We pushed the stuffed furniture back against the walls, positioned the iPad on a plant stand in front of us, instructed the dog to ‘just watch’, (well, OK, a downward dog is allowed) and settled ourselves for our first, virtual yoga class. A little hesitantly at first, our ‘classmates’, usually arrayed in a loose circle of chairs in the ‘Social Room’ — ain’t that a loaded term nowadays — appeared on screen. Each ‘popped in’ as the array of little squares containing one or perhaps two of us grew and was overlaid on the ‘main screen’ of our instructor. Her own shoulders visibly lowered in relief as her aging charges all navigated the technology of the changing landscape. A subtitle for our chair yoga class floated through my mind, unexpressed: Zooming with the Zoomers.
This has been a very virtual week — as I expect it has been for a great many of us. Community and governmental suggestions morphed and escalated through guidelines to mandated behaviour as the realities of, the necessity for social distancing sank in. Just short of ‘violations’ being tagged and fined — for now.
Even if one was committed to ‘going off grid’, the constant barrage of updates, notices, posters, emails, broadcasts, news from all platforms pretty much ensures that we stay ‘in the loop’. It’s been hard to find silver linings in the darkness and relentlessness of these spreading awarenesses. One candidate however, born of need in the present but quite possibly containing the seeds of future practice, is the astoundingly abrupt but near seamless shift to a virtual world.
Two of the musicians in the family, both with passions and careers revolving around their director’s rolls at their respective churches, in a matter of days have launched projects built around bringing music to the people — if the people can’t come to the music. Choristers are diligently rehearsing the parts, compliantly socially distanced at home. The aggregate will be blended and synched; ultimately ‘aired’ as a virtual choir, accessible to an audience, a ‘congregation’ numbering not in the 10’s or 100’s — but 1000’s, and more. (If you haven’t had the pleasure, have a look and listen at the potential that lies therein:
Having moved communities recently, my wife had ‘left behind’ two much valued music teachers, friends as much as pedagogues. One had embraced the digital lesson; the other had demurred. Now, yielding to the ‘mother’ (of invention), he’s not only relented, but welcomed the shift to a platform that has brought with it the unanticipated perks of attentionally-challenged students now staying focused, his piano bench no longer adorned with discarded gum on its underside, and a helicoptering parent unable to swoop low as wee Johnny’s lower lip starts to quiver.
Closer to home (oops, sounds like a double, no, triple entendre), with our change of cities, I too had moved away from my ‘client base’. NQRTR (not quite ready to retire), I had dabbled with on-line appointments. However, I remained unconvinced: without my physical presence, how could therapy be more than a faded watermark of the ‘real deal’. Again, mamma came a callin’ — with more invention.
The landscape was now one of on-line or take down the shingle. I opted to watch a preparatory webinar (supplanting the scheduled ‘in person’ workshop — go figure!). Amongst all the usual pointers around lighting, not being undone by the half-empty wine bottles on the table and the four-year old walking thru’ with his bowl of Cap’n Crunch, and technology failure, there were some stats: on-line not only is as effective as in-person, but offers benefits on both sides of the virtual desk: ease of access and increased comfort levels for the client, holding appointments in my button down Oxford cloth shirt, sport coat. . . and sweat shorts (what’s under the desk is my business!). I’m in!
Gradually the subtext was sinking in. If necessity is the mother of invention, then crisis is the sib of creative solution. Wherever this interlude (and we must hope that that’s what it is) may take us, COVID-19 has spawned some very sustainable directions and promising practices for the future. The virtual world is not just an amusing entertainment accessible by donning a weird pair of goggles, a poor sister to ‘the real deal’, a stopgap until things ‘get back to normal’. As I’m so fond of (and, I expect reviled for) saying to folks ‘adjusting’ to a situation that we both know will not resolve, this is the new normal. We can tolerate it, resist it, deny it, wait it out. Or we can manage it, engage it, and accept the (very real) teaching points it offers. Our choice — at a time when it feels like we have none. Oh yeah, and let’s keep washing our hands for two full verses of Happy Birthday!
And one more: