Prior to the Covid pandemic, there were observable and more subtle fissures in the fabric of life in the US. Many manifested as polarities: two groups of people who simply did not agree on a given issue. Post-Covid, these manifest, and some new ones have emerged. I just completed three back-to-back trips to different parts of the US. Observing and listening were productive investments of my time and energy. “Getting Back to Normal” was one of the emergent themes. And there I found a new polarity.
For some, the experience of the pandemic and the shutdown created a hiatus where enforced reflectiveness and unimagined human suffering created alternative insights. These persons emerged from their Covid Caves with an interest in creating a life different from the one they lived pre-Covid. They also took note of the many unveiled dysfunctions in our social structures. They changed. For some this is not just an interest but a passion, one they are pursuing with experimenting, testing, and exploring. They hope to create something new, something better.
Conversely, some emerged from their Covid Caves with a dogged determination to take up where they left off, summarized as “Getting Back to Normal”. I sometimes sense that this is the majority though I have no evidence to substantiate this. I may simply be reacting to the doggedness itself, which I experience as a red flag of insistence, responding to any changes with resistance. It doesn’t make sense to me. I feel like I have been invited to play pretend, something I do with joy with my four-year-old grandson, but falter at the invitation from adults.
It has seemed to me that the pandemic and the shutdown were awash in life lessons, not all welcome or comforting, but there nonetheless. Many lessons challenged illusions of control, safety, certitude, and justice and communal care for all. These challenges have not dissipated for me, but left me slogging through their implications for me as a person and for the social systems where I am a participant. I have become a more focused observer. New gestures of courage emerged; new gestures of self-absorbtion emerged. The weak joints and flawed construction in the societal structures we have fabricated revealed themselves with greater clarity. They have not been repaired or replaced.
So, the old discarded “normal” for me has morphed into the shadowy outline of a new “normal” waiting to be imagined and attempted. I do not believe we will ever be “Getting Back to Normal”, a regression that does not interest me. Whether I like it or not, evolution persists. I may not be comfortable with what emerges, but my discomfort ultimately does not interrupt or alter the emergence. I think this is true for all of us.
One of the most interesting dimensions of the “Getting Back to Normal” effort is a rather poorly veiled resentment by those pursuing it toward those not consenting to the goal. This took me by surprise, perhaps naively. And even more interestingly, the “Getting Back to Normal” initiative weaves itself nicely into the pre-pandemic fissures.
Pre-pandemic, as a professional coach, I had a burgeoning interest in supporting the swelling ranks of the aged providing a rich reservoir of potential elders who could gift the planet with their wisdom developed through their life experiences. It seemed a good idea then. Now, it feels urgent.
“Emergence disturbs the concept of linearity and undermines the whole modern project of categorizing things neatly once and for all.” ~Bayo Akomolafe