When in May this year I first used the phrase “Pandemic season” referring to the time of lockdown and self isolation, I could not imagine that it would extend beyond 3 actual seasons of this year and plus some of the 2021 seasons possibly.
Moreover, despite we’ve been here for quite awhile, become familiar with the ins and outs of remote work system, bought masks of different colors, and learned the symptoms of the virus by heart, we might not still fully understand that what this pandemic has brought to us is a bigger change than it seems to be.
Before I go to the core of the post, what has prompted this idea for writing this article were the results of my observations done during my work on an independent and anonymous “All Is One Project” this year here in New York. The combination of portraits and audio records of conversations presents a study of our collective pandemic experience. You can read about the project here and also listen to the fragments of conversations here and on my IG page.
Now as I had time to re-listen and to show my recordings to a number of people I have realized that many of us are still struggling to see a bigger picture of how this pandemic is affecting our future. There is definitely more to it than healthcare, economic, societal and political crisis.
Let me try to explain. I am a big fan of looking at and studying the relationship between the context and content of one’s life. To clarify, as the context of your life has been changing over the last several months that process has inevitably led to the change of the content, i.e. your personal experiences, your values, your system of beliefs.
For instance, when in March you were asked to work from home, you thought – that’s for a few months and then we will come back to what it used to be.
Fast forward few months and you rediscovered the life that you’ve been missing in many ways. You now see your child more often. The office is all over sudden not needed in order for you to successfully do your tasks. There are alternative ways to stay fit and healthy. Etc. Now you know things can be different and you don’t have to stick to a set in stone program – do you want to come back to what it used to be?
As scary as it might have sounded in the beginning, but what we thought was a temporary re-adjustments or shift might become the new way to be. You know why – not only from the necessity, but because you actually fell in love with certain aspects of this new way. And moreover, you might have fallen in love with your new self. (Think about it )
While schools are rethinking education, arts are rethinking performances, restaurants are rethinking dining and all the rest are rethinking the way of being to make a leap from surviving mode into thriving, we are still here: participating by default, making gradual adjustments to our wardrobe, taking closer look at our diet, watching our social circle getting tighter and social skills getting weaker, fitting our work life into one tiny laptop on a tiny kitchen table, and re-considering your relationship with your living space as that’s where you spend most of your time now.
Meanwhile, underneath all these adjustments to the structure and operating system of our life there is a fundamental re-evaluation of what parts of this structure are actually serving us well and contributing to the overall stability (read: sanity).
Using work from home case as an example, instead of asking whether or not you can work from home, a much better question to ask would be whether or not you actually enjoy your commute to the office, your team, and attachment to a particular location. At this point no one is questioning our ability to adapt.
To tell you the truth, I am the kind of a person who believes in balance in everything. Consequently, my belief is, if the last 100s of years of evolution have given us some major innovations and scientific breakthroughs and have opened the window into the digital world of a new (virtual) reality, then on the other side of the scale will be a bunch of unnecessary, self-inflicted needs, unhealthy habits, ways of spending money and self-medicating, drugs, addictions, false beliefs about ourselves, all catered right to the tips of your fingers on the screens of your phones in a personally targeted advertisement that feels like the universe has read your mind and, oh alas, you are $99 and 9 cents away from being cured.
I am imagining how years after this pandemic will be over, the historians and anthropologists will be proclaiming this time as a another step towards our evolution – to become more human and finally learn to filter through the gigabytes of false information, unnecessary advertisements, engagements with people you have no interest in, finally liberating the speech and liberating your feed from paid political ads, social barriers to equality and human decency. Basically we will see (or already see) unlearning as a new path to evolution.
Similarly, in that fantasy world of mine, right about the end of pandemic season (which we now know is longer than the actual one of 4 seasons of the year) every person will receive an email saying – well, now that you know the difference, you have an option of coming back to your previous way of being or actually incorporating the lessons learned over this time and leaving some of the old habits and beliefs behind. What will you choose?
Little did we know that the greatest danger to the world might turn out to be the greatest savior of ourselves from ourselves.