Face it, friends, 2020 is off to a stressful first quarter. Let’s assume you know the reasons why, and skip right to the effort on the part of various cultural institutions to offer their Twitter followers a #MuseumMomentofZen, hopefully breaking up the anxiety of days spent scrolling through newsfeeds that read like harbingers of the end times. After all, when it’s not being politicized, commodified, or appropriated, art can revert to its fundamental purpose: to help us make sense or find hope as we struggle through life on this bewildering and embattled planet.
“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.” – Dalai Lama#MuseumMomentOfZen
Kay WalkingStick, Letting Go/From Chaos to Calm, 1990, Acrylic paint, oil paint, wax. Richard Florsheim and Clara S. Peck Fund Purchase. 2000.45.1.1-2. pic.twitter.com/HDx1SyQHHw
— The Rockwell Museum (@RockwellMuseum) March 13, 2020
Things seem to have touched off with this precious moment from the Museum of the City of New York:
We know there’s a lot of stressful news in your timeline, so here’s a #MuseumMomentofZen.
— Museum of the City of NY (@MuseumofCityNY) March 11, 2020
Could anything be more peaceful than this lovely vision of turtles? Just remember, it’s turtles all the way down, baby. It’s gonna be okay.
The Chicago History Museum was next to the party, with the teensiest li’l potted plant ever:
Let’s keep this going! Here’s our #MuseumMomentofZen: Florence Kilvary holds a miniature potted plant in a greenhouse at @UChicago, 1917. DN-0067779, Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection, CHM https://t.co/HT6bEzvG4c pic.twitter.com/ukkmf1VYYk
— ChicagoHistoryMuseum (@ChicagoMuseum) March 12, 2020
Perhaps this calming greenhouse scene will inspire some of us to stop panic-buying toilet paper, and start panic-buying seeds and panic-planting victory gardens, which not only localize your food source and strengthen food sovereignty, but as an action is good for your mental and physical health! Panic gardens, guys!
You know who else felt like his world was falling apart? Abraham Lincoln! At least according to the Lincoln Museum, who joined in with a quiet moment featuring Lincoln presenter Dennis Boggs.
It’s a stressful world out there, and Abraham Lincoln was no stranger to national stress. We hope this #MuseumMomentofZen will provide you with a quiet moment in an otherwise hectic day of news. https://t.co/UD0TAD0L1i
— Abraham Lincoln Library & Museum (@the_allm) March 12, 2020
Even if there is little hope that our current president will take inspiration from this moment to lead with dignity during a time of extreme tension, we can all as individuals be reminded that chopping wood is a great way to build a robust physique, offgas stress when the gym is closed, and sharpen your axe skills. Maybe one of us can ride our log-splitting skills all the way to an upset presidential victory.
Other museum moments of zen include this literal reminder from the Rubin Museum of Art to take a few deep breaths and meditate if you’re feeling overwhelmed:
Take a pause from scrolling and breathe with this image of our shrine room.
Thanks for inspiring us to share a #MuseumMomentOfZen, @MuseumofCityNY! Our Buddhist shrine doesn’t come from a Zen tradition but it is still a place to set intentions and center the mind and body. https://t.co/JiEI9IqjtI pic.twitter.com/pdn7fNV8hO
— Rubin Museum of Art (@RubinMuseum) March 11, 2020
A beautiful bed hanging from the Cranbrook Art Museum reminds us that going back to bed and staying there for a little while is a perfectly viable response to the situation at hand:
Take a moment to unwind and enjoy the natural imagery of this delicately embroidered bed-hanging by May Morris. The pair of curtains originally hung on founder George Booth’s bed in Cranbrook House.
— Cranbrook Art Museum (@CranbrookArtMus) March 11, 2020
And the Rockwell Museum reminds us of the healing power of nature, especially in a time of social distancing:
Imagine yourself here.#MuseumMomentOfZen
Charles Burchfield, Untitled, c.1920. Watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper. pic.twitter.com/5Tb8BGOkcZ
— The Rockwell Museum (@RockwellMuseum) March 11, 2020
These are just a few moments among the melee — hopefully, as the days unwind, more people and institutions will join the movement, and continue to inject a little hope, beauty, and inspiration into the stream of panic coverage and information-sharing. Remember, art began in caves, and so its history is twinned with that of humanity. It has carried us through evolution, plague, and modernity. We can and should feel encouraged to rely on its power to do so today!