‘The Great Realisation’ first appeared on YouTube and other social platforms on 29 April 2020. It was the time when the Covid-19 pandemic was at its hike. The graph showing the number of patients daily set new milestones. People, locked inside their rooms, tried to find a medium to express themselves. It was also a time that taught the world how the bond between close ones helps us to sail through that tough ordeal of time.
Tomfoolery (YouTube channel), a voice of the millions who were quarantined, read this poem online spreading the message of optimism. After its initial appearance, it got a favorable response from all over the world. Till now, it has been watched close to 7 million times on YouTube.
The poem begins like a bedtime story. In this piece, the speaker seems to be the father or caregiver of a child who asks him to tell the story about the virus. Thereafter, the speaker goes on to tell the story. It is about the world before the outbreak of Coronavirus. The world, depicted here, presents several aspects of the modern world.
Before the pandemic, everyone was busy with their tight schedule. Children fascinated with flashing screens made their lives gamified. While elders became extremely nuclear, only thinking about their work, and work only.
After the outbreak, everything changed. The distance between human beings ceased and people became closer than ever. They started to do things that gave inner pleasure, not its monetary counterpart. In this way, the pandemic appeared in the modern world as a blessing in disguise. It not only helped people to reunite but also purified the ailing environment.
At the end of the poem, the speaker is optimistic about the future. He tells the child to dream bigger and brighter. As tomorrow is going to be much better than it was.
You can watch the full poem here.
The meaning of the poem deals with the realization of people after the Covid-19 pandemic. The year 2020, has slid back to the pages of history but the lesson it gave to the world, is worth mentioning. People understand what they lacked before and how they were marooned from each other. Without that grave incident, they would have kept themselves busy in their modernized lifestyle. But, the realization, undoubtedly great, enlightened them. Whatsoever it is not about the realization of a group, but all humans. Through this poem, Tomfoolery hints at this revelation and talks about why hindsight is twenty-twenty.
‘The Great Realisation’ is a conversational poem that simply presents a dialogue between the speaker and a child. Besides, this poem is like a bedtime story that the first-person speaker narrates to the child. As Tomfoolery wrote this poem from the first-person point-of-view, it is an example of a lyric.
There are a total of 43 lines. It is packed in a single stanza. Tomfoolery uses rhyming couplets in most instances. But, some lines do not rhyme at all. In totality, this poem follows the AABB rhyme scheme and it goes on throughout the piece. The poet uses slant rhymes here in the words such as “mums” and “runs”.
This poem does not have a specific metrical pattern. There are both iambic and trochaic meters. The use of these meters helps the poet to create a mixed rhythm. It also maintains the conversational flow of the text.
The title of the poem, ‘The Great Realisation’ contains an ironic reference to the realization of the people after the outbreak of the Covid-19 disease. Tomfoolery uses alliteration in the phrases, “waste and wonder” and “poverty and plenty.” There is also a metaphor in “a world of waste and wonder.”
In the line, “every day the skies grew thicker” readers can find the use of metonymy. The reference is made to the growing air pollution. The following line, “So, we flew in planes to find them, while down below we filled our cars” contains irony and sarcasm as well.
There is an anaphora in lines 18 to 20. Each of these lines begins with the same word, “We”. Reading the reference to the “new virus,” readers can understand it is an allusion to the novel Coronavirus that stunned the world. They can find a personification in the line, “the earth began to breathe.”
“Tell me the one about the virus again, then I’ll go to bed”.
“Okay, snuggle down, my boy, but I know you all too well.
‘The Great Realisation’ begins with the conversation of two speakers. One is the caregiver and another is a child who is nagging to hear the story about the Coronavirus. This bedtime story titled similar to that of the poem begins like a fairy tale.
The first two lines are in a closed rhyming pattern. Therefore, these lines are interconnected in meaning. In the first line, the nagging boy expresses his desire to hear the story. As it has something interesting and catchy that the child likes. Like a father cannot ignore his son’s adorable request. So does the speaker.
At first, he tries to pacify the child by saying he is probably weary and what he is uttering is nothing but a reflection of his “sleepy thoughts.” In the quoted phrase, readers can find a use of a personal metaphor.
