In reflecting on the early days of this pandemic, in the summer of 2020, a few things stand out. First and foremost, the weight of the situation was confusing and heavy then (still is), and life was challenging and exhausting (still is).
Some moments remain ripe in my mind. I attended a funeral for a family friend that passed due to COVID 19 issues, and then Shiva (visitation time for a Jewish family in mourning) all via ZOOM. During the service, the Rabbi quoted scripture to remind us the frailty of life, the power of G-d, and the importance of remembering and grieving. I stared at my computer screen and watched the grieving family sit still, cry, and eventual place dirt on the casket in the ground. It was weird, at the same time intimate and aloof, and that kind of "new normal" I was not (still not) ready for.
But as strange as the funeral and Shiva were, I realized the pandemic has created opportunities for us to do things differently, and sometimes be more courageous.
Think about it.
Typically, you would visit the bereaved at their home, and wade through a sea of people to find the family, wait your turn to speak with them, and finally initiate your private, brief, sympathetic conversation with them. It's a personal thing so you want to have your special moment with them, whether a chat, or a simple handshake or hug to say you're sorry for their loss.
The way this played out on ZOOM was that we all arrived in our virtual boxes, and anyone at any time could un-mute themselves to say something about the departed, who were sitting, understandably, pitifully in their box. This required you to say what you wanted to say in front of everyone. Sharing a personal message of sympathy to a mourning family is difficult enough. But now, to have to muster up the courage to show emotion, to share personal stories, long time relationship anecdotes...WITH THE ENTIRE GROUP??
This was daunting, but people stepped up, and showed great courage for the mourning family. What is my shyness compared to their suffering? I did my best to add to this comradery, and I witnessed many acts of courage and kindness that day.
For some of us it has taken a pandemic to see/realize what we couldn't before. Sometimes we have to remove our assumptions and boundaries and unlearn some things to get to the crux of the issue. I see this all the time in my coaching work: sometimes folks just need to get out of their own way, subtle nudges, to find a new way forward.
Speaking of subtly, there's a very interest theory on Italian painter Michelangelo's famous Creation of Adam fresco from the Sistine Chapel (top of page). The scene depicts the Biblical creation narrative from the Book of Genesis in which G-d gives life to the first man, Adam. Most of us take this as a powerful artistic representation of a very popular Judo-Christian story. And it is. But some think there is more here.
Some artists, historians, and even medical professionals believe the red shroud surrounding G-d, Eve, and The Five Sibyls is the cross section of the human brain, depicted in such detail that it's even suggested that blood vessels and arteries are present (below notice the stem of the brain and the green sash).
Also, G-d has his arm around a woman named Sophia, Divine Wisdom. Scholars suggest Michelangelo's message was not solely that God created man to walk, talk, and multiply, but also to embrace consciousness and gain wisdom from the world.
Whether true or not, this subtle image from over 500 years ago was only recently discovered towards the turn of the 21st century. All the while hidden in plain sight.
Subtly is a powerful notion, and can help us rethink the way we perceive the world. And this tool is quite useful when planning your presentation. Think of all the little things you can do to make an impact right away, even before you say one word:
Reposition your body so you're in view at all times.
Plan out the exact times you'll use your hands and gestures during your presentation.
Decide when and where you will make eye contact (will you stare at your notes or the PowerPoint or the camera or first row?)
Thoughtfully arrange your the presentation space, and background you create and project for virtual audience.
Even simplest additions or omissions can drastically alter, for good, your message.
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