At the end of my music ed workshops these days, I ask people to reflect on one or two “takeaways” from the wide variety of things we have done. They can range from new insights as to how to teach more effectively (Talk less. Do more) to the next steps in their own musical development (Learn how to accompany kids improvising on the 12-bar blues) to picking one or two activities (Try the Banana Song). That moment of reflection is a necessary step to complete the process, to transform one’s experience into something that helps the teacher grow into better practices and deeper understandings.
And so the coronavirus has us in its grip and if we weather this storm and continue with business as usual, we’ve learned nothing whatsoever and lost a vital opportunity to reflect. Perhaps its sole purpose is to wake us up and finally get us moving on the things we should have been working on and thinking about all along.
In that spirit, I offer seven of my takeaways of its possible lessons:
1. We are social creatures. Life is more fun when we do things together, be it yoga classes, sitting in a movie theater, going to the dance club, running in the race, singing in the chorus, working in the office.
2. We are more deeply inter-connected than we ever dreamed. A virus in China can travel everywhere and no wall or immigration policy can stop it. Love can also.
3. Online learning is a poor substitute for real classes (see number 1.). It can be useful in a crisis (now) or the right technology for certain kinds of learning (Ted talks, podcasts, Blogs, Youtube, etc.) but the gathering place called school is where the deepest learning can still take place, especially if we understand the role of the live teacher who in turn understands the live student and attends to the role of the body, the imagination, the heart and the thinking mind engaged in meaningful dialogue.
4. It’s time to move from “them and us” to “we.” This is no longer the luxury of the poets, the spiritual teachers, the humanitarian thinkers— it is now a necessity. It is our only hope for survival. We are in the lifeboat together and the ship is sinking.
5. There is no room at the top for incompetent leaders. Leaders who are ignorant, self-serving, in denial, mean-spirited are more than a mistaken choice—they are a threat to our health and well-being. Likewise, there is no room in all layers of society for those who support such leaders, excuse them, give them voice, refuse to challenge them, cheer them on.
6. The systematic support of greed is a crime against humanity. It always has been, but we have been too lax in supporting and encouraging it—the wolves of Wall Street, the companies selling Purell for $80 a bottle, the NRA refusing sensible policy to make weapons-dealers rich. This hurts even those who think they “win.” (see 4 above)
7. Now is the time to turn the lessons of crisis to the cultivation of solutions.This starts in our own minds and hearts and extends to positive social structures and protective laws. (see 2 above— love as the positive virus spreading everywhere).
That’s my list. And yours?