Silver Linings

Yesterday morning I went downtown Tampa to shoot senior pictures for a friend graduating high school this year.

Like tens of thousands of kids across the country, her final year at school is muted without ceremony, without prom, and all the grandeur that year brings to the lives of Americans.

Generations of Americans created a culture of celebration that became a real marker for their lives. It was something that didn’t exist in Ireland when I grew up so from the outside it appeared frivolous to me and often times in excess.

But at the same time, I respect the culture that focuses importance on this time of life and its meaning to millions of people all across the nation.

So, perhaps I am the least qualified person to write musings about its loss this year. On a personal level though, I feel for those who feel hard done by and if I had a son or daughter graduating, no doubt I would feel it more.

We had a lovely morning … a perfect day for a shoot and she was gorgeous and shot really well. Hopefully these pics will play a minor part in her memories of this time of her life.

Traffic in and out of Tampa was a breeze. Extraordinarily light for a Friday morning. And parking was free and simple and couldn’t have been closer to where we were planning on shooting.

In one sequence of shots she donned a mask, to mark the event that compromised her celebrations and so this becomes the only image I wanted to include in this blog.

As I drove home, again in incredibly light traffic, I began to think of all the horrible losses of these past few months. Loss of life. Loss of jobs. Loss of stability. Loss of security.

The news is filled with it and (despite the dotard’s “it’s all media hype” position) rightly so. The gravity of the situation should never be allowed to be spun for political or geo-political gain. The loss is too great for that.

But (and there is always a “but”) it is equally important for us to understand that not all is doom and gloom. There are some very definite silver linings to what is happening that we should recognize and embrace. And possibly even adopt when all is said and done with this pandemic.

That traffic yesterday was notably better. And the parking exceptional. And so, even on that tiny superficial level, there were things to smile about.

Zoom out and view the effect that this is having on the world around us. The planet is breathing and doing much better. Fossil fuel burning has been dramatically reduced as cars are staying at home. Waterways are clearing up and fish breathing as the insatiable tourism industry takes a back seat.

Junk mail in our mailboxes has dropped significantly so fewer trees are being cut down for the reckless print industry.

Businesses are migrating towards online technologies that do away with pointless meetings and nonsensical trade conferences. So not only do the humans involved get to spend more time with loved ones, but the destructive travel and hospitality industries reduce their pollutive and wasteful effects on the planet.

Even our retail acumen focuses us more on essential or near-essential products and services. Why is this a benefit? Simple: it allows us to base our lives more about needs than wants. And “wants” are the “Achilles heel” of humanity that drives greed and gluttony.

Even purely at a mask level, it turns out that they bring an advantage as they become a looks-leveler as we encounter strangers in grocery stores. I call it the burka-effect of beautification.

And in the meantime at home, each one of us gets to love our loves, tackle our lists, refocus our lives, and plan for a different future.

Now, I am not naive enough to think that all of these changes will be permanent. But I am sensible enough to think that some of it should.

The human species was never meant for mass movement across a planet on the scale that our travel industry has afforded us. Tens of thousands of people convening for mass conferences is not just outdated and absurd, but it is resource-wasteful. There is no need for each to recover any time soon.

Adapting technology that leaves more of us working from home is not just time and stress advantageous, but it is also gentler on a planet as the pollution from every day rush-hours are reduced. There is no need for this to return any time soon either.

So yes, silver linings abound on a personal, communal, and planet level. So when we are done mourning our dead and healing our sick, let’s also hit the reset button on how the living live.