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Living Lightly column

Love in the time of coronavirus

By Kirsten Coates

In times like these we all need inspiration.

Unlike climate change, where we are barely noticing all the various canaries in their cages and frogs in their boiling water dying slow but sure deaths, COVID 19 has slapped us in the face.

Short of joining an Apocalyptic book group (yes, this is a real thing), I find that literature has always provided many of the answers to life’s big questions and offered reminders on how to be our best selves when the going gets tough.

Good books are written by really clever thinkers and writers who write the things we think but don’t have the words to say.

Here are a few books I think of in hard times that not only provide some good healthy escapism but also words of encouragement.

In trying to understand the coronavirus (and life in general) one might find solace, in War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy) that, “The only thing that we know is that we know nothing”. The book goes on to tell us in times of trouble to “seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly.”

A good beginning when most conversations these days inevitably get back to stories of humans behaving badly in supermarket aisles.

And, after all, as Jane Austen said, “selfishness must always be forgiven you know, because there is no hope of a cure.”

My favourite quote at the moment is by F.Scott Fitzgerald who was quarantined in 1920 during the outbreak of the Spanish Flu when he wrote, ”And yet, amongst the cracked cloudline of an evening’s cast, I focus on a single strain of light, calling me forth to believe in a better morrow”.

So how, I wonder, do we keep our perspective on the good things in life when we are surrounded by so much bad news, fear, loss of control and selfishness?

As Gandalf said to Frodo, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us”, which I take to mean plant that garden, paint that picture, write that song and sing it out loud, take a stroll with the one you love (only one person, mind you!) and enjoy the beautiful view and, in between all that, read great books!