Love in the Time of Corona

We can do so much more than "make the best of it" in these difficult times.

Posted Aug 28, 2020

I was looking through the Weekend Arts section of the New York Times and saw a recommendation for a two-hour show streaming over the weekend called “Love in the Time of Corona.”

“That’s my title!” I said out loud to no one but myself. “How cool!” You see, “Love in the Time of Corona” came to me more than a month ago as a title for my next blog post. Only I hadn’t written it yet. Seeing that someone else was using the title inspired me to finally write the post.

The “Love...” miniseries that’s streaming follows people in four households in “various states of love and marriage” who apparently “watch people on screen talk about isolation” (NY Times, August 21, 2020). The “Love...” blogpost I am writing follows hundreds of people on four continents in varying states of quarantine and isolation who create connections with strangers.

My blog post speaks not so much of love for an other as it does of love for others; not love as romantically possessive, but love as humanizingly expansive. It speaks of love not as a state of mind or heart, but love as the activity of connecting with others in creating ways of loving.

Creating ways of loving is what the Michigan Warrior Clowns do, US veterans with PTSD who connect with other vets in Veterans Administration hospitals as a platoon of clowns. It’s what 100+ performers and improvisers do, having formed the Global Play Brigade to offer free virtual play sessions to anyone from any place on earth with an internet connection or WhatsApp (watch their stunning “Ode to Front Line Workers.”)

“Clowning Around with PTSD” and “Playing Through the Pandemic—and Beyond” were two of sixteen sessions of the virtual community-building festival/conference, Performing the World Happening(s), held this July. 

Lois Holzman
Source: Lois Holzman

“Love in the Time of Corona” doesn’t mean “making the best of it.” It means being creative with virtual space, not bemoaning the lack of physical contact we all miss. The organizers and participants in Performing the World Happening(s) and many other interactive, participatory activities being offered online, are playing with all that virtual platforms have to offer and discovering their powerful potential to create connection, joy, play, laughter, tears, intimacy, inspiration, and hope.

In the “Performing Our Mental Health” session, Mana Mukaiyachi from Japan told the story of Bethel House, a community for people with schizophrenia (and other diagnoses) in the village of Urakawa in Hokkaido Japan, where she grew up. She’s a dancer and musical actress now and her telling was in dance, images, and stories. She shared how the community works and how it was founded by her father. She also showed how members of Bethel House give names and characters to their illness and symptoms.

Mana was paired in the session with Steven Licardi, a social worker and spoken word artist from the US. He shared, through spoken word and images, his journey from a kid who had multiple diagnoses, including Asperger’s, to his research into the sordid history of psychiatric diagnosis and drug treatment, to his current work as a social worker. He built on Mana’s telling of the Bethel House members’ characters, dividing the 80 or so participants into Zoom breakout rooms. He invited everyone to name a part of themselves they didn’t like and talk together about how they might be kind to, and even come to love, that part of themselves that gave them so much distress.

“Using Magic to Create a Just World” showcased Magicians Without Borders. Teen magicians and their teachers from Colombia, Costa Rica, and El Salvador spoke of their lives of poverty and how magic transformed them. Each demonstrated their favorite (amazing!) magic tricks and, at the end, taught participants a magic trick—done in unison by nearly 100 people.

These examples are just a sampling of what can be done virtually. They happened by necessity because of the pandemic. And they revealed how necessary activities of this kind are. And how wanting of connection and love people are. And how powerful people are in creating that.

There was ample time for participants to comment and ask questions by speaking and writing in the Zoom chat function. And comment they did! Sessions had 70 to 150 participants and 300 to 500 chat messages. People wrote hello to each other, where they were from, and what they were enthusiastic about as the session went on; they asked questions; they congratulated the speakers and performers. And they spoke from the heart. From “Clowning Around ...” came “Your hearts open our hearts;” “Thank you for your gifts of love and healing and community.” From “Performing Our Mental Health” came “You are speaking for US;” “Finding joy in the midst of chaos.” From “Using Magic ...” came “You are a nuclear happiness generator;” “We love your pride—we feel your love;” and "Thank you for bringing us to Colombia.”

And what of the experience of playing together with so many strangers from so many countries? Humanizing. Expansive. Joyful.

“I was enchanted, delighted and so moved. It was a beautiful human experience. I enjoyed seeing the expressions on people's faces and how moved we all were, together, from all over the world. Almost 100 of us! Amazing.”

“It was so important and meaningful for me participate because in the whole world people are in fear, and isolated. It was awesome that people were engaged in play and felt loved.”

“Just being present almost seemed enough. I feel that being with people from all around the globe was healing for me.”

“While still absolutely acknowledging the pandemic and its effect on people, we had permission to play and cavort and move and be silly. And reach out to each other across the time zones and continents and grief and languages. It was quite moving.”

Well, now I’ve written my blog post. And I’ve discovered what the words in that title, “Love in the Time of Corona,” mean to hundreds of people, including me. They mean connecting with others by creating love.

A longer version of this post appeared on loisholzman.org