This is the new normal. We’re mostly stuck inside. We’re freaking out, refreshing the news, and freaking out some more. We’re trying to cope. It’s unclear—at least to me—how long it will last, or what this will mean in a few months. But, right now, I wanted to offer a small pleasure: this clip from Saturday night’s WWE Smackdown.
the coronavirus emptying the stadiums and turned professional wrestling's high-octane zaniness into a taut and terrifyingly tense Beckett play https://t.co/mev27EWiDR
— Anthony Oliveira (@meakoopa) March 15, 2020
It’s beautiful. The camera holds us in a tight shot with the wrestler when his voice slightly breaks, transforming the macho rant from faux theatrics into something tender; the stadium is silent; “let me in, John,” the burly man whispers to another burly man.
WWE Smackdown cleared out an arena so we can stop the spread of the coronavirus. It’s this wonderful reminder that—despite the deluge of bad news—there is a lot of good happening: People are fundamentally changing their behavior to help protect other people. It’s a kindness. We’re trying to get on with our lives, even embracing how frivolous bits like professional wrestling can give us hope that the new normal can be, well, normal.
By collectively distancing ourselves from one another over the past weeks, the world has stumbled into moments of strange and happenstance beauty. Pictures show cleared-out spaces and empty squares. In the process, our world can look both postapocalyptic and prelapsarian. In the absence of people in these places, there’s a comforting visual acknowledgment we are—as an entire world—making decisions together to love, support, and help. It has been imperfect. But it’s something.
“Completely surreal,” notes the local music reporter in Tennessee, as they show the Grand Ole Opry putting on a show to no audience.
Live from the Grand Ole Opry.
Completely surreal. pic.twitter.com/KGxmaowzQJ
— Matthew Leimkuehler (@mattleimkuehler) March 15, 2020
The only other time the Grand Ole Opry has canceled its ticketed show was after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., the announcer explains. He says they’ll be playing acoustic sets while “practicing recommended social distancing.” Then he continues: “But trust us, we still love each other, and we look forward to hugs and handshakes again real soon.”
Art is also accidental in these times—like one of Pope Francis praying in the Vatican above an empty St. Peter’s Square, capturing a grace of not gathering together on Sunday. Still, the Pope hovers above, blessing the unseen. It is incredible to see so many make the choice to not be there. And oddly powerful to find the Pope, still, seeing the unhuddled masses.
After praying the Angelus from his library in the Vatican’s apostolic palace, #PopeFrancis blessed an empty St. Peter’s square and the city of Rome from his window. The faithful cannot gather in Rome due to measures put in place to contain the #coronavirus. 📷Vatican Media pic.twitter.com/6XyGW7wWto
— National Catholic Register (@NCRegister) March 15, 2020
Alone, one can feel we’re all in this together.