It’s a Dark Time and I Try to Be a Light

I’ve been interviewing artists of various kinds in New Haven since March about their response to the pandemic, and I’ve been telling people throughout that my job as a journalist has often been a real help, because I’m telling the stories of people who are adapting, people who are still working on things, who are sort of doing OK. I’ve also noticed that it seems sometimes like they’re talking to each other, like they seem to be on the same page. What’s below is constructed from quotes from 22 different people.

 

This virus is a horrifying gift—a life-and-death gift—for us to examine our priorities for how we want to be in this world. The system was set up for us to work too much and forget as much as possible. This has made us aware, if we didn’t already know, of how on a wire our lives were.

 

It’s not necessary for us to be stressed for the sake of productivity. If everyone just had $1,000 a month coming in from a value-added tax, people might be able to stay indoors and not have to risk their lives to get groceries. How robust a system can capitalism be if it needs to be bailed out by socialism every 10 years? If we didn’t spend $90 billion on a bomb the size of Rhode Island, we could have a test kit in everybody’s mailbox.

 

We are not going to go back as a society to the way it was before. People won’t want to go back. We have to find out how to have the space to access that part of our brains and hearts, to take care of ourselves so we can take care of others. We got to lock arms and get through it together. What better way to uplift people’s spirits than to do what we love to do? It’s a dark time and I try to be a light.

 

I find a lot of solace in history as time goes on, because you see the patterns. This has happened, and people had to figure it out, and yet we’re still here. Things continued. This is all just sort of a trial run—working out the kinks for what you have to do with climate change—anyway.

 

The danger isn’t running out of stories; it’s not telling them. I didn’t have the time before to finish records, but now I do. Creatives always say that: We need more time. Now we have the time. We are understanding what a moment in time is. We can sit on a bench and think: light and leaves do that? Bathrooms are the cleanest they’ve ever been. They could be this clean all the time. People have a lot of time to work on stuff. Maybe we’ll all learn how to farm and cook.

 

I’m not afraid of dying, We’re all going to leave here; it’s just how we go. I truly have a deep, deep trust that there is a lot going on that we don’t understand, or can’t wrap our heads around. I think my whole childhood and young adult life got me to this point. We have one life on this earth. I’m in my 50s. I want to eat every good thing in every day. I have all this wood laying around—a lot of random, found objects. I have a bag of paints and glues. I got some papier-mache. So I’ll come up with something.

 

The future: We live there, it’s weird. Hey—what are you going to do? Part of being an artist is getting in touch with your humanity. It’s being vulnerable. We’re all facing an existential threat. Connecting with people—it’s why people keep showing up when it’s so imperfect. This is the thing that reminds us of what it means to be human. That’s what we want to capture when we get the chance, on the other side, when we’re face to face. Even if we’re six feet apart.

 

What do we see through the window? There was a nice day, and people were out and walking their dogs as if they had never been outside before. It is remarkable how good people are being to each other. Go outside and the spring is happening. The swamp maple is covered with little red furry blossoms. The iris is poking out from the ground. The daffodils are blooming like mad. Those are things that happen every year. This is not about the chaos. This is just Earth doing its thing. Every year it comes to life.

 

Don’t give up. Work on you. Do some self-reflection, because once this thing lifts, we got to hit the ground running. We got work to do. There are forces in the unseen that can help us if we’re open to them. There are ways of working that allow for repair to happen. Now more than ever, we have to reach out, figuring out ways of supporting each other. We have to reach out to something bigger than us. It’s the new growth after a forest fire. Make new things. We’re going into a new world. We need new songs.

 

—July 8, 2020

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Author: Brian Francis Slattery

Brian Francis Slattery is a journalist and musician in New Haven, CT. He's the author of four published novels; for five years he was on the writing team for Bookburners (Serial Box), and his most recent fiction appears in The New Decameron.

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