Whatsoever like a kind father, he implicitly accepts his request when the child says the story is one of his favorite ones. As the boy is reluctant to go to sleep, the caregiver starts to tell him the story. Besides, he knows that the child will ask him to hear it again.
This story starts before then in a world I once would dwell”.
You could have anything you dreamed of, in a day, and with a click
From this section, the story concerning the virus begins. It dates back to a world different from today. The speaker dwelled there. It seems as if he is talking about a time that is imprinted on the pages of history. But, the reference is made to the overall 21st-century world.
During that time, the world was full of waste as well as wonders. One section of the people living there had plenty of wealth. While the rest was living below poverty. It is important to mention here that Tomfoolery uses oxymoron in this section to create a contrast.
After the pandemic, they understood why hindsight was 2020. It is a reference to people’s understanding of the world’s condition after the outbreak stunned them.
Before 2020, businessmen came up with companies to trade globally. Gradually, capitalism gripped the entire world. Those companies swelled in wealth and grew in size. Their presence could be seen throughout the world. The way they advanced was not ever imagined by anyone. It is a reference to the advancement of capitalism and consumerism in the modern world.
By the tenth line, the poet refers to the people living in that world and their growing wants. Technology has revolutionized the market in a manner that they can get anything they want within a day, and just at a click on their smartphones. As a result, they lost the patience to wait for a thing they wanted.
We noticed families had stopped talking, that’s not to say they never spoke
So, we flew in planes to find them, while down below we filled our cars.
In the previous section, Tomfoolery presents a macroscopic picture of the world before the pandemic. Now, he focuses on the microscopic picture of modern society.
In the world of ‘The Great Realisation,’ nuclear families stopped talking with one another. It is not that they never spoke to each other but they lost the urge to speak. Their “work-life balance” cut the bond between family members. The only thing that mattered to them most, was money. Naturally, they have to focus more on their work if they want to be rich. At the end of the day, they were unaware of the fact that money is just a number on their life’s balance sheet.
Children became addicted to smartphones. The poet, ironically remarks their eyes grew squarer, imitating the shape of smartphones. Not only children, but every toddler had a phone to play with. Childhood is a time when little kids should go outside and play. But, for their addiction to mobile phone-orientated life, they became lazy and lost touch with nature.
People filtered out their imperfections using smart applications. However, amidst the growing noise of the virtual world, they were lonely at their heart. In virtual reality, they felt as if they were socially connected. But, in reality, they were all marooned from each other.
In the following lines, Tomfoolery says for air pollution, everyday the sky grew thicker with clouds until one could not see the stars. Therefore, they flew in planes, ironically, to find the stars. While they filled the roads with cars without much thinking about the deterioration of mother-nature. Sarcastically, they were trying to find the stars in the polluted sky. In contrast, they were polluting the sky by driving the automobiles that caused it.
We drove around all day in circles, we’d forgotten how to run
It’s best to not upset the lobbies, more convenient to die
The first few lines of this section refer to people’s inactivity. They forgot about their health and used cars to cover even a walking distance from their homes. In this way, they got stuck in a cycle and forgot the importance of running or walking. Here, the speaker is pointing at how the modern lifestyle made them ignorant of their health.
It is not that they only harmed themselves. They harmed nature too. They created tarmac roads that supplanted the grasslands, and the parks shrunk until there were none. As people stopped going there, those parks lost importance.
People did not stop using the harmful non-biodegradable plastics and dumped them into the seas. They were all unaware of the environment in which they dwell and how they are affecting the marine ecosystem. Each day when they went fishing, they found the dead sea creatures lying on beaches wrapped in the plastic dumped by them. This section presents visual imagery of sea pollution and its effect.
In that world, people were addicted to smoking and drinking. For them, everything turned out to be a gambling game. In the case of political leaders, they forgot about the well-being of the citizens. Only the lobbies that were helping them to win elections, mattered. So, people felt it was more convenient to die, rather than hoping the leaders would do something for them after the elections.
But then in 2020, a new virus came our way,
Some people started dancing, some were singing, some were baking
From line 24, Tomfoolery talks about the post-pandemic world. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. The governments of the countries reacted proactively at that time. By strict laws, they decided to lock the whole country down with several restrictions. So, people locked themselves in their houses in fear of the novel Coronavirus.
