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JOHN DeMONT: Here are the good things the pandemic has taught me

John DeMont is well on the way to having a victory garden. Lisa Napier Photo
Columnist John DeMont, earlier this spring, with his soon-to-be pandemic Victory Garden. - Lisa Napier

What will we take away from the pandemic besides a lingering sense of existential dread, in addition to the searing guilt over the inadequacy of our system of elder care, along with the sinking realization — after hearing the pandemic conspiracy theories — that there is no over-estimating the stupidity of people?

Some good things too, I anticipate, because our capacity for finding hope for the future has been honed by centuries of war, disaster, and pestilence.

But also because a crisis of these proportions makes us recall things we knew all along and simply forgot. A plague like this one vaporizes conventional wisdom, allowing new truths to arise, in many cases because they simply must.

So, when the new normal is underway, I hope I remember that I am not always my own best company, and the value of human contact, whether by phone, email, text or even from a safe two-metre distance.

I hope I will always recall that connection to others takes effort. But also how uplifting it felt, for the first time in a long time, to stand in a small group and just shoot the breeze about everyday things, like we used to — and how, like a struck gong, a small personal gesture resonates a long time after it has occurred.

I hope, as the whole flattening the curve exercise has taught us, that I remember the strength to be found in numbers and collective action.

I hope that I never again take for granted being outdoors, not just in a spectacular backdrop, but also in some prosaic setting, because the freedom to step out the door and just wander is one of life's abiding pleasures.

I hope I continue to take delight in small things, like playing a board game, or making a decent cup of coffee, or spotting Venus in a night sky, all of which seem to take on added import when we fear that death is hovering.

Much as I plan to help our restaurants when they open, I won't soon forget that few things can rival the deep enjoyment that comes from making and eating a meal inside a home, if it is the right meal with the right people.

By the same token, understanding that life is so fragile that a couple of water droplets can end it, I hope that I hold firm to my belief that there is no time to waste.

So enough with crappy books, mediocre movies and poorly conceived TV series. Farewell to endless scrolling, which inflames the neck, and deadens the soul. Goodbye to kung fu movie clips, and videos of Trump's latest lunacy, all of which just fog the brain.

This pandemic has changed my view on a lot of things.

My belief in the nobility of public service has climbed another couple of notches.

As well, the grocery and booze store clerks, truck drivers, rail freight handlers and municipal pothole fillers who facilitated my cushy life before the pandemic — and who hopefully will allow it to continue again after — have replaced pro athletes in my pantheon of heroes.

I used to think that I was an urban guy who sought noise and bustle. Now, after two months waiting out the crisis in the countryside, I realize that it's quiet I seek.

I'm not far from the old age pension, and lately, I'd begun to think a little like Popeye: “I yam what I yam, that's all that I yam.”

But the pandemic will cause sweeping change in everything about our lives. So why, in this world where nothing is expected to be as it was, can't we all hit the reset button?

I don't mean finally learning how to play the kazoo or to juggle (as great as it would be to do both of those things.)

But why, moving forward, can't we become kinder, as the pandemic has taught us.

Why, in the future, can't we see the we're-all-in-this-together nature of our global predicament as we learned in the last few months?

Why, closer to home, can't we do more things for ourselves, whether growing the food we eat, or fixing something that is broken, as these times have forced us to do?

All we can do is try. That's something the pandemic has taught us too: the power of aspiration; the things that can be accomplished just by striving.

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