Lessons from lockdown: On the importance of movement and contact By Claude Martin jr. (Managing Director)

By Claude Martin jr. (Managing Director)

One thing that the recent COVID-19 lockdowns around the world have thrown into relief is the centrality of movement in our lives. The very word “lockdown” is indicative of immobility, forcing our attention to other ways in which we can and do still dynamically engage our bodies with and in the world.

As the managing director of the AO Alliance, my work and responsibilities would take me to sub-Saharan Africa and Asia at least twice a month pre-pandemic. Sometimes, it was for teaching duties. On other occasions, it was for governance and development opportunities. That all stopped on March 9, 2020 and I expect that there will be no international travel until January 2021.

I woke up one morning around that time to the news that the Canadian National Hockey League had suspended its season, Canada was restricting travel from Europe and other countries, and a good friend had succumbed to complications from the novel coronavirus. It would become difficult to visit mom. And it remains difficult, if next to impossible. Canada has extended its quarantine measures for any travelers until end of August 2020.

The lockdowns across the world took various forms form the extreme stay-at-home, don’t come out, to very few restrictions. We are learning every day about this tenacious bug that has disrupted our sense of normalcy. We are not going back to “normal”. We will experience a new normal.

There were moments during the lockdown when I desperately wanted to be anywhere, however briefly, but the places I was suddenly “bubbled wrapped” into. I am a physical and digital nomad. And I am a people person. I like to move. Anywhere. For those of you who want a reminder, please see the YouTube video “I live to Move It, Move It” from the original soundtrack of the Madagascar movie.

Social media, Zoom, Skype, mobile phone calls can go far to connect us, but there is something about being together and being amongst others in real-life spaces that fills an essential need. Moving with or towards one another can be as small as the blink of an eye or twitch of a finger in gestured communication. It may also be accomplished via the stillness of presence, as when people sit or stand in togetherness. Embodied communication can occur in the most exuberant or subtle of ways. This cannot be reproduced through a camera.

When outdoor areas were impossible or difficult to access, we found ourselves moving more creatively in interior spaces. We saw marathons run on balconies, as well scores of videos of gym enthusiasts working out by lifting food tins or their children in their living rooms.

When considering the impact of COVID-19 on our lives, the key is not to be selfish. This crisis, like all crises, is bigger than each of us individually.

Be respectful, be flexible, be safe.

Wash your hands, cover your mouth, wear a mask in public, avoid contact with anyone who is sick. Educate and inform yourself, remain open minded and receptive.