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A massive dark cloud and the potential for a silver lining

About 2 weeks ago I went out to lunch with a couple of friends and due to its noisy atmosphere (Sisterfields in Seminyak) I raised my voice more than usual and came home with a scratchy throat. I began googling and started to read about “the virus”:

People may be sick with the virus for 1 to 14 days before developing symptoms. The most common symptoms of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are fever, tiredness, and dry cough. Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment.

There have been reports of additional symptoms such as a sore throat, but the main symptoms are fever and a dry cough. I immediately began treating my sore throat with mentholated lozenges, goldenseal and echinacea tablets, vitamin C, warm water with squeezed lemon, plus napping more than usual (I try to take a 20 minute nap each afternoon if possible).

After about 3 days I started to feel better. No fever, a few coughs, and a wheeze or two. Each time I began to either wheeze or cough I thought I was coming down with coved-19. I tried to stay calm. I was tempted to go to the clinic but the antibiotics that they would prescribe, while perhaps good for a bacterial infection, would not help at all with viral infections.

So while I’m 95% of my normal healthy self, I’ve been caught up with the covid -19 frenzy as it has been zigzagging across the globe.

Having entered the travel business as a boutique hotel in June 2019, I’m well aware of the impact the virus is having in shutting down most forms of travel. At the moment we have 5 of our 6 rooms filled with people who are long-term travelers. The guests from our 6th room left this morning for the airport and cut their travels short because they wanted to be closer to their family. They took the small window of time that Germany opened to returning Germans before shutting down for the foreseeable future.

All of my current guests make their living remotely, and so they don’t need to return to the place of their birth. While Bali and Indonesia in general is not the best place for healthcare, the total number of covid-19 cases is still small. On Bali its 5 reported cases. Of course there may very well be many unreported cases and so we can potentially have an escalating catastrophe. If so there are limited hospital beds dedicated to this type of medical emergency.

But flying home has its own risks, as well as entering a country with more covid-19 cases, even though the healthcare will be superior.

I’ve written about the benefits of travel before, here and here, and the practice of hospitality here. I’m aware that travel’s lofty benefits are currently placed on hold.

So what will come next? This article features 34 big thinkers on how the world will be permanently changed by this current crisis. I will highlight two thinkers below:

A hunger for diversion.

Mary Frances Berry is professor of American social thought, history and Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

After the disastrous 1918-19 Spanish flu and the end of World War I, many Americans sought carefree entertainment, which the introduction of cars and the radio facilitated. Young women newly able to vote under the 19th Amendment bobbed their hair, frequented speakeasies and danced the Charleston. The economy quickly rebounded and flourished for about 10 years, until irrational investment tilted the United States and the world into the Great Depression. Probably, given past behavior, when this pandemic is over, human beings will respond with the same sense of relief and a search for community, relief from stress and pleasure.

The tyranny of habit no more

Virginia Heffernan is author of Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art.

Humans are not generally disposed to radical departures from their daily rounds. But the recent fantasy of “optimizing” a life—for peak performance, productivity, efficiency—has created a cottage industry that tries to make the dreariest possible lives sound heroic. Jordan Peterson has been commanding lost male souls to make their beds for years now. The Four-Hour Workweek, The Power of Habit and Atomic Habits urge readers to automate certain behaviors to keep them dutifully overworking and under-eating.

But COVID-19 suggests that Peterson (or any other habit-preaching martinet) is not the leader for our time. Instead, consider Albert Camus, who, in The Plague, blames the obliteration of a fictional Algerian town by an epidemic on one thing: consistency. “The truth is,” Camus writes of the crushingly dull port town, “everyone is bored, and devotes himself to cultivating habits.” The habit-bound townspeople lack imagination. It takes them far too long to take in that death is stalking them, and it’s past time to stop taking the streetcar, working for money, bowling and going to the movies.

Maybe, as in Camus’ time, it will take the dual specters of autocracy and disease to get us to listen to our common sense, our imaginations, our eccentricities—and not our programming. A more expansive and braver approach to everyday existence is now crucial so that we don’t fall in line with Trump-like tyrannies, cant and orthodoxy, and environmentally and physiologically devastating behaviors (including our favorites: driving cars, eating meat, burning electricity). This current plague time might see a recharged commitment to a closer-to-the-bone worldview that recognizes we have a short time on earth, the Doomsday Clock is a minute from midnight, and living peacefully and meaningfully together is going to take much more than bed-making and canny investments. The Power of No Habits.

Ms. Berry calls for “a renewed search for community, relief from stress and pleasure,” which will re-invigorate travel and community building in potentially exciting ways.

And Ms. Hefferman believes a “more expansive and braver approach to everyday existence” may unfold.

How will we re-imagine ourselves when the stay-at-home orders throughout the world are lifted? For those in the travel and hospitality business, one can only hope that the days of selfie sticks, Instagram influencers, and self-indulgence at the expense of local customs and practices are forever behind us, and a new approach to seeing the world in a “more expansive and braver” way is coming. The sooner the better!

A massive dark cloud and the potential for a silver lining 3

3 replies on “A massive dark cloud and the potential for a silver lining”

This is great Neill! Thank you for taking the time to consider all, write and share the writings of others. The Ohana Retreat is a magical place and I look forward to returning! Stay healthy and strong minded. We will come out of this more brave and expansive indeed… bursting with relief, creativity, and hopefully more compassion for each other as a whole.

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