“To open, or not to open, that is the question.” Even Shakespeare’s melancholy Dane could not have foreseen the debate raging these days as this quarrelsome little coronavirus moves into the next stage of its pandemic life. We’ll know soon enough whether the cure is worse than the illness, but in the meantime, I, for one, have come to the conclusion that I don’t need a haircut after all.
Well, I really do, but not that much. Not enough to risk spreading a virulent infectious disease to others, not enough to risk contracting it myself. I can wait. I can also wait to go out to dinner with the wee wife at our favorite restaurant; wait to invite friends over to commune on the porch; wait to reconvene the usual Thursday night gang of troublemakers; I can even wait for however long it will take for life to resume something akin to what it was like before this nasty little virus entered stage right.
Which brings us to the next scene of this tragedy, the one in which we are introduced to a new character in the drama who goes by the name of “New Normal.” I think about this character a lot these days. A few weeks ago, I wrote in this space about the terra incognita we’ve entered thanks to this villainous virus. While we’re still deep in that territory, we’re learning more about its desolate landscape every day, hoping against hope that we’ll figure out how to navigate our way through it. But now the question becomes ‘what happens next?’ Until I have a better answer to that question, I’m letting my hair grow.
Hamlet knew all too well that the world to come will be a far, far different place: “the undiscovere’d country from whose bourn no traveller returns, puzzles the will.” Of course, Hamlet was talking about death, but our current predicament must cause us to ponder about what life will look like going forward. Yes, I understand that people are suffering and that the national economy needs resuscitation, but I have yet to see an iota of scientific data that would suggest that it’s wise to throw caution to the wind and go all out in search of life as it used to be. Those who do endanger not only themselves, but the rest of us as well. So let’s hope that ‘New Normal’ will be a complex character equally composed of truths we’ve learned as a result of this current dreadful experience and imaginative responses that will mitigate its future effects while rendering some new disaster far less deadly and disruptive.
For now, we’ve learned that to be both physically distant and socially connected is not only possible but not all that bad a place to be. We’ve learned that work and learning and even play can happen remotely. We’ve learned about the basic, simple interconnectedness of life on our planet and how the beating of a butterfly’s wings in one hemisphere can create a tsunami in another. That truth alone is worthy of a prince’s soliloquy.
So for now, I’ll abide my long hair. I’ll go the barber and ask him to take a little off the top when the time is right.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with a home in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com