Infections with Covid-19 are on the rise again, and the cultural scene and all of those involved in it are once again suffering the consequences: Events are being cancelled, small theatres are closing down, and musical instruments remain trapped in their cases. The time seems right to catch up with an old friend and provide some consolation.

Dear Culture

I hope this message finds you in good spirits, despite the circumstances. I know that times have been though, and as it looks right now, there is still no end in sight.

I guess you have heard the news. The crisis is still ongoing and every evening the outlook is just as grim as the day before. Slowly, but surely, we will have to seclude ourselves again. The shutdowns are coming, and in other places they have already started.

I have seen some of your children recently. The situation has clearly taken a toll on them as well, even though some are more affected than others, of course. Gastronomy, for instance, seems to be handling this whole ordeal somewhat well. He has his fair share of problems, of course, but he seemed optimistic when I spoke with him. Performing Arts on the other hand is clearly fed up with everything. She seemed agitated, and I really cannot blame her to be honest. And Nightlife, oh boy… I am worried about them. Worried in the sense that I think it would be best to check up on them regularly, they seemed very lonely and hopeless.

A childhood friend

How are you coping with everything, Culture? You know how much I hate to see you suffer. Your pain withers all our hearts away, and we are all worse off in the end. It devastates me that I cannot help you more, and I know that so many others feel just the same. However, while there are so many – too many – things I cannot do, I can be there for you and tell you just how much you really mean to me.

All of this time at home got me thinking, you know? Memories started flickering before my eyes, and before I knew it, I started going back again and again, like running a mental finger through a flick book of the past. Most of my best memories involve you, in some way or another, and no wonder: You truly are a jack-of-all-trades. I have never met anyone who did not find at least some part of you deeply fascinating.

My earliest memory of you is still clear as day to me. I was very young, maybe three or four years old, and I remember my mother reading stories to me. All sorts of stories, from all around the world. All of them were magical to me, they sucked me into a thousand different worlds and introduced me to the most interesting assortment of characters you could ever imagine: From the cunning cat of a bashful merchant to cowardly knights teaming up with clumsy witches, dastardly ducks scheming their way to the top of a suspiciously peaceful lakeside to flawed but clever teens, banding together to solve the mystery of a vanishing ship.

A choice

Through these stories I learned to love a world which I was still too young to even begin to grasp the complexity of. As I grew older, you not only never left my side, but you introduced me to your children while continuing to teach me the beauty of nuance, the importance of perspective, and the power of compassion. Thanks to you I learned to share the laughter and accept the tears, see through the anger and befriend my fears.

During these trying times, we simply cannot allow ourselves to lose our connection to you. Now more than ever, it is up to each and every one of us to keep your light alive. After all, your health determines how we choose to tackle the many, many issues of our modern world. And indeed, it does seem like we have reached a tipping point – A moment, which requires all of us to decide

  • Whether we choose to ground our thoughts in reason and scientifically proven facts, or plunge our minds into darkness and succumb to lies and conspiracy theories,

  • Whether we choose to follow compassion and think of each other as equals, or lock our hearts up in the prison of fear and allow ourselves to be blinded by hate, 

  • Whether we choose to be curious and seek knowledge instead of validation, or cling to rusty beliefs and see the world and ourselves as limited and narrow,

  • Whether we choose to be hopeful and see possibilities and potential, or decay in cynicism and focus only on the faults,

  • Whether we choose to think beyond ourselves and allow others to live their own version of the life we all cherish, or burn all our bridges and suffer in solitude.

Yes, times are tough, and for some even more than for others, but I think we can all agree that we are all affected in some way or another. We all had and have to make sacrifices; we all have to continue to adapt. You know that I have always been an optimist, and by now I am completely used to the pitiful smile some people give me when I talk like this. However, the truth is: I remain hopeful, Culture.

A responsibility

With events being cancelled, and theatres, cinemas and the like closing their doors yet again, it is our responsibility to stay connected with you. Maybe by reading (and perhaps supporting our local bookshop by ordering from them and not a multinational company from beyond the pond), listening to some music (and maybe dare to go beyond what is on the radio and check out some smaller artists), or even just by (video)calling a relative or friend because that is culture too: Staying connected, reaching out, and caring about each other.

Whatever challenges await, I believe that we can overcome them. We just need to acknowledge the fact that we do have a say in this: We can keep each other safe, if we choose to do so, we can support the people working in the healthcare sector, if we choose to do so, and we can also keep our culture alive, despite the restrictions – if we choose to do so.

As for me, I am glad I decided to check up on you, Culture. Thinking about you makes me realise a lot about myself too. Keep your spirits up and rest assured that we will get through this time, together.

Best

-  A human