We live in strange and unsettling times. In just a few months, Covid19 has transformed the world we live in, changed our daily routines, the ways we engage with the world, and has brought sadness and loss to many across the world. In the UK, schools have shut and families are re-adjusting to working and schooling at home, at the same time as key workers in delivery, food production and of course the NHS, work around the clock to keep society together and to protect us all.
My university, the University of Warwick, has decided to go to online learning for the remainder of the academic year (including exams at the end of it), and we are all now working from home rather than traveling to campus. The academic world has reacted in different ways. Where possible, researchers and departments have made efforts to target their research, knowledge and abilities to help support the fight against Covid19. A small group have spoken of how this enforced period of self-isolation and social distancing could provide a boon in research outputs and breakthroughs (in whatever is their specific field) as people are less distracted (citing the fact that Shakespeare apparently wrote King Lear during a plague lockdown…). Many have responded with incredulity at this kind of world-view, pointing to the realities of balancing working at home with educating and looking after children at home, as well as pointing to the very precarious position of many in the University world on part time or fixed term contracts, indeed to whole Universities which have moved in recent weeks to end as many of those contracts as they can.
This is no doubt a profoundly frightening time for us all in all sorts of ways, whether it be concerns for our physical and mental health, our careers or our finances – and of course those of our friends, family and loved ones. But it has also been so heartening to see the ways in which, in the midst of all this worry, we have seen elements of community flourish. I have never said hello (from a safe 2m distance) to so many people – from my front door, or in the street – as everyone has seemingly started reaching out to wish each other well. Warwick University has encouraged everyone of its staff to give any spare time they have to volunteering to help out in our communities. And of course we have seen the wonderful clapping moments for the NHS and for our Key workers. Around the world, I have been in touch with friends I have not spoken to for a while to find out how they are and if they are safe. We are all experimenting with all different types of online and digital communication to connect with friends, loved ones and family, as well as work colleagues, wherever they are in the world (I tried to celebrate my birthday this past Friday with a zoom video birthday party (everyone brought their own hat, cake and drink of choice – it was memorable and happy chaos!). Of course it is not the same as being able to see these people for real, as being able to hug them and sit down over a cup of coffee with them. We are perhaps, still, vastly underestimating the heavy impact this period will have on our mental health and wellbeing. But it is at least something.
On the Facebook page I run along with my virtual assistant Claire Robson, we recently ran a competition for a classical GIF/meme/quote that summed up the Covid19 world we now face. The prize winning entries were fabulous – exactly the right mix of fun, irony, good humour and frivolity which we will all need in spades to meet the challenges that Covid19 is bringing. The winning entries are below. We on the FB page will be doing more live Q&A events, more quizzes and other interactive events to help reach out to people while we all readjust to this new world, as well as we all search for good online learning activities for our children. So keep any eye out on the FB page www.facebook.com/profmichaelscott. And here on this website, you can have a read of the different press articles I have written, check out the videos of the different lectures I have given, have a look through previous Live Q&As, as well as listen in to the some of the recent podcasts I have done. And over on my Youtube channel (Prof Michael Scott), you can even watch some of my past documentaries. Hopefully lots to keep your entertained and in good spirits!
Lastly, I wanted to share with you this image I saw on Top Humour on Instagram the other day – it speaks again to that mix of upbeat, tongue in cheek, humour that we will need as much of as we can muster in the comings weeks and months.
Stay safe, stay well, reach out to the world in whatever ways you can. And most importantly, take a little time to laugh. Because happiness is not a place you arrive at, it’s a way of traveling. Mx