Updated: Apr 28
Amidst the chaos and unknown, COVID-19 has brought solidarity to people from around the world to fight for a single cause. Doctors and nurses taking care of patients, business owners closing down their livelihood, students finishing their studies online, parents having to attend to their children in isolation. The world has quickly changed before our very eyes. Wherever you are, you are assuming some responsibilities for your well-being and the well-being of others.
That is why the Campaign for Human Responsibilities has put together a collection called the Confinement Diaries. Written by global contributors, our intention is to share people's perspectives from all over the world on responsibilities in line with our Declaration for Universal Human Responsibilities’s four pillars: change, choices, capabilities and community, in several different capacities. Each perspective is unique, and together, shows how all individuals, globally and close to home, are contributing to the collective good in doing their part to combat COVID-19.
We welcome you to read, share and contribute in this historic period of time.
A Reemergence of Romanticism
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils…
As I see the daffodils blooming outside my window, I am reminded of these words from the Romantic poet, William Wordsworth’s poem, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud. Despite the fact that much of the world is currently closed for humanity, the natural world remains open for business. While we remain inside, cautious and protective, birds continue to sing and flowers continue to bloom in the parks and beneath the trees.
The first pillar in the Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities is about making conscious choices that not only benefit humanity, but all of Earth’s ecosystems. As we strive to enhance the quality of human life, we should not do so at the expense of Earth’s natural and cultural heritage. As most of the world is on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are various reports of nature making a comeback: from cleaner air in cities, to wildlife making itself more present, I see from my window how much Earth’s ecosystems are reviving in the absence of human activity. My consciousness of the natural world has reawakened. Reflecting upon Wordsworth’s poem, I thought that perhaps, in some odd sense, the COVID-19 pandemic marks a reemergence of Romanticism.
Romanticism was an artistic movement that originated in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, which was sparked by the Age of Enlightenment and the scientific rationalization of nature. During the Industrial Revolution, people believed that nature serves humanity's purpose—whether or not that purpose is sustainable for the long term—and this led to the pollution and grime that Romanticism was born out of.
Artists at the end of the 18th century began to show a devout appreciation for blue skies and the wonders of the natural world, contrasting the mechanical, industrial surroundings of their reality. The Romantic movement was their way of trying to responsibly preserve that which is natural and bring awareness to what industry was quickly changing and destroying. These artists chose to counterbalance the exploitive norms of the Industrial Revolution by contributing to a movement that was characterized by an emphasis on emotion and feeling, as well as the glorification of the natural world.
Fast-forwarding to today, much of humanity is newly adjusting to life under quarantine measures. For many, this is a time marked by uncertainty and even anxiety. People’s access to the outdoors, including parks and trails, is being limited, but now, more than ever, people want to be part of nature. This is a time to step back and recognize what values are most important and how much responsibility we have to preserve those values. How much do we, as fellow human beings working from our homes in solidarity, value the natural environment?
Recently, I have become more appreciative of the nature around me. The streets around my apartment have become much quieter in the past few weeks, and in their stillness I have become more aware of the natural sounds in my immediate environment. I have become attuned to the sheer variety of song birds I can hear at any given moment, chirping outside my window. I have begun to hear the wind rustle the branches of the blooming trees. I have even been able to distinguish the sound of the rushing creek in the park across from my building.
I value these sounds because I am reminded that despite how much pollution people emit on any given day, many species are incredibly resilient. Nature is here for us when we need an escape from our hectic lives, so we need to be there for nature even after this period of social isolation is over. We can be there by being conscious of how we interact with nature and by creating innovations to help protect the air, water, land and wildlife. With pollution minimized, I am reawaked to the small splendors of the natural environment, of squirrels chasing each other up a tree trunk, and of bees buzzing over daffodils. I can enjoy all this simply from my window, or during a short, solitary walk.
Back in the 18th century, reconnecting with nature became the escape for artists in the Romantic period. We can take a page out of William Wordsworth’s book and use this seemingly endless time to reflect on the wondrous ways in which nature impacts humanity, and how we can enjoy nature’s benefits even from home.
...For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
Kethelyn Papp | April 16, 2020
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