Thursday, March 4th, 2021

O Shopper Columns


Recently, a friend reminded me of something my mom used to say after hearing a disturbing news story or watching a shouting match on an afternoon TV talk show. "Every once in a while, we should shut everything down for a few weeks and people should just stay at home," she'd declare. As impractical and impossible as that seemed, there was wisdom in Mom's idea.

The world seems to spin faster with each passing year. We run from place to place, from one event to the next, in pursuit of things we've been told will bring us success, happiness, and fulfillment. Our attention continually shifts from the people and things immediately before us, to the demands of work and education, to the news and social media, to the next item on our schedule- be it a business meeting, a kid's soccer game, a doctor's appointment, dinner out, church work, or drinks with friends. We tumble into bed at night, and if we're able to unwind enough to actually sleep, we wake up the next morning and resume running. No wonder there's increased talk of Americans experiencing "Monkey Mind"- a Buddhist term for feeling unsettled, agitated, and confused. In that state, we lose touch with our values, with the "why" behind all of our busyness. Sometimes, we need to slam on the brakes, shut up, shut down and re-center ourselves.

Of course, we're not inclined to slam on brakes. Do that, and everything shifts; objects become dangerous projectiles; things break, and we bang our heads on the proverbial windshield.

Now nature herself has stepped in- quietly, invisibly- in the form of a virus, and the unsettled, agitated, confused world that we've created has no choice but to apply the brakes. In the process, stock markets tumble; industries crumble. Highways empty; the roads we were speeding down end in culs-de-sac.

Now nature herself has stepped in- quietly, invisibly-
in the form of a virus, and the unsettled, agitated,
confused world that we've created
has no choice but to apply the brakes.

We are told to hunker down, stay put, work from home if we can- and if we can't work from home, stay there anyway. Avoid crowds. Socially distance ourselves. Without the runaround, without the crowds, career pursuits, cash flow, and, for many, good health- what are we left with?
We're left with the places we call home. We're left with the company of those with whom we live- those whom we love but perhaps take for granted day by day. We're left with ourselves- our thoughts, emotions, memories, aspirations. Most valuable of all, we're left with time to more deeply examine all of these and reevaluate what they really mean in the context of our lives.

Social media will help with the disorientation that's sure to come from social distancing. Perhaps we'll realize that phone calls, Zoom chats, emails, texts and Facebook are poor substitutes for being physically present with friends and loved ones; that sight and sound mean more when there is the immediate potential for touch.

Sudden stops cause things to break. When the broken pieces are swept away, what remains are the essentials, the things of most worth. We realize that they were there all along, but we were too busy, too agitated to see them.

Mom was right: sometimes we need to shut down everything for a while and stay at home.

Rob Lauer is an award-winning, nationally-produced and published playwright with over 35 years of experience in the entertainment industry. His national credits include production work for MGA Films, Time/Warner TV, The Learning Channel and The History Channel. Locally, Rob has been producing, directing and hosting three TV series for PCTV (the City of Portsmouth’s official channel) since 2011.