Navigating a Pandemic that will Shape Humanity
Reliving the Roaring Twenties
As the new year began, people had very high expectations and hoped that this year would be better than the previous year. Maybe, because it’s 2020, and we are comparing it to the Roaring Twenties, the decade of change. Then, the world was recovering from the Spanish Flu and World War I, many US citizens owned cars, radios, and telephones for the first time, and it was a period where Jazz empowered young people to go and do as they pleased. It was indeed a great decade to have lived in.
Or, maybe because the last decade had left a particularly sour taste in most people’s mouths. Whether it had been politics, some social crisis, another pandemic, or war, the whole world was looking forward to starting a new decade and leaving the previous one behind–a fresh start with unique, beautiful moments.
Instead of receiving a warm welcome, the world was greeted with a global pandemic similar to the Spanish Flu. No one could have anticipated a planetary crisis at this scale, and we weren’t ready for it. The start of the new decade was nothing we expected. This is not the “Roaring Twenties” we imagined…
2020 brought a new reality, a new normal, for the world to endure. As local, state, and federal officials and public health professionals alike advocate social distancing, city streets are nearly empty, social gatherings and events are nonexistent, and education has moved online. The hustle of what used to be a “normal” life is now working from home, virtual hangouts with friends and family, and giving a look of concern anytime someone sneezes or coughs in public. No more ‘bless yous’ and ‘thank yous.’ The very fabric of our social dynamic has changed.
The global economy is at a standstill as we weather a storm that doesn’t seem to have an end and watch the events unfold in front of us. As we anticipate another recession, nearly 17 million people filed for unemployment in three weeks. And, as of this writing, there are approximately 1,770,978 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, 107,775 deaths, and 396,693 recovered. Every day, more infections and deaths are being reported. It’s difficult not to succumb to feeling helpless, hopeless, and powerless in times like these. It seems that our lives and the world have inevitably changed as we know it.
2020 is a defining decade for humanity.
There are very few defining moments in history, Spanish Flu, World Wars, and Civil Reforms, to name a few, where most of a population rallied together under one cause–Saving, protecting, or bettering the lives of our fellow men and women.
The COVID-19 Outbreak is one of those defining moments, and we may hope to go back to our normal lives after all this is over, but not likely. Pandemics, wars, and other social crises often shift and create new attitudes, needs, and behaviors. They transform nations, organizations, and people at such a fundamental level, for better or worse.
Together, as we navigate the crisis and the unknown, we are adapting as quickly as we can to the events as they unfold. But, we can do better than merely adapting to a new environment. We can thrive by shaping it rather than being victims of a bad situation.
Fortunately, this crisis has given us the seeds of opportunity to innovate and become better because of our hardships, challenges, and losses, not despite it.
Men and women, heroes, that rise to the challenge and often set the precedent of how we should respond–just as they did during the Spanish Flu, World Wars, and Civil Rights Reform–and we have become immensely better. The world has become less slightly chaotic by the thoughtful action of others.
Today, our heroes are the men and women serving on the frontlines who are fending off an invisible enemy–doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and other supporting health and medical staff. They are the scientists and researchers of public and private sectors researching and developing vaccines to protect the healthy and medicine to heal the sick. They are the companies and citizens rushing to manufacture extra PPEs (personal protective equipment.) They are the business leaders and politicians, creating possible solutions to help keep the economy moving. They are the volunteers who are distributing food and supplies to those who have less. And, yes, even those who are staying home watching Netflix.
Humanity is doing its part, and every bit of it counts because how we respond right now matters more than ever.
To all of you, thank you, especially to those on the frontlines.
A Time to Reflect, Rethink, and Reimagine
The ingenuity, innovation, and compassion of humankind has always endured, prevailed, and thrived through the power of creativity and imagination. 2020 has brought an opportunity–a clean slate of some sort–to exercise our creativity and imagination as we respond to the global crisis.
Instead of living in needless fear, anxiousness, and dread, empowered by new aspiration and aggravation, it’s time to reflect, rethink, and use imagination on how we want to shape our reality this year and beyond. We need to begin to ask ourselves critical questions.
Knowing what we experienced (so far), what are we going to do differently? What is going to return to normal, and what isn’t? Will we attempt to return to “doing business as usual?” How do we want to envision and live in this new decade?
As we innovate as quickly as we can to save and protect lives, what will it mean now that we’ve accelerated biological and medical innovation? And how will it be used in the future? Will this question how we organize our healthcare system and conduct medical response? What does it mean now that we’ve entered a new form of digital acceleration? Will innovation provide more control over our reality or less?
How will our view and value of relationships, work, and ourselves change? How does this experience redefine what it means to be human? How will this redraw the lines of trust and loyalty in the powers that be? How will this change the fabric of our social and financial strata?
What can we take away from our experience that makes us better in our relationships, work, and family? How do we take the lessons of hardship, challenge, and loss and become better humans and live a build a better world?
Although the outbreak is evolving quickly, meaningful change doesn’t happen overnight, but we must start asking these types of questions now because the world will be dramatically different post-COVID-19.
A Framework for Imagination
In the face of adversity, keeping imagination alive is one of the hardest things to do. Based on research by Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller in an article (slightly adapted), through creativity and imagination, we can overcome isolation and the feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and powerlessness, here are five ways to help envision a better world, a better life, in a post-COVID-19 reality.
1) Set aside time for mediation and reflection.
2) Ask active, open questions.
3) Experiment with new ways of doing.
4) Stay hopeful.
5) Be playful, have fun.
In a post-COVID-19 world, how do we want to be remembered? Better yet, how do we want to remember the “Coronavirus Outbreak of 2020?” How we respond now will make a difference. The time we take to reflect, rethink, and reimagine our lives will determine and shape the year and the decade to follow.
Be well and stay safe as we weather this storm together.