Recommendations for quarantine

Well, art has been cancelled. At least, public community art has been. For those of us who’ve always preferred the comfort of the couch, things are not looking so grim as they could.

This gives us time to reflect, to learn and to figure out good ways to help ourselves and each other.

Marcus Aurelius seems a good place to start. He was Emperor of Rome from 161-180 A.D. and a leading figure in the philosophical school of stoicism. His meditations promote accepting the world for what it is and consciously identifying what one can control and what one cannot.

This led to such quotable gems as, “You have power over your mind, not outside events; realize this, and you will find strength,” and, “The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.”

To oversimplify an entire school of thought, Aurelius taught that much of life is full of uncertainty, and there is no sense in worrying about the whims of fate and fortune. One should only concern oneself with what one can control.

Granted, that philosophy perhaps takes on a different meaning when one considers that fact that all Marcus Aurelius controlled was the entire Roman Empire at the height of its power, but the sentiment is widely applicable.

No one can control the virus. It is out there. It will have to run its course and in doing so it will infect and, consequently, kill a lot of people.

What we each, individually, can control is our attitude. We decide whether or not we panic. We decide whether or not we disregard the advice of medical professionals. We decide whether or not to self-isolate.

These times will likely prove difficult and, as Springfield Chief of Police Clancy Wiggum of “The Simpsons” fame once astutely observed, “This is going to get worse before it gets better.”

Acknowledging that fact and taking ownership over how we approach it will make us all stronger and, in the long run, minimize the power of the virus. Anyway, there’s a kernel of hope in Wiggum’s assertion. Things are going to get better. They’re just going to get worse, first.

In the meantime, we must choose what to do with the time that is given to us, how to act, how to think, and how to help each other. For those of us who’ve chosen isolation for the time being, art is the greatest weapon in our arsenal to help us get through difficult times, not just as escapism, but as vessels for valuable lessons as well. Each week, if the plan holds, I’ll be providing some recommendations for what to do under quarantine.

Reading: “A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles

A good book has something to say by the time you get to the end. A truly great book as something to say on every page. That’s the case with “A Gentleman in Moscow,” a novel about a Russian aristocrat who avoids death during the Revolution only to be sentenced never to leave the hotel in which he currently resides.

For those seeking inventive ways to keep spirits high while unable to leave home, “A Gentleman in Moscow” provides countless suggestions in the form of its unflappable and endlessly lovable hero.

“A Gentleman in Moscow” is available as an eBook through The Community Library.

Viewing: “Hunt for the Wilderpeople”

I generally try not to recommend movies to individual people until I get an idea for their taste. I hate when people say to me, “Oh, you’re going to love this,” not actually knowing what I like in a film.

That said, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” is one of my universal recommendations. This charming comedy from New Zealand follows a troubled boy and his foster father who accidentally spark a nationwide manhunt when they go out for a wander and social services suspects kidnapping.

Taika Waititi’s screenplay is one of the best written this century. It runs the emotional gambit and is guaranteed to leave even the most cynical viewer in a great mood.

Plus, you can watch it for free on Kanopy, which is accessible with a Community Library card (also free and open to anyone).

Listening: “Night Moves” by Bob Seger

Around the Mountain Express office, we have a saying: “Work is hard, parking is limited, and there are only 10,000 red pandas left in the wild, but you need to focus on what’s most important in life: ‘Night Moves.’ Bob Seger’s ‘Night Moves.’”

There are very few universal recommendations out there and music is especially tricky. Everyone has a unique sense of taste when it comes to music, but I really can’t imagine being in a bad mood while “Night Moves” is playing.

For the Kids: “Winnie-the-Pooh” by A.A. Milne

Roger Ebert once described the Hundred Acre Wood as “nightmare proof” and he was dead-on in doing so. This is a place where nothing can go wrong. There is no safer, more pleasant place for children in fiction or reality than the Hundred Acre Wood.

For those with children who may be struggling with current events, there’s no better literary cure-all than the adventures of this Silly Old Bear.

Copies are presently circulating from The Community Library, but since it was published in 1926, full text is also available online.

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