As Victoria faces the anguish of new lockdowns and our borders closing, anxiety about the pandemic has increased.

The way we see our world, the way we navigate our lives, relationships and work has changed. Not so long ago, we lived our lives with much to look forward to – perhaps an upcoming event, a large gathering of friends or colleagues or an international holiday. Living with hope for the future gave us a simple way to handle our everyday lives.

Facing a war-like economic and social environment, we have looked to previous generations who have withstood years of rations, recession, death and isolation. A philosophic approach that is gaining interest is stoicism.

Stoicism is a way of life, an active philosophy where we acknowledge that we don’t have control over all, or even much, of what happens. Stoicism also emphasises that worrying about things outside of our control is unproductive, or even irrational to a person who wants to attain contentment. Where many people worry endlessly about things out of their control, the Stoics think their energy is better spent thinking of creative solutions to problems, rather than the issues themselves.

One such creative thinker is acclaimed writer Margaret Atwood who was interviewed by Time magazine as part of the 20 April 2020 edition: Finding Hope-The TIME 100 community on navigating our new reality.

She suggests that we think of all the things we hope for and focus on what we can do now to ensure the future of those things.

She asks, what made your life worth living apart from your health, friends and family? Atwood’s list included a range of ideas that not only supports things she enjoys but also supports businesses who need our money and support more than ever. Here are her ideas:

  • Favourite restaurants and cafés. Don’t assume your favourite happy places will always be there so we can visit whenever we feel like it. To help them: book in where allowed, order takeout and buy gift certificates.
  • Visit or order from your local bookstore. Geelong is currently open for business, so visit the store (minding social distancing) or order online. People are still having birthdays so keep buying gifts.
  • Our trusted newspapers and magazines. As the author of the Handmaid’s Tale, it’s not a surprise that Atwood is a fervent supporter of our democratic system of government. She believes that this crisis provides an opportunity for “an authoritarian regime to toss civil liberties, democratic freedoms and human rights out the window. Part of this tossing is the always popular move toward a totalitarian shutdown of information and debate. It’s vital to keep the lines of communication both open and independent.” So, please subscribe to your local paper, donate to your community radio station. “Don’t let a virus cut out our tongues.”
  • Support the Arts. “Art is how we express our humanity, in all of its dimensions. Through art, we descend to the depths of our human nature, rise to the heights and everything in between. Theatre, music, dance, festivals, galleries—all have had to cancel shows, all are hurting. Donations, gift certificates, ticketed online events. Without an audience there is, eventually, no art. You can be that audience,” Atwood says.

Finally, keep hope. This pandemic may give us all a chance to decide to live differently, live lighter on the earth. This approach may help in the largest way possible – nurturing and being kind to the environment – which will give the greatest hope of all to our future generations.

Jennifer Cromarty
Chief Executive Officer
Committee for Geelong