Opinion

News from COVID-corner: look on the bright side

By John Lewis

It's been a slow week here in COVID-corner watching trees drip and faces shrink into tiny horizontal windows.

You have to fill your time with something.

And people have been filling their time with all sorts of strange and wonderful things — like a Garden of Delights.

I spoke to a man this week who has been walking the unnoticed corners of Shepparton every day since March.

He takes pictures of trees, birds, insects and flowers with his camera phone and then labels them on his computer when he gets home. He said he'd make a book out of them one day.

I'd buy the book as a record of how beautiful life actually was during COVID-19.

Just a few steps away from our obsessive gaze into the mirror and the echo chamber of the human world, the real stuff of life continued.

This man's wonderful photos revealed to me how, left alone to itself, life just carries on ticking like a golden clock — disinterested and relentless.

Then there was my grandson's missing tooth.

The magical internet revealed to me this week a little gap-toothed boy smiling through a virtual window.

His little face flickered with joy and pride and nervousness at the mystery of it all.

This was a sign the clock was ticking, and life had moved it forward another notch and he was happy in the face of it. And so was I.

And so the COVID-19 clock ticks on.

There are people who knit beanies for dogs, or make face masks showing shark's teeth, or dig up miso eggplant recipes from remote corners of the internet to liven up their tea time.

Others plunder the dark web looking for evidence that we really are living through a scamdemic controlled by a cabal of frill-necked reptiles from Andromeda who believe that 5G will cook us from the inside so we become snacks for alien deep space journeys.

I have absolutely no evidence of this, but it doesn't matter. We live in the age of post-truth.

Feelings rule the intellect and belief trumps science every time.

But let's not go down the misery wormhole.

This week my spirits were lifted by evidence that things will be okay, and we will come through this awful time.

Out of social media's wild sea of anger and blame surfaced an uplifting story about a 500-year-old piece of silliness.

It's probably an old internet story, but it cheered me up.

When Dutch medieval artist Hieronymus Bosch wanted to tell people to behave themselves, he painted visions of what would happen if they didn't.

Tucked away in the corner of his masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights, among the images of torture and pain, is a naked person lying flat on the ground being crushed by a giant harp.

Spread across the cheeks of their pert little bum are two pages of notated music. Someone is pointing to it while a choir of sinners and devils belts out the harmonies.

More than 500 years later, Oklahoma Christian University student Amelia Hamrick has written out the notes, then played and recorded the music.

Not surprisingly it went viral on the internet, helped by the catchy title: The 500-Year-Old Butt Song from Hell.

As you'd expect, the music sounds sad, but also hopeful.

Even among the horror of medieval plagues and God's wrath, at a time when the clock was ticking very loudly, people were being silly and trying to see the bright side of life from the bottom, as it were.

Stay well, and keep singing.