This sort of reevaluation can happen when events disrupt your life’s habitual ways and means. You may be taken not only out of yourself–the boon of successful work in every art form, when you’re in the mood for it–but out of your time, relocated to a particular past that seems to dispel, in a flash of undeniable reality, everything that you thought you knew. It’s not like going back to anything. It’s like finding yourself anticipated as an incidental upshot of fully realized, unchanging truths. The impression passes quickly, but it leaves a mark that’s indistinguishable from a wound. Here’s a prediction of our experience when we are again free to wander museums: Everything in them will be other than what we remember. The objects won’t have altered, but we will have, in some ratio of good and ill. The casualties of the coronavirus will accompany us spectrally. Until, inevitably, we begin to forget, for awhile we will have been reminded of our oneness throughout the world and across time with all the living and the dead. The works await us as expressions of individuals and entire cultures that have been–and vividly remain–light-years ahead of what passes for our understanding.
(“Out of Time,” New Yorker, April 13, 2020)