“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater. Some there are among us who sing that the Shadow will draw back, and peace shall come again. Yet I do not believe that the world about us will ever be again as it was of old, or the light of the Sun as it was aforetime.” - J.R. R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring, Book 2, Chapter VI: ‘Lothlorien’
In my rereading of the Lord of the Rings, the book that gives me strength and perseverance like no other text, I feel this was the quote I was meant to read. Written nearly 80 years ago, this quote is more relevant to me today during this virus than at any other time in my life. In the face of the Shadow, an unseen villain, I too - like Haldir in this chapter, and Tolkien by extension - feel that there is no going back. The New Normal is not settled and we won’t know for a long time what that will be like. I try not to consider too hard, but I fear we may not have festivals anymore; or public sports; or attend schools without masks. We may never again put our hands on an acquaintance’s or friend's shoulder in solidarity, or offer free hugs to our neighbors or students. Like the quote says, “the light of the Sun”, the every day society we take for granted, is not to be as it was “before”. I feel we will speak in “befores” for a long time, affecting our perception of television, books and films from the “before” times. When it comes time for “afters”, I think often what that will be like. Will TV change to adapt? Will our favorite office dramas wear masks, as we may have to, for the foreseeable future? Or will shows have to set themselves in a past now lost to us? Will our way of life two months ago become a genre of historical fiction? These are the thoughts I have.
I do not want things to go back to normal. I want things to grow from “normal” and accept the changes we will need to make for our own safety. We cannot protest and complain like children when the safety of our people is at stake. When parents lose jobs, a child can complain about not being able to order pizza delivery; but a child will still not get the pizza. When a teacher says its time to come in from recess, a student can say “please, five more minutes!” but they will not get the extra minutes. It is best to refocus yourself and enjoy the meatloaf prepared at home; to anticipate the math lesson that follows recess each afternoon. There is nothing we can do now except keep on and be ready for what changes may come.