We have all seen, or think we have seen, the satellite photos from over north China. The dust storms from the Gobi Desert have cleared. Another cause of the usual cover was some of the world’s most intense, besmogging, industrial production. Most of it is closed, just now. However it happened, the cover blew away. I do not habitually believe the captions on news photographs, but this latter explanation seems plausible to me: that when industry shuts down, the skies open. The stars may unexpectedly reappear. But what is plausible may or may not be true.

In Venice, the canals have become “crystal clear.” Newsmen report fish are returning, and dolphins have been spotted in the city, at high tide. They (the newsmen; dolphins think for themselves) say the pollution vanished in a few short weeks, thanks to the coronacrisis. That it has killed thousands is a downside, they admit, and pauperized some millions more, but seeing fish in the canals is so cool. In reality the disappearance of the (mostly tourist) boat traffic let the sediment settle. The fish were there all along.

Notwithstanding, the world grows quieter. I am able to gauge this from my balconata. It is a moment when, for instance, we are able to judge that the environmental horror was not “peak oil,” but cars everywhere, and other machine noise — visible, audible, tactile and so forth. Too, a landscape we routinely half-notice, of highways, factories, flats, and other things that sprawl — both vertically and horizontally. These things are not cold and evil in themselves, just ostentatiously brutal. They’re easier to bear when they are turned off; and should we wait patiently enough, all will return to wilderness. The deeper ecologists hope everyone will die.

An alternative might be to make the human components of our environment beautiful in themselves. This was the old strategy, abandoned in recent historical time, to accommodate Progress.

It is a jealous god. It demands all our attention. Its altars are located everywhere, and its sacrifices are very strict. Should it be displaced, even briefly, it will take vengeance. Its priestly bureaucracies swing into action, telling its faithful exactly what to do. We obey, fearfully.

But to the canals in Venice, add ten-millions of “homeschools,” suddenly sprung up; and the myriad ordered to work from home. The zoning of the world is suddenly lifted, but the borders are closed. It is a moment when Progress might actually be in danger; when it looks as if the fish swam back. Many are reduced to making their own coffee; heating their own food; even wiping themselves, apparently.

Or examine this another way. The old God, put out of view, may be recalled through that still, small voice, once again detected through the ages. Or let us call it “the music of the spheres,” heard when everything else falls silent.

What we currently call “globalism” is actually much larger, and quite deafening. It is why I gave Progress a capital P. Sometimes it is called “technology,” but that now seems old-fashioned. None of these terms remains adequate to the product of multiple industrial revolutions, through which the relationship of God and man, and each between man and man, has been seriously disrupted. But for a moment the disruption itself is disrupted.

If I were God (and I’m not, incidentally) I would arrange for breaks like this; to give the worldlings some “quiet time” in which to reflect upon their loyalties.