What have we gone through this past year? How can we know what we have gone through when we are still going through it? How can we see the ripple effects, the unforeseen consequences, and the unconscious antecedents of this past year?
When we don’t even know, fully, what we have gone through, what we are going through, and where we are going – how can we even guess how the ripples of our own experiences will interact with the ripple effects of others’ experiences?
Are we lost at sea? Floating in waves of the Cosmic Ocean?
Are we on solid land, or in the waves? Is it calming down, or are amplitude waves and surges building?
Where are we supposed to be? Now that we think we are out of the swells of the Ocean, maybe we were better off there, maybe now we are stranded and stuck.
Can we stop? Can we pause? Can we study the patterns of what we have created in the midst of what has been creating us?
Maybe what we thought we knew is not what we should have known – or maybe now we see that there is a need for a new knowing, a gnosis of the complexity of interactions between individual and society, between humanity and nature, between statehood and global citizenship.
Can we find some meaning and wisdom by slowing down and reading the signs of the destruction before we jump to rebuilding? Was the “old normal” really the society that we want to live in, that we want the coming generations to live in?
We are moving into the future at every moment. At every moment we are leaving the past. We are where we are now, and this is the place that we must live and build our future on the foundations of the past.
Admittedly, the pandemic is a big event, with lots of ripple effects and unforeseen antecedents and consequences. But were we really living the lives we wanted – the best lives for all of us and for the environment? Are our social creations of the economy, the transportation infrastructure and technology, our capitalist economic system, the level of poverty and homelessness – even pre-pandemic, the education systems, the health care systems (which have revealed their vulnerabilities and our lack of a public health system and the limitations of caring within health care and society in general) – are these the systems that we want? These systems and institutions weren’t found in nature. Somebody created them – it must have been us.
How is the way we are living, the society we have created, impacting the environment? What does our footprint in the natural world look like?
Some of us may think we were not very affected by the pandemic – and yet if one is affected, all are affected.
No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as any manner of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. (John Dunne)
We each have our own experiences of the pandemic, and yet there are patterns, similarities – we are all in this together!
Can we all find our common humanity? Can we learn to appreciate the ecosystems and milieus in which we live and how everyone is interconnected and that we are responsible for what happens in our slip stream, even if the consequences are unintended?
Can we learn to see the ripple effects of our actions, the patterns that we create, the collateral damage and “unintended consequences” of our institutions and systems?
Can we build a beautiful and harmonious pattern within society – that amplifies others rather than drowning them out, excluding them, or hoarding all the resources people and the planet need to be healthy, publicly healthy, globally healthy?
Must we build our tight little circles of exclusion, our walls of xenophobia?
Can we expand our perspectives?
Can we open up our hearts and minds and lives to the world? Can we embrace our interconnectedness rather than build fortresses in the sand?
What will we choose to do in the new present, once things get back to normal? Will we re-create a malignant normality, or will we create a beautiful and healthy society and world – a beautiful economy, a beautiful transportation system, a beautiful educational system, a beautiful transportation system, and a beautiful health care system, full of caring for all?
Where will we choose to go? What footpath into the future will we follow?