Republican Presidential Candidate Ronald Reagan famously asked Americans, “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”, during the October 28, 1980 Presidential Debate.
Readers might reflexively respond that life has been unsatisfactory during the pandemic. Yet most people see pluses and minuses in confinement.
Initially everyone struggled. After government lifted mandates, staying in place became voluntary and attitudes altered. People found their proverbial glasses to be half-full, not half-empty.
Individuals hit reset buttons rather than pause buttons. They recalibrated their lives. Once no one was “keeping up with the Jones” over whose household was busier, people began enjoying the private spaces that they carefully created — pursuing pleasures at home.
Those thinking that the community — and the country — will return to the way we were might consider Boz Scagg’s 1976 “It’s Over”:
“Why can't you just
get it through your head
It's over. It's over now.
Yes you heard me clearly now I said,
It's over. It's over now”
Businesses adapting will prosper. Those that do not will be the equivalent of buggy whip vendors after the automobile age ensued.
John Entenza encouraged Arts & Architecture magazine to consider postwar housing, before World War II ended, seventy-five years ago. The exercise produced twenty-eight Case Study Houses between 1945 and 1966. (Case Study House Number 8 — among the more famous examples — was built by the younger brother of Jacksonian Adele Franks — original head of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Day School, wife of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Cathedral Dean Vincent Franks — Charles Eames and his wife Ray. [Charles Eames was named the “Most Influential Designer of the 20th Century,” by the Industrial Designers Society of America, in 1985, 15 years before the century’s end]). Anyone possessing any sense will emulate John Entenza and examine what the future will entail rather than expect anachronisms to reemerge.
People may prefer that the life left behind will arise from the ashes like the mythical Phoenix but, as the song of the same name from George and Ira Gershwin’s opera “Porgy and Bess” suggests,
“It ain't necessarily so
It ain't necessarily so”
This is not so say that what follows will be unfulfilling.
I am not “All dressed up with nowhere to go”. I wear shorts everyday. I lose weight and am as skinny as any time since college. The absence of meals in restaurants distances me from bread and butter and dessert. Less fat and an absence of salt are a godsend. I miss little other than seeing friends. When we talk by telephone, we are less rushed than while meeting for meals. I am calmer without running nonstop and sleep better. What’s not to like about a healthier life?
When I was a child, my Alabama grandparents played bridge with other couples, once or twice a week. They travelled to Europe, every year or two. They went to Boston and New York, and they came to see us in Jackson, once or twice a year. They visited my great-aunt and great-uncle in New Orleans. Otherwise they happily inhabited their beautiful home, reading and watching “Masterpiece Theatre” or an occasional movie on television. Their lifestyle was lovely.
Everyone that I know finds similar satisfaction sheltering in place. Pursuing domestic pleasures is a balm after nonstop activity. We are getting to know our homes and learning we things about them. It took the pandemic to see what was missed. We anticipated the arrival of one, someday.
Merchants thrived when everyone could be convinced that life improved running ceaselessly, circulating money. Life was no better.
Everyone will go again after the crisis. We will also stay home more, undiminished doing so. The slower pace is splendid. Vive la difference!
Jay Wiener is a Northsider.