by trying to do without as much as possible.
One thing we have learned with certainty from the time of uncertainty: that catastrophes don’t just exist in the cinema. How little we can foresee. And how fragile our future is. It’s impossible to protect ourselves from unknown dangers. All the more reason for us to develop technologies that provide for our safety where possible.