The Sunday Edition·Personal Essay

A COVID-19 confinement chronicle: week 10 — Michael's essay

"Nostalgia for the locked down and homebound is a bit like Novocaine; a little bit eases the pain of isolation, too much taken too often freezes every sensation and leaves us stuck in the distant past. We all fall victim to it. Occasionally. Especially when in voluntary isolation."

'I succumb to the siren call of nostalgia by listening to classic radio broadcasts of baseball games'

Twilite Drive-In Theatre in Wolseley, Sask., which first opened in 1954, kicked off its 66th year of operation on May 16, albeit with a few changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)
Listen3:53

At the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the commentariat was worried about panic. Would fearful Canadians react in terror to the viral threat? Would our children be permanently damaged by forced isolation from their schools and without their friends? Experts went on about widespread damage to mental health.

So far none of that has happened. And there is a good biological reason for that, according to Dutch historian Rutger Bregman in his startling new book called Humankind. His argument is that humans have a timeless ability to adapt. One of his examples is the 1940 German bombing of London known as The Blitz.

Despite warnings from military experts and Winston Churchill that Londoners would scream in panic and flee the city, it didn't happen. Between bombings, children played football in the bombed streets and schoolyards. Pubs and shops stayed open. People went to the theatre and picnicked in Hyde Park. In fact, the British were made stronger by the wartime hardship, which I argue will happen with Canadians when this is over.

Intention and introspection. We made elaborate plans at the beginning. To exploit pandemic time by looking deep into our psyches and finding new growth and renewal. We were filled with passionate resolve.

Sure thing. But I'm more with Rick Mercer on this point, when he was asked by Tom Power recently on q what confinement told him about himself.

"What I've learned about myself is that there is no amount of time that can pass, there is no break that can happen. I just will never clean up the basement."

Nostalgia for the locked down and homebound is a bit like Novocaine; a little bit eases the pain of isolation, too much taken too often freezes every sensation and leaves us stuck in the distant past. We all fall victim to it. Occasionally. Especially when in voluntary isolation. 

It can be an overpowering sensation.

For example, last Sunday, to honour the legacy of Little Richard, we played some of his songs.

We received quite a lot of mail, much of it bathed in nostalgia for the '50s and early '60s. Some listeners said they actually got up and danced to the music. A sequestered sock hop in the kitchen. The memories came flooding back.

At the regular virtual breakfast meeting of some close friends this week, people got talking about horse racing and drive-in movies. In fact, drive-in movies are back in vogue since regular theatres are closed. And the hope is that thoroughbred racing will make a comeback. Just like in the time of Secretariat and Northern Dancer.

I succumb to the siren call of nostalgia by listening to classic radio broadcasts of baseball games.

The trouble with an overdose of nostalgia is twofold: one, things were never really as rosy as we think and two, there is a clear and present danger of falling victim to the dreaded old fartism syndrome. So be careful out there.

By the way, this year is the 100th anniversary of the invention of radio. How's that for nostalgia?

Click 'listen' above to hear the full essay.

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