Working in an historic home, one gets a daily dose of how simple life used to be, yet continually amazed at how “modern” some of the items we have in the museum were to the 19th century lifestyle. If these folks only knew how much their lives and expectations from society were about to change. “How,” they might ask, “could life get any more convenient…more amazing?!” We demonstrate in every room how much the 19th-century “normal” was changing, which brings many smiles and giggles as to how archaic and old-fashioned these items seem to us today. Historic home museums not only show us what life was like way back when, but how far we have come in our endeavors to improve upon our daily existence.
But have we truly come as far as we believe that we have? We think that so much has been improved upon over the last one-hundred years and yet here we are in a global pandemic. None of our technological advances, as astronomical as they have been, fended off this crisis. Right now, we would all be happy if things to just got back to normal! But…what will the new “normal” be? If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how much our society misses some of the simpler things in life – things that we stopped taking time to enjoy years ago – like borrowing a cup of sugar from the folks next door, visiting grandma and grandpa on Sunday afternoons, going to a ballgame or a movie or out to eat. Going anywhere for pleasure rather than purpose. Children are actually missing school! I don’t know about you, but I’m not that anxious to get back to “normal.” Not knowing your neighbors, or even wanting to know your neighbors, used to be normal. Crowding into elevators and shoving our way past people on the sidewalk used to be normal. School shootings were becoming normal – never acceptable but, sadly, normal. I am just not anxious to relocate that brand of normalcy.
We have an opportunity to reinvent our societies through this crisis; a way to come out of this with a degree of positivity. The Humanities may never be viewed the same once this is over. An entire population may learn to never again take art, live performances, and museums for granted. We may learn to be kinder, more patient, more tolerant, more helpful from this. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful new normal? Here’s the good news – it’s up to us! As Yule Brenner so famously said, “So let it be written. So let it be done.”