Friday, July 03, 2020

The Universe Seems to Be Telling Us to Think Deeply

I can't remember the last time I wore pants. It's been sweats and short for months now. Our apartment is far from its spic and span best these days. My wife Jennifer and I are discovering exactly how much of our tidiness is for ourselves and how much is done in anticipation of guests. I've never made a habit of crossing the street against the light, but with daily traffic down to a trickle, I think nothing of walking while the red hand is commanding me to wait. I'm not keeping the pantry stocked, I expect the car battery will be dead the next time we try to turn the engine over, and every day of the week is either Thisday or Thatday.

There are many things this pandemic and our public response to us has changed about the day-to-day lives, for sure, but many, if not most of the changes have been of the semi-voluntary variety. I could still wear pants if I wanted. I could still keep the place spit-spot. I could still abide by the pedestrian laws. But instead I've let some things slide, things that were in one way or another necessary in that other world in which we once lived. I imagine most of these habits will return some day, but it's going to take the world to change once more before they do.

But what if, as some prophets are predicting, workers don't return to offices, cars don't return to roads, and children don't return to schools? I mean looking at each of these possibilities in isolation, haven't I long felt that Americans spend too much time at the office? Haven't I griped about traffic, both as a personal annoyance and as a source of air pollution? Haven't I advocated right here on this blog for the end of schools as we know them? Don't I believe that incredible social good would come from families spending more time together, that more breathable air is healthy for all living things, and that children will thrive if set free from the shackles of schooling? Yet, I find myself repelled by the idea of embracing any of it. As I confessed to Kisha Reid yesterday while discussing the upcoming Play First Summit (in which she is participating), I hate this. I hate hating anything, but I really hate this.

When I envisioned a world in which we worked fewer hours, polluted less, and allowed children to play, I suppose I knew that it would come at a price, but not this; not at the cost of touching, hugging, and where even our smiles are hidden behind literal masks; not at the price of live theater, museums, concerts, dancing in groups, singing in churches, dining in restaurants, or thronging together at festivals and celebrations. When the world changes in revolutionary ways, there is always an economic and social price to pay, but this feels like it's coming at the cost of a big part of our humanity. Of course, this is an exaggeration, right? Of course, humanity will prevail. Of course, we will find a way back to human contact and art and celebration. I have to believe. I have to believe that we will eventually wrestle this virus into some sort of corner like we have so many other diseases, but then what? Will that then just clear the way for a resurgence of equally deadly viruses of work, pollution, and our children's laboring away in the test score coal mines?

I'm surprised to find that I miss wearing pants, at least occasionally. Today is the day I tackle the stacks and clutter that have come to dominate the apartment (I promise . . .), although I imagine at least one of the many impromptu "Zoom studios" that have popped up around the place will remain as a semi-permanent feature of our home decor. And once the traffic lights start making sense again, I'll likely give up my lawless ways. But about the rest of it, I have nothing but questions. Is this really a revolutionary moment? If it is, what are the sacrifices we're willing to make? If this is a glimpse into the future as many have suggested, what lessons can we learn from it? Or is this just a blip in the big picture, one that will leave us with "olden day" stories to tell, but otherwise sparks no lasting changes in our world?

The only thing I know for certain is that the universe seems to be telling us to think deeply and collectively right now. These endless conversations we are having with one another about our trials and tribulations, about our suffering, about our fears, and about our epiphanies, are where this is happening. We are all talking, listening, and thinking, which is indistinguishable from learning. No one person has the answers. That's something we can only create together.

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I'm excited to announce that Teacher Tom's Second Book is now available in the UK, Iceland, and Europe thanks to my friends at Fafunia! It's also available in the US and Canada. If you want to go directly to the Fafunia page click here.  And if you missed it, Teacher Tom's First Book is back in print as well.

And finally, this is uncomfortable for me, but I earn most of my income by speaking at education conferences and running in-person workshops. I've had 95 percent of my income wiped out for the foreseeable future due to everything being cancelled. I'm hustling to become a new and improved Teacher Tom. I know I'm not the only one living with economic insecurity, but if you like what you read here, please consider hitting the yellow donate button below. 

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
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