However, the situation marked a new beginning. People dusted off their humane instincts and remembered the importance of smiling. They clapped to say thank you to the frontline workers who were working day and night selflessly. Those who were not in touch with their parents for a long time called them and became closer.
Meanwhile, their “car keys gathered dust” as they could not go outside. They started running and focused much on their inner as well as physical well-being.
The sky became clear for the drop in pollution level. After a long interval, the people on earth breathed fresh air. In the line, “the earth began to breathe,” by referring to “earth,” Tomfoolery associates the people living there. It is an example of metonymy.
When they went fishing, they could notice newborn sea creatures that scuttled off into the seas from the beaches (a contrasting image in comparison to the image of dead sea creatures mentioned before). Some of them started dancing. While others preferred singing or baking. They tried to do things that cherished the value of togetherness. In this way, a person understood the value of passing time with their family members and especially with oneself.
We’d grown so used to bad news, but some good news was in the making
And every simple act of kindness was now given its due”
At that critical juncture, the speaker says everyone grew used to bad news coming from all over the world. Whatsoever, “some good news,” a reference to the invention of the vaccine, was in the making. At last, when the vaccine came, they were allowed to go outside, after waiting for several months.
When they came outside, the discovery of a newer, fresher, and brighter world than it was before, made them happy. It was the world they were unknowingly waiting for. Old habits became extinct and they developed healthy and compassionate instincts. They started to give every simple act of kindness its due. Thus, the mindset of people changed after the incident took place. It was also a moment of reckoning for the world.
“But why did it take us so long to bring the people back together?”
But that’s the story of how it started and why hindsight’s 2020”
In the last section of ‘The Great Realisation,’ the child asks a rhetorical question. There is an epigram embedded in the child’s query. He asks why it took that long to bring everyone together. In reply, the speaker presents another epigrammatic idea. According to him, sometimes it is better to get metaphorically sick to understand the importance of sound health. Besides, the pandemic also showcased the loopholes of the developed countries and how every nation was lagging in controlling the basic needs of commoners.
Moving on to the following lines, the speaker tells the child to sleep as he has promised him. He is aware of the questions that might have come into the child’s mind. That’s why he encourages him to dream. If his dreams are great enough, soon some of them will probably come true. Someone, before the pandemic, might have dreamt of a better day. As readers can see, some of their dreams have come true.
In hindsight, it is called ‘The Great Realisation’ of mankind. It is true. After the outbreak, they realized several things. Some of them understood the importance of love and compassion. While others realized how to become truly happy, not caring much about money or work. For this reason, in the last line, the speaker says that’s why hindsight’s 2020.
‘The Great Realisation’ appeared in the online world through a YouTube channel, Probably Tomfoolery, unnoticed by the world. People were either fighting with the virus or helping themselves as well others to be safe. In this critical time, Tomfoolery, the pen-name of the poet, Tomos Roberts, came out with his innovative poem on 29 April 2020 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
After the video, presenting Roberts as the main speaker was uploaded, it got huge responses from all over the world. Right now, the video is close to kissing the 70 million-milestone. It has been translated into over 20 languages.
In June 2020, Harper Collins and Egmont publishing announced turning the poem into an illustrated picture book with Japanese illustrator Nomoco. ‘The Great Realization’ was finally published on 3 September 2020 and it is available here.
Here is a list of a few poems that is similar to the themes present in Tomfoolery’s ‘The Great Realisation’.
- Chrysalis by LJ Bovey – It’s a poem about the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.
- Chorus of the Captains by Amanda Gorman – This poem describes the work of three American heroes in the context of the outbreak of Covid-19. Explore more Amanda Gorman poetry and her 2021 presidential inaugural poem, ‘The Hill We Climb’.
- My Sister is Not a Statistic by Dorothy Duffy – This heart-wrenching poem is about the poet’s sister who died from Covid-19 on April 4, 2020. Read more Dorothy Duffy poems.
- Pandemania by Daniel Halpern – This poem discusses the changing attitudes, habits, and social norms of people during a pandemic situation. Explore more poems of Daniel Halpern.