You don’t need me to tell you how much the world has changed in a matter of weeks.
It seems that every day presents new updates and changes to what we once called ‘normal.’
There is a new fascination in public health and historical epidemics like the Black Death and the Bubonic plague. Indeed, the Black Death changed the course of history and ushered in the Renaissance after a dark period of loss and death. And it’s interesting to note that the Black Death was also stopped by a serious effort to quarantine the sick from the healthy.
Dangling by a thread over the pit of death brought new life into a fear-ridden culture in the 14th century, and it opened doors to many of the greatest artists who ever lived. Humanism flourished and people pushed the boundaries of what they thought was possible. The term ‘Renaissance Man’ later became a thing (though it was coined way after the Renaissance), and it referred to a person who was skilled in many trades.
The Renaissance was a rebound reaction to the darkness that was the Black Death. Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Brunelleschi, and countless others spilled onto the scene and changed what was previously possible.
The coronavirus is presently changing the world in a similar way. I’m not educated, informed or smart enough to make global predictions for the outcome of this pandemic, but I have a few thoughts and observations I have already seen taking form.
Provision & New Skills
For one, I have realized how many unnecessary things I have participated in which were detrimental to either myself or the world. The biggest one is spending $683 on a cup of coffee in a coffee shop every day, and then wondering why my bank account never filled up the was I wanted it to.
I have taught myself to make craft pour overs at home for a sliver of the cost, and not only am I saving millions, but I feel more accomplished after doing something as simple as making a quality cup of coffee. Many others are discovering similar new skills which will save them money going forward as well as become new hobbies and forms of provision.
My roommates are cooking and baking more than before, similarly saving money and honing a useful craft. My hope is that there will be less gratuitous spending (or prices!) on things like coffee and food in the future, and the work of making them will be returned to the people in a quasi-Marxist philosophy of provision.
As you’ve probably read, pollution is down exponentially around the globe, and it makes sense. With restrictions on travel, there are fewer cars shooting chemicals into the atmosphere and air and water are clearing up. I hope people will continue to be conscious of how many unnecessary trips we make, and how often we can bike, walk, or run in place of other expenditures of gas and money.
Since the closure of gyms, people have been outside more. On my runs along the river by my house, I see three times more people out walking, running or biking. Why? Because their gyms are closed, so they don’t have access to treadmills. So not only is there less exhaust from their trip to the gym, but there is less electricity going to power those machines. Now multiply this occurrence by anything that uses power which people drive to. It makes sense that the planet would be enjoying a brief recess of being polluted.
I can’t speak for everyone, but the first few days of quarantine were agony. As an extrovert, I felt starved for human connection (despite having great roommates). Now that a few weeks have passed, I’ve realized that a lot of these things were actually distractions from toxins in my soul. Surrounding myself with people at coffee shops, or going on countless first dates turned out to be more of numbing agents than satisfying assets to my soul.
By taking a slower approach to life, I have been able to reduce the rush and the stress and enjoy a more peaceful season.
It goes without saying that many smaller (and larger) businesses have been struggling since the outbreak. In the moment, this seems dark and scary, but it’s a season humanity will push through. On the other side lies a new season of creativity and opportunity. The optimist in me hopes that this will lead to new methods of distributing wealth, paying for things, and doing business. I am the opposite of a business man, but as shown in the Black Death, when rebounding from a global crisis, humans are resilient and can come out stronger than before.
This is perhaps my most optimistic point: The world has the opportunity to become more unified now than ever before. If the Black Death led to something as beautiful as the Renaissance, perhaps this globalized world can take the chance to unify as human beings. In an era of polarization, this microscopic common enemy can draw us together across boundaries of politics, religion, or economic differences. Will we take advantage of this unity, or let it pass and return to our old ways of vitriol and division?
We have more time than ever, so why not take advantage of it to encourage someone, especially someone who is working hard through these complex days?
Send a nice email or message.
Call that family member.
Leave a kind note for your mailman or Amazon driver.
Take advantage of the extra time with your family — it won’t last forever.
Whatever comes next, I can say with certainty that the world will be different in a few months. It will not return to a pre-COVID state, but will be unutterably different. If you are one who is expecting a return to “the old normal,” I’m preparing you now that that will not be the case.
We can presently prepare and plan for what this coming era will look like. Will we take this opportunity to make ourselves more patient, diligent, and unified? Or will you just binge Netflix waiting for the restrictions to be lifted?
Do your best to avoid expectations of any kind. Don’t paint a mental image of what your summer will look like — or beyond. Learn to be flexible. Some friends of mine were supposed to be married soon, but they cancelled their wedding and went to the courthouse. Is it the romantic ceremony they envisioned? No, but they seized the moment and adapted to the situation rather than pouting about how reality didn’t align with their expectations.
Anyone who tries to predict what this next season will be like with crystal accuracy is bluffing, but it will definitely be different. You can’t control how the world will turn out, but you can improve yourself and become a better you.
Will we burst out of this epidemic into a new renaissance, or grumpily slide into the way things have always been?
You decide now.