Read my blog inspired by the article written in Medium by fintech author John Biggs about his life during the COVID-19 pandemic in New York which he named “Racing in the Dark”. He referenced other authors and books to remind us that, as humans, we once spent whole seasons confined, hibernating, overwintering. The article let me to read and think about so much creativity that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought. I have been inspired by so many stories, videos, news… as well as inspired by the work of my team. Read on…
In a recent blog about his life during the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, fintech author John Biggs wrote “Racing in the Dark,” where he references Benjamin Reiss’s “Wild Nights” book. In this book, appropriately subtitled “How Taming Sleep Created Our Restless World”, Reiss reminds us that as humans, we once spent whole seasons confined, hibernating, overwintering. He also mentions that in 1880 an observer said that residents of the Eastern Pyrenees were “as idle as marmots” during the cold months. That made me think of Guillaume Mohr & Anne Catherine Laurent, my great grandparents —recently uncovered by my family, that lived in one of the highest areas of the Vosges, between Lorraine and Alsace. Being poor peasants, they probably hibernated, like we are doing today.
Before snow-cleared roads and before electricity, entire mountain regions would essentially shut down in late autumn, with some villages essentially “entombing” themselves until early spring, with “inhabitants re-emerging in spring, disheveled and anemic.” Vigorous men and women would spend their days in bed, packing their bodies tightly together to stay warm and to eat less food. They knew “winter was coming.”
Our worst fears
Biggs writes that in this time of hiding, we reflect on our worst fears. We fear the outsider, we fear the army of incompetent politicians, we fear the food delivered at the door, we even fear the fruits and vegetables we buy. Each cough is a death knell, a sneeze a nuclear strike. How do we stop?
The answer is simple, says Biggs: we remember that we will, one day, escape this. There will come a day where we will walk out of our homes once again. We will race to remake the world, taking with us this time abed as a foundation for a new life. Or, better yet, we will shake off this rude dream and start anew, the fog of a dark season lifted to reveal the light.
I have been hugely inspired by the ways in which so many people are shifting their work methods to be more accessible online. So many inspiring videos, so many creative ideas: musicians playing in balconies and people singing along, authors reading stories and poems online, artists doing free art lessons, museums giving virtual tours, ballet teachers and yoga teachers sharing their passion, to name a few. Listening to US State Regulators in a virtual meeting with the industry this week, it was motivating to hear the proposals and the solutions, but most of all, the humanness of the meeting. Same feeling participating in the Remittance Community Task Force which is taking shape very rapidly under IFAD Guidance. We are all in this together, we are having to be resilient, and we are tremendously inventive in doing so.
Great crises and creativity
“In some cases, great crises have led people to the most extraordinary creativity,” says Professor Jonathan Bate, noting that Shakespeare was primarily an actor before an outbreak of plague in 1592 shut down theaters across London, causing him to stay at home and develop his skills writing poetry. Across time and space, some of the most reflective and enduring creations were inspired by widespread crises. From writers such as Shakespeare, Mary Shelley, to musicians, painters, scientists, researchers, economists, and entrepreneurs, “any creative endeavor is a testament to humankind’s willingness to continue imagining new outcomes,” says Ed Finn, director of the Center for Science and the Imagination.
When creative people solve problems, they use more than just their brains. They “feel” the solution sometimes, literally, becoming a part of the answer. “Thinking and feeling are two inseparable actions. The process of the invention is always emotional and sensual, and the resulting ideas are translated into words or numbers only to communicate with other people, states professor Robert Root-Bernstein. Root-Bernstein, along with his wife, Michele, wrote “Sparks of Genius: The Thirteen Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People,” a book that imaginatively attempts to teach the creative process.
The Platinum Network Community Project
These musings came from reflecting on the exemplary work my team has done during these difficult times, during this forced hibernation. Having had to postpone three conferences this semester, the one in Buenos Aires, the one in London, and Regliance, our conference in Miami, we were stunned. Frozen at first. The sudden reality left us scrambling for ideas and solutions, for ways to cope, to search for a light at the end of the tunnel. And my team did.
Our digital strategy came front and center. We had planned this as a side project all through 2020, and suddenly, the Platinum Network Community Project became our hope, our way of working together from our homes, of keeping our team alive and creative. And we are launching it today. We call it PNET. It is not perfect yet, it is still evolving, but it needs to go live now. For us. For you. For the community.
I know we are not alone in this creative process happening parallel to the pandemic. Hundreds of stories are coming out, and I hope you have your own story to tell too.
The RemTECH Awards 2020
When we discussed the 2020 RemTECH Awards after the COVID pandemic unfolded, we told ourselves: Creativity in times of crisis is the message that we need our entrants to hear, that is the correct attitude. And that is why we are calling on all our colleagues to submit their creative entry. No, it does not need to be live and functioning, or even being tested now. If you have a Remittance Innovation idea, please, come forward and join the RemTECH Awards. The Awards will happen this year, whether at the GFRID 2020 in Nairobi in October, or at IMTC WORLD 2020 in Miami in November where I hope you join us. Presentially, with some social distancing, or virtually.
I hope the creative ideas that are storming in your head during this time will propel you back into your life after this forced hibernation. And I hope you come out from your hibernation safe and healthy.