The Space Between Us

Into roughly the 8th week(??) of isolation (time has become incredibly fluid for me), and as the days pass, I think increasingly about what will be in the “time after.” Everyone is in such a rush to “get back to normal,” to reopen businesses and relax some of the protocols that have kept many of us safe and healthy – if not employed. I do absolutely sympathize with those who want to re-open their businesses, who are desperate to earn an income to support themselves and their families. It’s at least as frightening to have the economic rug pulled suddenly out from under you as it is to come face to face with a pandemic. This is about survival, on so many levels.


BUT. I am going to articulate  massively unpopular opinion.

I DO NOT WANT to get back to “normal life.” Not soon, and if I am honest, not ever.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about how ‘normal life’ breaks people and communities through its enactment of privilege, how many people are silenced in so many ways, how at its root this is all about the trade of labour and creativity to enrich the few on the backs of many – and at the expense of the environment and all other beings. How I desperately, urgently, passionately want it all to CHANGE for the better on the other side of this. How afraid I am that it won’t. And how I feel increasingly paralyzed by the prospect of a ‘return to before.’


This is true for me in relation to the broader culture in which I live, and for the sector in which I work. This is a moment in which we could – and should – recognize that not only will the ‘new normal’ be with us for a long time (2 metres for the win!), but the ‘old normal’ is something that we should neither wish for nor return to. It also may be moot – because the ‘old normal’ may not exist for much longer, regardless of what some (or most) people desire.

“Normal” or “business as usual” has been exposed with utter clarity by the pandemic:  the glaring gaps in care, the enormous disparities that are actively cultivated and maintained by the systems in which we live and work. How many people have no choice but to risk their health and that of their loved ones & work in this time, in order to survive; how the most vulnerable of us have even fewer options to remain safe and healthy.

How many of us have seen our entire sector shut down, cancelled, income evaporated, in already tenuous livelihoods.

So this is a point in which we can CHOOSE what kind of world we want to live in moving forward. And we need to ask these questions of ourselves – NOW – while we have the time and opportunity to do so.


What are you prepared to do to create a more equitable culture and community as we come out of this? How can we work together to make that happen?

What aspects of ‘normal life’ are you happy to see gone?

I leave you with these questions – and encourage your replies … and also with an excellent essay by Lou Sheppard; they articulate far more eloquently than I some of the things that have been worrying me about what comes next.

Take Care of Each Other.

4 thoughts on “The Space Between Us

    • Agreed, Graeme! A way of integrating compassion and patience into economics and politics. It is well beyond time that we no longer leave people behind, in any way.

  1. Beautiful and resonant, Sydney. I feel much the same. I want a new normal, one where we walk more, and live more as if this is where we are. I am particularly guilty of pining for other times, other places – for a more temperate climate, for a more bucolic ‘village’ life, but without the constricted, socially-conservative, xenophobic connotations of ‘village’ – I want a normal of living in a community of artisans in all fields of endeavour. I want a normal where we all sing, play instruments, dance, make arts without shame and without the expectation that it is only valid to do so in order to feed some competitive industry; but concommitantly, where one can choose to be a professional arts practitioner and serve the community as a specialist, much as a professional baker would do so.
    As a writer, I’d love a new normal where people expect to learn and share stories of here, of us, of who we are, in ways more meaningful than just ‘gossip.’ Not everyone wants to be a writer (or a baker, or a singer) but everyone knows when writing, or baking, or singing, has specificity, belongs to a place and people. That’s the normal I want to inhabit. Where we make our culture, and make it with excellence and pride, rooted in the histories of this land, not hung up on not being Europe, not hung up on being stuck with amnesiac historical policies, unabashedly full of life in all its rambunctious untidiness. I want architechture built for this climate.
    I want relationships with all our fellow travelers to be paramount to how we govern ourselves. I want high-speed maglev trains and massive greenways. Water taxis and seasonal fishing yards. Truly accessible public spaces and public art that prioritizes coherent, reverent and celebratory depictions of who we are, in a web of living relationships right here, right now; and I want a normal that dreams of good things for our children, grandchildren and seven generations more to come.
    Thanks for firing me up, friend!

    • As always, you say it all with more eloquence than I could ever muster. YES to all this, and more. Specificity, simplicity, presence. In all things.

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