Choose the Us over the I

A few days ago, I was considering writing this blog post and titling it Will you stay in for me? As Malta announces harsher measures to combat Covid-19, this title isn’t that apt, I guess, because at this point, excuse the harshness, you’d have to be an idiot to not comply.

I get it, we’re all in different circumstances. There are those for whom being home is hell, those for whom school was the only chance for some love and care, those for whom work was the only place anyone spoke to them.

No, it’s not easy, but no one said it was. Let’s get this straight, this isn’t about easy or hard, this is about life and death. No more, no less.

This isn’t about what YOU need and want, it’s about what society at large, or rather the human race, needs. (To be clear – if your home isn’t a safe one, then that’s also about life and death).

Above that, it’s about how you perceive and understand what being human means. Sure, we can kill off the older generation. Sure, we can kill off the weaker specimens (of which, full disclosure, I am one, having 4 high risk factors and currently being on oral steroids). But my question is – is that the sort of human you want to be?

If it is, stop reading because there is nothing more here for you. Clearly, we are cut from very different cloth and I will accept that, because ultimately, that is also the beauty of the human condition – so many types, so many beliefs, so many values, so many opinions.

But in all this difference and individuality, one thing that is emerging from the depth of the pit is human resilience, human need for connection, and that oh so beautiful unique part of being human – creativity and expression.

Back when I was a student in Italy (bella Torino, sempre nel mio cuore), I remember reading a book for a course I was doing on the role of theatre in society and in this book there was an eloquent explanation of how crucial art was to society. Unfortunately, I can’t find this book, nor can I remember the name, as I’d reorder it. But the essence of the piece was this wonderful extract which outlined very clearly how in Milan, the revival of society during the war and after it could all be boiled down to one, small theatre.

I’ve longed to find this quote for many years now as I’ve often felt the need to re-read that passage. I think I no longer need to. I’m seeing it today in person – as concerts spring out on balconies all over the world, as Germans sing Bella Ciao (a resistance and liberation song dating back to World War II) to Italy, as dance classes are held online, as artists share their craft, as storytellers read books to kids, as parents connect with their kids and, as one mum put it, “forget to tell them to hurry up”.

I often think of the title of Milan Kundera’s book “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”. Both because I gleefully remember the days I used this as my hangman or charades clue but also because I feel he did me an injustice. He crafted this perfect phrase to explain the ineffability of the human spirit, the intangibility of it and at the very same time, its exquisite beauty.

And that, for me, is what I can see unfolding all around me – as people reach out to strangers in need, as trainers give us their time to keep us in shape, as frontliners continue to battle, at great risk to themselves, as teachers strive against all odds to ensure their kids (coz that’s how they think of them) continue to get high-quality, fun education.

The wonder of life is alive and well. The gift of life is so precious – let us remember that, let us hold fast. Let us not squander it. Let us revel and enjoy it. And above all, let us remember that life only has meaning when there are those around us to share it with. Choose to be kind. Choose to think of others. CHOOSE THE US OVER THE I.

(all images from Pixabay)

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