This morning, I waved at the International Space Station as its orbit passed over my hometown. It zoomed by, and I had a moment of realization. The three astronauts onboard are probably the only humans who won’t be directly or indirectly affected by COVID-19, the novel coronavirus attempting to sicken as many human bodies on Earth as possible.
And then I thought, “But what if the people working at NASA all get sick and have to self-isolate? What will happen to the astronauts then? Will they be stuck up there without any contact with the rest of humanity until the virus peters out?”
And THEN, I remembered I had already written this scenario in When We Were Forgotten. Well, sort of. My version involved a crew of three humans getting stuck on an orbiting space station because the rest of civilization was crumbling under the weight of massive climate change and an authoritarian government.
Anyway, my point is: as the world slowly shuts down and plays and sports events get canceled and schools close indefinitely and people lock themselves away with weeks’ worth of toilet paper and Clorox products, I want to give a shout out to the artists and creators who continue to make our lives a little bit better, a little bit brighter, who bring us strength and healing during a difficult moment — or year — in human history.
Artists have always been important to our society, even more so right now. Here’s why:
Without artists, we wouldn’t have the variety of 20 second memes containing snippets of songs or phrases to recite as we wash our hands. And wash our hands. And wash our hands.
Without artists, we wouldn’t have the almost endless number of television series and movies and books and games and videos to fill our non-working hours while we wait for the all clear to return to normal life. Or whatever life will look like after this is over. We may even learn something too, becoming better people for what we learned.
(My family canceled a cruise through the Caribbean due to set sail this Saturday. Because we would prefer to follow the CDC and State Department’s guidelines. Also, we would rather be quarantined at home than in a tiny room on a boat for weeks on end, if it comes to that.)
Some people believe artists don’t do “real work,” that they just sit around in their pajamas making stuff up. While that may be true in some respects, artists’ creations are also fundamental to the human experience. They keep us calm and positive in times of panic. They give us hope in times of fear and doubt. They show us what life could be when we’re not really sure what life is supposed to be.
Artists are our past, our present, and our future. Their creations sustain us through times both joyful and grief-stricken. Their art is at the heart of everything we do and everything we are. They are doing real, vital work and need just as much of our support as we need theirs.
Look, I know you’re scared. I am, too.
As the days pass, full of the unknown, let’s try to remember to:
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Drink water and get plenty of sleep.
Take some time for our favorite self care routines if we can.
Wash our hands. With soap.
Try not to touch our faces.
Social distance as much as possible.
And, if we have the means, toss a coin or three to our fellow artists. Trust me. They’ll thank us for it in more ways than one.
Amanda Cook is a writer and stay at home mom who lives in a southern Indiana woods with her spouse, kids, and one clingy dog. In the Before Times (and sometimes even now), she could/can be found helping out with her kids' school, catching up on her toppling TBR pile, playing games with her friends, hanging out at virtual conventions, crying over period dramas, or sewing yet another cosplay. Her second novel, "When We Were Forgotten," was the winner of the 2018 Bronze Medal for Best Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror E-Book from the Independent Publisher Book (IPPY) Awards. She writes short speculative fiction and poetry that can be found at various markets and here on her blog.