Roar writer Alex Blank on the coronavirus lockdown, and staying grounded through the ordeal.
The word ground had originally meant ‘bottom, foundation.’ Earth is an element that is the easiest to grasp and contain, one we need as a basis for every other aspect of our lives. The ground is, essentially, a starting point: no expectations, no past’s burden to put us off balance, and enough space to dream deeply. On the other hand, ‘bottom’ can be seen as the lowest point, where it cannot get any worse. Granted, it can only go up from there, so it could still be a hopeful outlook.
Isn’t staying grounded what we’re expected to do now, in our collective lockdown? On the one hand, we’ve all gone down to level zero, the ground floor, forced to build a foundation for a new reality. None of us knows how to live in the current climate, and we all need to learn. We will all fail and stumble, but we need to understand our position. which turns out to be the very bottom. And that’s fine.
Another meaning of ‘grounded’ is the one plenty of us know from growing up, the word being used by parents to punish us. ‘You’re grounded’ means that you have to lock yourself up in your room and think about what you’ve done. When you come out, you will be humbler and wiser, and you will not repeat your mistake.
We might think of the quarantine as a similar type of punishment. Whether we don’t believe in any other scenario beyond the fact that the virus came to us from bats, and is most likely only a vague fraction of the unintelligible chaos of the universe, or if we choose to believe it means something more—we are grounded. By “mother” nature, by God, or by the fact that we’ve been overstaying our welcome on this earth. Those of us who are non-essential workers have to lock ourselves in our rooms, with enough time and space to think about what we’d been doing up to this point. We could still come out humbler and wiser out of it.
The third definition of the term to consider, one that we certainly need, is simply: keeping one’s feet on the ground. Realistic, well-balanced. Among the daily death tolls we encounter, and the fake news we cannot differentiate from real ones, we need to remember that, no matter what is happening, we must keep our feet on the ground and remember that they will stay where they are.
Being in tune with nature is not always a good thing, and now is the time to think about the best way for us to connect to it. We can try to force ourselves to be productive and burn out, or we can delve into lethargy and hopelessness, and fade away with the wind. We can’t always avoid the volatile waves of information—but the least we can do is to be like a rock amidst the raging waters.