What Inspired Me to Write a Post Covid Manifesto

Two travelers stand on the top of a mountain, pointing at the Milky Way

I heard an NPR interview with Ilan Stavans, a poet and professor who edited an anthology of poetry, written in 2020 since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The collected works – entitled “And We Came Outside and Saw the Stars Again: Writers from Around the World on the COVID-19 Pandemic” – is borrowed from the last scene of Dante’s Inferno

It has been 20 years since I’ve read the Inferno, (thanks Prof. Rutigliano). And, if it’s been twenty or more since you’re read it, let me remind you of the story’s denouement (you’re welcome Mr. Kern). After journeying through the burning circles of hell, where the travelers see horrific acts of sadness, anger, violence, and torture – they emerge back to the surface of the Earth. 

Here, Dante describes the moment:

A place there is below, from Beelzebub   
As far receding as the tomb extends,
Which not by sight is known, but by the sound

Of a small rivulet, that there descendeth
Through chasm within the stone, which it has gnawed
With course that winds about and slightly falls.

The Guide and I into that hidden road
Now entered, to return to the bright world;
And without care of having any rest

We mounted up, he first and I the second,
Till I beheld through a round aperture
Some of the beauteous things that
Heaven doth bear;

Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars.

Imagine their relief! Their pleasure!! Their excitement!!!

When I thought about the feeling, I felt it for a fleeting moment myself. After all that this year has thrown at me, and you, I felt the strong desire to again see the stars. 

And, that moment, I sat down on a new journey to again see the stars myself.

We Should Again See the Stars

You can only see the stars if you look up.
It was all a surprise. The events of 2020 surprised us all. 

Or, maybe they didn’t. 

We could have prevented so much suffering and death caused by the Coronavirus.  

We could have dealt with institutionalized racism in the United States last year or a century ago or even two centuries ago. But here it is, staring us in the face with bright, burning eyes that are harder than ever to ignore. 

And, now I’d like to ask you to walk outside, just for a moment and feel it, too.

Look up. 

Is it the sun you see? Has it been 40 years since you stared at the fireball at the center of our solar system even though your mother told you not to?  Don’t hurt your eyes, but do it again, just for a second. What does that feel like? Do you feel that jolt of excitement that comes from doing something your parents told you not to do? 

Or is it night time? Can you see the hundreds, thousands, and millions of stars that make up the Milky Way? Can you see beyond our galaxy? Do you wonder what’s beyond?  What does it feel like to behold something of such beauty layered behind it the possibilities that lay beyond even our wildest imaginations?

Is it cloudy where you are right now? Are you stuck, seeing nothing beyond the gray? Despite the clouds, can you feel – even for a moment – the anticipation of what you might see tomorrow? 

I ask you to stay focused on that feeling.

Find a dream – a new one, an old one, a personal one, a shared one.

Stay focused on it. See it in your hands.

Feel all of the feelings that you would feel if you could hold it today.

Chase that feeling into the sky, beyond the clouds and our solar system and our galaxy. 

Let it pull you into a warmer, comforted place.

Follow it. 

Do the things you need to do to make that dream real.

Kiss that woman. Kiss that man. Quit your job. Start a new company. Go paint something.

Because, only if you want to, you can see the stars again.

Join the discussion

  • I love this and am on a similar journey. thanks for the inspiration and I cant wait to see what your dream will be. Know I am cheering you on.

  • Thanks Peter! Here’s to seeing the Stars again. And that’s the amazing part about Stars. When clouds, or storms or whatever gets in the way… they are always going to be there when the sky clears. Thank goodness our skies seem to be clearing, my friend

  • Hi Peter G! Just reading this now. Love it! I’ve done 4 of the 5 things above (if painting things, not pictures counts as “paint something.” And I have and continue to see the stars. Hope to see you one of these days, too.

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