If I extend my perspective outwards from my internal monologue of fear, anxiety and uncertainty, I’m aware that I have a second stream of consciousness running concurrently. This second perspective comes from a loftier, less self-obsessed vantage point: from the front-row seat that we all have for what is happening on our planet right now.
Sure, most of the time it feels like an apocalyptic horror movie. But we are also witnessing the single biggest, fastest and most all-consuming driver of cultural and societal change that we’ve ever experienced. Our world as we know it has vanished overnight. In days, we’ve learnt to cough into our elbow-creases and eyeball a 2-metre distance. We’ve adjusted what is normal. We’ve had to reframe everything that we know to be true. The question is, which of these shifts should we hold onto when the threat eases and we tentatively attempt to revert to what was?
I believe in magic, in the power of universal forces and in the synchronicity of all things. I am absolutely blown-away by the sheer force with which some of our least healthy cultural norms are being shattered. Don’t get me wrong; I’m sickened and horrified by the form of this change and by the amount of human suffering it’s going to cause before it’s done. But when I look at how our world is being reordered, it’s frankly spooky how many constructive side-effects this upheaval has.
Here are some of my favourites. What I’m really struck by is that all of these shifts are reframing our world-view to precisely what it should always have been. It feels like a reversion to what is right and just, rather than a progression. Some of these things we didn’t know before; others, like our gratitude for the food on our table, are things we shouldn’t have needed to be reminded of.
The merit of our jobs becomes about our service to others, rather than intellect or money
A walk outside, in nature, becomes the most delicious treat
We put our health first and invest in our bodies, rather than taking them for granted
Our benchmark goal for our physiological health becomes far, far higher than ’no underlying health issues’. We see that absence of obvious disease does not indicate optimal health
Eating fresh food makes us weak with gratitude
Getting a food delivery feels like Christmas morning
We finally understand that the best things in life really are free, and that there are many things money can’t buy
When we can hug each other, boy, we’ll drink each other up
The hidden in our society (care workers, shelf stackers, delivery people, hospital porters, refuse collectors, utility workers) are seen and celebrated
We reel our definition of the word ‘essential’ waaaaay in
We understand what makes us happy, and it’s not consumption, it’s connection
We slow down, and the sky does not fall
We understand that we are human beings, not human doings
We finally accept that we cannot control very much at all
A world that was terrified of boredom is reacquainted with it
We find that saying ‘I’m not fine’ is far better than saying ‘I’m fine’
Post quarantine, we have a whole new level of appreciation for our liberty
Our greed, our hunger, shifts from consuming at the expense of our planet, to keeping the skies clear and the canals filled with dolphins
I know this: the history books will have so much to say about this time, about how Mother Nature said ‘Enough’, and drew a line in the sand. We were hurtling along, completely out of control and powerless to stop. So many of the trends shaping our reality – climate change in all its forms, burnout and disconnection – seemed unstoppable because the economic price to halt them was far too high for any government to have paid voluntarily. And so, our collective hand was forced. Suddenly, the trajectory of what seemed like our unstoppable self-destruction, and the destruction of our planet, has changed. If we listen hard enough to the lessons that this pandemic is teaching us, and keep them close to our heart, then maybe there’s hope for all of us, after all.