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For goodness’ sake: Optimism amid COVID-19

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Nothing has changed since the last thing I submitted to The Daily. What better time for an update?

A bunch of years ago, my mom approached me with an idea the way she always had: Shark Tank–style, after school, in the kitchen. She was high on entrepreneurial goosebumps, the sort of transcendent spine-shiver one gets when on the cusp of epiphany.

“Drewby, how about a news channel devoted to only good news? Good News Network,” she said. “Celebrate human triumphs all around the globe. Something to counteract the usual feed.”

I was a cynical teenager, but I liked the vision enough to admit to her that I did. She elaborated with possibilities for specific segments. Her voice became quieter, as though some clout-thirsty plagiarist were peering through the window above the sink. 

For half an hour, it all made sense to my mom: G-d had brought her to this earth for three reasons: to be a mother, a playwright and the creator of Good News. But as almost all of our eureka moments seem to do, hers faded, specifically into a dark hole of motherhood and scriptwriting. In a galaxy far far away, she is a kinder Siobhan Roy, wheeling and dealing with the Good News Board of Directors. Her office is a feat of contemporary Japanese architecture.

The other day, a high school friend Facebook-messaged me the link to a YouTube channel. Two takeaways here: one, high school friends of Gen-Zers might be the only folks under 25 still using Facebook Messenger. Two, cultural vanguard John Krasinski STOLE my mom’s concept! The link brought me to SomeGoodNews, “The news show dedicated entirely to good news,” launched by Krasinski a few weeks ago. Almost 40 million views amassed in its first 21 days on YouTube. Coronavirus has thrown a lot of firsts my way, the latest of which has been considering Dwight Schrute the good guy. Jim Halpert eavesdropped from the window above our kitchen sink, sat on my mom’s idea for almost a decade and executed it when the world needed it most. I will never call her paranoid again.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the silver lining to this robbery: Krasinski’s show is thoughtful, funny and uplifting. Like many other artists right now, he is doing what he can with his talents and his platform, which, for lack of a better phrase, got me thinking.

Some good things have been happening on Stanford’s virtual campus. Terman Fountain is plexi water, Meyer Green is empty and the human race is hurting. But some good things are still happening.

Worth noting is that COVID-19 has benefitted atmospheres, both gaseous and social. Based on my shamelessly limited personal experience, I hypothesize that the benefit of the doubt is being given at unprecedented rates in our community. When a Zoom square goes black during class, Zoommates leap to kind conclusions. When one of us “arrives” late to class, our teacher helps us hit the ground running. When evening class approaches midnight for east-coasters, and we have covered the lesson’s allotted material, we are dismissed 10 minutes early. 

Quarantine has certainly diminished my weariness of human interaction. Consequently, I have gotten to know my classmates better than in past quarters. Professors have gone out of their way to catalyze closeness. The world is at war with an invisible enemy, and they are going to battle for the classroom experience. I understand that some will deem the use of military vernacular sensationalist and insensitive. In my opinion, our teachers deserve a collective salute.

Outside of class, we are excavating the interweb for distraction, stimulation, creativity and hope. Meaningful, makeshift pastimes have percolated within the confines of isolation. Unsurprisingly, from Trees come many of the rafts that keep us afloat.

My friend Max built one of these vessels, which takes the form of a March Madness-style Beatles music bracket. In an effort to feel something, Max curated a 64 song collection of his favorite Beatles tracks and seeded them in four regions: Feel Good, Passion, Nostalgia and Genre-Bending. Daily matchups have been decided by nonpartisan Instagram voters. Today, two-seed “Let It Be” took home the chip. My fellow bracketologists and I are up in arms. Speaking words of wisdom, pointless competition helps you miss your friends less. A Kanye bracket is in the oven.

Match20. The tradition’s stakes had been gloriously low before coronavirus was a word. This year, all bets were off. I filled mine out in blissful delusion and got no response, not even the deceitfully considerate “you and/or your admirers might have spelled SUIDs wrong” notification of zero matches. Seniors: if your Match20 outcome necessitates an alibi, I implore you to go full John Krasinski and co-opt my report. Senior Cabinet: if you are reading this, I can handle the truth.

Those who know me may be taken aback by the tone of this piece. I am apprehensive about it myself, acclaiming positive happenings (from my safe home) amid disaster. Perhaps this is my Gal Gadot moment — but in “Stranger Things” terms, we live in the Upside Down: Biding inside is a healthy choice, oil prices are negative, my 15-year-old brother views the Michael Jordan docuseries as a spoiler for its Twitter REACTION, and I am optimistic. There will be an answer.

Geek about the NBA, Fleabag and Lorde with Drew Semler at drew2020 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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