Social Virtuosity, Practice and COVID-19

“Jazz/Zen Improvisation” (2013) gives discussion regarding Hershock’s (1996) proposal of “social virtuosity,” and it’s relationship and connection to practice. This concept is described as an attunement to the needs of others and being able and willing to respond. This response can be spontaneous and allow for harmony in social discourse.

In these unprecedented times, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, it seems apparent that there is a great need for people to be able to practice social virtuosity. Just as the author describes, when we can have this interconnected relationship can enhance our world. This enhancement needs to happen within our homes, within our communities, states, countries, and globally.

I am learning that finding my place in this arena is challenging. My perception of time has seemed to make weeks feel like months. It has been a little over a month since the implications and ramifications of COVID-19 have become strikingly apparent, but it feels like many months. Washington state had one of the first deaths related to the virus. During the end of February and the beginning of March, I was overwhelmed at work, having to go in extra hours to help support the program I was working at before our program being shut down due to the school closures. I ended up getting laidoff1 due to schools being shut down, but before that could happen I had many tasks that had to be finished.

The last week and a half and since having been sequestered at home, I have been spending most of my time and energy trying to get stabilized. This includes a number of parts of my life. For one, I needed to help more at home with my five kids and making sure there are things for them to do so they don’t destroy our home. I am teaching two undergraduate courses for a local university, and have been trying to figure out how to transition the course design from in-person to an online format. I have also been working to catch up in my classes, and I also supremely enjoyed the fact that last week was spring break.

I feel some remorse that I haven’t been doing more in the community. I have many colleagues that are offering therapeutic supports via video conferencing services. I’m amazed at people who are helping their communities out, just like McCue (2020) described. I feel like I am just trying to get the things I need to do done, but not making any meaningful addition to people outside of my immediate circle.

I am aware that some of my actions might be helping. The fact that I am home with my family, and being supportive of them is meaningful. We have heave had some fun projects and learning some new skills. I’ve not had a chance before to do any stop motion videos, and we made one for my mom - Stop Motion Video for Nana [YouTube Video]. I’ve been able to meet both in large group formats and small group formats with my students that I am teaching and be able to try to bolster up them both emotionally and through adapting and changing assignments. In the last two weeks, I think I’ve been on no less than 14 different zoom meeting.

I think I’m learning to adapt and what works in an online zoom format and what doesn’t work as well. I’ve had a couple of activities that I thought might work in that format, and they didn’t. I’ve also been trying to offer some mini-lectures/lessons for my students that they can watch asynchronously. I posted Strengths-Based Engagement with Families [YouTube Video] and shared it with students as it was a part of the content we would have been going over in class.

I find making videos to be fun to produce, but they are incredibly time-consuming for me to put together. Just like the Should I Be Practicing Right Now (Wells, 2011) chart that was posted in the Jazz/Zen Improvisation article, I should be practicing. I should be practicing how to continue to support my family. I should be practicing how I can support my students and make meaningful contributions to my studies. I should be practicing how to adapt and improvise in a way that can be social virtuous.


Hershock, P. D. (1996). Liberating intimacy: enlightenment and social virtuosity in Ch’an Buddhism. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Jazz/zen improvisation: “Social virtuosity” and practice. (2013, January 31).

McCue, T. J. (2020, March 20). Calling all people who sew and make: You can help make masks for 2020 healthcare worker PPE shortage. Forbes.

Wells, J (2011) Printable practice chart. Odd Quartet.


This essay was originally posted as a small group discussion starter for TSD 8014 - Creativity and Personal Transformation.

  1. I work for a counseling agency that operates a clinical school program that contracts with school districts to provide services for some of the students they serve with emotional and behavioral disabilities. When the schools shut down, we had to end our services.