People have been comparing life under lockdown to the movie Groundhog Day.
I think the movie may be relevant to some peoples’ experiences and may actually have lessons for us. But there was one main difference. In the movie, Phil Connors was basically immortal. The only thing he retained as he relived the same day over and over were the memories of the previous iterations of the day and the neuro-muscular adaptations accumulated from activities like throwing cards into a hat and playing the piano. That reveals an inconsistency in the premise of Groundhog Day. Presumably, if Connors had gone to a gym and strength-trained, his body would have “reset” when it was sent back to the morning of Groundhog Day, just like it did when he ate too much or killed himself. The movie has to pretend that learning new skills is purely a matter of mind and has nothing to do with the body.
And that brings us to the basic difference between Groundhog Day and your experience staying at home. Even if one day seems like another, and you have some source of income that lets you stay in your house or apartment, you are still aging. You are not regenerating your former body when your alarm wakes you up in the morning...
Assuming you even set your alarm. Why bother?
This post won’t apply to the many people whose circumstances leave them with an immediate need for income. Despite stimulus, bailouts, and unemployment payments, there are still plenty of people who are not covered by those things. It’s painful to hear others preach that this time during lockdown is an opportunity to “reconnect” and “remember what’s important” when you know of others who aren’t experiencing Groundhog Day but something closer to Run, Lola, Run.
But for those with food and shelter covered for the immediate future, it is worth noting that the loss of the ability to track the days doesn’t mean that time has stopped. You are still aging. You are still developing habits and letting others weaken. You are still changing.
This is true every day and the changes compound as the days accumulate into weeks and the weeks in months. When we have a job to do, we might be more aware of this basic condition of our existence. Hopefully, we are. But locked in this holding pattern that disrupts our normal activities and suspends our goals as we wait for “normal life” again, some may forget that all this is still true. While our job may be “on hold” (we trust) and our children’s schooling may be paused, our lives are still moving toward entropy or progress.
“I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.” (Proverbs 24:30–34 ESV)
As I argue in my book on Proverbs (Amazon, Kindle), there’s no reason to think that this passage in Proverbs is intended only for wine makers or even for just agricultural businessmen. It applies to all work and resources, not just fields. The poverty warned about need not be only financial. The sleep need not be literal unconsciousness; binging on online video could do the same damage (or worse).
If you let yourself drift into nonproductivity—in relation to health, intellectual development, family life, or anything else—there will be results. Worse, because practice makes “perfect,” you’ll become an “expert” at it.
It would be better to consider some projects you’ve wanted to get done and make a plan. (Thinking you’ll just wake up and do them in all your free time is probably a mistake). Set your alarm clock. Make a to-do list. Get things done.
Don’t let your vineyard grow weeds.