Broken toys, jigsaw puzzles, and LEGOs: Trying to make sense of our COVID reality

Eric Kerr
4 min readApr 24, 2020

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When I was a little kid, I loved taking my toys apart.

This childish act of destruction, fueled by my desire to understand how things worked. It’s almost as if I couldn’t play with the toy until I knew what it was made of and how all of its pieces fit together.

Inanimate objects weren’t the only subjects of my curious mind. I was notorious for conversing with strangers, often asking deeply personal questions to understand who they were and if I could trust them.

According to my mom, I never had a problem making new friends on the playground. I’d even go out of my way to introduce kids to each other so that we could all play together.

(Probably because I never liked playing alone.)

It’s been a few decades since those days of breaking toys and making friends on the playground, but I am still a social creature who loves getting to the truth of who people are, what makes them tick, and how they relate to one another.

(This is how I make sense of the world.)

Professionally, I’ve explored the human experience as an actor/director, delved into the depths of what ails people as an Alternative Medicine Practitioner and Acupuncturist, and over the past few years, I’ve challenged companies to diagnose their workplaces to streamline workplace operations, improving internal policies, and elevating the workplace experience so that employees can do their best work.

I love making new friends and bringing people together – although that’s become more physically challenging over the past two months.

So here we are.

It’s been over a month since San Francisco issued the order to shelter in place to help flatten the curve of COVID-19. In that time, the number of people diagnosed and lives lost globally has increased exponentially. The impact on unemployment and the economy has been severe. The psychological toll this has taken on us has yet to be fully processed, and who knows when it will.

Some days, I wake up, and it feels like someone took apart the most complicated toy ever. All the pieces lay scattered before me, and I don’t know how to put it all back together.

Now I understand why the sales of jigsaw puzzles and LEGOs have skyrocketed over the past few weeks.

Yes. We’re stuck at home and need a non-screentime activity, but I also think we’re all trying to figure out how to make sense of all the scattered pieces before us in hopes of putting it all back together.

As I mentioned in a previous article:

In this time of physical isolation [distancing], we are forced to experience ourselves differently, how we relate to those close to us, to the outside world, and to the work we do.

As if they were reading my thoughts, I heard someone on a recent workplace webinar say: “Every interaction we have with people, products, and spaces is all happening with a self-preservation mindset.”

So…

How do we trust when everything (and everyone) feels like a threat?

While trying to make meaning out of this ever-changing reality, there have been a few other themes/questions that have come up for me over and over again.

  • How has our pace of life changed for the better? (aka Eric trying to find a silver lining) Are we all being forced to slow down and focus only on the essential parts of our lives?
  • What is our experience of the world outside of our safe spaces? What is it like to pass people on the street? Go to the store? What happens when it’s time to go back to the office? And yes, those of us in workplace are trying to figure out how to make the workplace safer, BUT you still have to get from home to work. What will that process look like?
  • What does this potentially mean for the #FutureOfWork, and, more importantly, how will we physically relate to each other when all of this is over..? The weeks and months ahead of us will make us that much more starved for social interaction — lacking vital nutrients that we can’t quite get from daily consumption of Zoom meetings and FaceTime happy hours. Will our longing for realtime human interaction be overshadowed by our fears of germs and viruses?

In the coming weeks, I intend to explore these questions in more detail (maybe with fewer words, and I might be starting a podcast).

I hope you will join me for the ride. The more the merrier.

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Eric Kerr

Writer, A.I. Artist, Creative Strategist | AI Neophyte, Podcaster, Ex-Acupuncturist, Theatre Geek, Sci-fi Nerd https://www.ahumanintheloop.ai/