No ifs and buts. You should not be part of the pandemic of carelessness. You should be staying home and only go out when necessary and when you are out, keep at least a meter’s distance between other people, wash your hands as often as possible and do not touch your mouth, nose, and eyes. Doing this will control the spread of the coronavirus and not overwhelm, strain, and breach the capacity of our health services to treat those who need it.
Of course, like everyone else, I hate this invisible enemy (120 nanometers – smaller than the stretch of the color “blue” in the light spectrum!). Aside from the obvious serious threat to our health, all our brains have been hijacked by the virus. We have become so alert only to anything about the virus that we probably just look at being forced to stay at home as another curse of the pandemic. But staying at home, aside from helping control the pandemic, could actually yield sterling benefits for you, others, and the planet.
Here are some of the things that will transform the way you view being forced to stay at home:
“Star trek-style” conferences. I was supposed to travel for an annual conference but we decided to do a Zoom conference instead. I have to admit that I was skeptical that it would work. I have been part of many Zoom conferences before and they did not work for the most part because the time differences called for bodies on different body clocks. But maybe this time because we knew this was our only option, the features were thoroughly explored and optimized. For instance, we were beaming in and out of breakout and plenary sessions. That was very cool. Everyone showed up on time. Thirty minutes in breakout rooms really meant exactly 30 minutes because you will beamed into the plenary session after 30 minutes even if you are still talking in the breakout session. You can write your comments on what is being said by a participant and everyone can read it. We had clear agreements and because the sessions were recorded, you cannot really deny anything you said. We are a science-based organization so we computed the carbon emissions we prevented from going to the atmosphere by having a Videocon instead of an in-person and it was 124 tons. That is about .00002 of the total emissions of a US coal plant. Imagine if all the annual conferences in the world could save as much as all the coal plant emissions. Another thing I learned from this – maybe our in-person meetings will matter so much more if they were less.
Exercise. If your usual excuse has always been that you never had time to work out because of the commute or you are too tired to get home, that excuse will be hollow in these times. This has been proven over and over again that what is needed now is one behemoth of a landmark study to disprove all those studies. The findings of how exercise greatly improves your health are now so strongly established that citing studies here about the benefits of exercise for your brain (and thus your smarts and your moods) and your body (improves cardiovascular health among other things) is equivalent to citing studies of how having parents are a real advantage when you are a child – you will wonder why there are even studies about it.
Books (written and audio). Something deep and satisfying happens in your brain when you are sustaining your attention for extended periods of time longer than the span of time you spend surfing and doing social media even if you do read blurbs, captions and tweets. Studies have also found that those who read books need not stoop to audio books as they have been found to yield the same comprehension of the material being read or listened to. I think the key is really sustained attention. Grab a book or pick an audio book and dive. Our everyday lives are full of dips because more often, with our time and resources, we can only afford dips. This forced time to be at home is one big diving board to plomb the depths of ideas and stories in stretches, twists and turns that will make you grow as a human being. You may most likely see your old life in a whole new way after this lockdown.
Geeking out. In the last week of February, scientists have verified that we have gained another moon. It is very small – only about 2 to 12 meters. It was an asteroid that was pulled by the Earth’s gravitational orbit about 3 years ago. Like the moon, it is a naturally captured object (no one put it there!) but unlike the moon which has been there as long as the Earth has been, scientists think we only have it for now. How long before it is knocked off by something that will take it somewhere else, no one knows yet. It is hard to be romantic about 2 moons since we cannot see that new tiny moon but it is there just the same. There is also the new finding that trees sense their weight and height and adjust their stability accordingly. Imagine if we can learn from that to make our buildings do that! I personally got enamored with different kinds of caterpillars. Just Google “rainbow caterpillar” and be blown away. These are only examples of the wondrous things we missed because COVID-19 has hijacked the attention command control of our brains.
Music. Maybe beyond listening to it which we do when we commute to work, we can try to play a musical instrument and really learn how to play or make music! This is the time. Music is also an emotional regulator. It can help quell our anxieties about this crisis and all the other things that are linked to it. This is especially helpful in these times when we cannot be with people in ways that we usually are.
We will come out of this better. The forced dive into a narrowed social space, economics, way of working, communicating, even to solitude is too deep to come out of this as the same human being before this happened. And for those who will not be better human beings after this, take heed, no virus could cure you. – Rappler.com
Maria Isabel Garcia is a science writer. She has written two books, “Science Solitaire” and “Twenty One Grams of Spirit and Seven Ounces of Desire.” You can reach her at email@example.com.