Among the many jokes and platitudes going around the Internet about the coronavirus, one of my favorites is the picture of Sir Isaac Newton with the story of his time during the plague. It says, “After an outbreak of Bubonic Plague, the University of Cambridge closed its doors for 2 YEARS. Isaac Newton had completed his degree, but his academic career was put on hold. So, he retired to a small farmhouse where he developed calculus, optics, and gravitational theory. Some of Newton’s most profound work came from his own quiet period. In the same way … NOW is your opportunity.”
Another favorite is the one that says, “This is Emily. Emily stays inside. She reads. She writes poetry. She writes letters. She bakes. She does a bit of bird watching. Then she writes some more. Emily is safe from COVID-19. Be like Emily
There is quite a tradition of books being written during isolation, especially while the author is in jail.
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
Miguel de Cervantes had found work as a purchasing agent for the Spanish Armada after an adventurous life that included five years as a slave on the Barbary Coast. Unfortunately, authorities detected financial irregularities in his accounts and he was imprisoned. However, after tthe first part of Don Quixote was published in 1605, it proved so popular that Cervantes never suffered from money troubles again.
Mein Kampf by Adolph Hitler
On November 8, 1923, Adolph Hitler and 2,000 Nazis marched through the streets of Munich to take over a political meeting being held at a beer hall there. Hitler was charged with treason for his role in this abortive revolt and sent to Landsberg Prison in Bavaria. He used his incarceration to write an autobiography entitled “Mein Kampf.”
Conversations with Myself by Nelson Mandela
Mandela was arrested in 1962 and convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the government. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and spent 27 years in prison. During this time, he wrote his autobiography, Conversations With Myself. In 1990, amidst civil strife and increasing international pressure on his behalf, Mandela was finally released.
Readers are generally happy to have more time for reading, although some of us dearly miss our book club meetings. Some clubs are meeting via Zoom the way business people and educators are doing.
Poets, writers, artists, musicians, and other creative persons may well find it easy to throw themselves into their art when they have extra time on their hands; others may have hobbies to engage in. One Observer staffer brags that her garden is in the best shape ever because of the extra time she’s put into it.
While many people are signing on to meal delivery services, others are using their time to experiment with home cooking, seeking out and experimenting with new recipes. There’s at least one chain letter going around asking people to share a simple recipe and forward the request to eight other people.
Many of us have taken photographs throughout our lives and tossed them casually into a drawer or let them reside willy-nilly on a computer. They’ll be sorted and organized when there’s more time. Well, why not now?
Too many of us pass the time by sinking into the couch to watch TV while indulging in a snack. Get up! Take a walk! Call one of those people you don’t get to see very often. Or at least sit with a jigsaw puzzle or board game.
For those who are not into the arts or hobbies, what’s left is cleaning and organizing chores. Everyone has an attic or cellar or drawers or closet that needs cleaning out. And one cleaning chore often leads to another which will keep you busy for another day.