The edge is an uncomfortable place. It is not somewhere most like to linger. Our bodies flood with adrenaline at the edge of a cliff, or the edge of a bridge, or even just where the floor and window meet in a high rise building. The global pandemic has pushed everyone to this uncomfortable edge, and for those new to the position, it’s a prolonged adrenaline rush.
Most of us have found some silver linings. We don’t learn, we don’t grow and we don’t overcome without challenge. In a pandemic, there is no retreating to the safety of normalcy. By revealing the fragility of our systems, COVID-19 has shattered our old normal. Therefore, let’s seize the opportunity to learn, to grow, and to build anew.
Hunter Lovins expressed it beautifully when she said that we should aim for a “finer future.” This quarantine has revealed the important building materials of that finer, more intentional and more resilient future.
Empathy and Compassion: All of us are now experiencing — maybe for the first time— prolonged uncertainty. The experience has invoked compassion and empathy for those in our society who live with uncertainty every day. This uncertainty manifests in many forms: food availability, job security, and the health of ourselves and our loved ones. Regardless of individual circumstances, it is clear that we are living in a time of profound empathy and compassion towards one another that I have not seen since 9/11.
Humanness: This virus has shown that we are, in fact, all human. Humanness pops up everywhere as we share tears with co-workers during virtual staff meetings, give leeway to parents now juggling work and kids and watch companies and corporations offer refunds, redeploy food, continue to pay and sometimes even feed their staff in a way that no one thought possible. Our humanness and our vulnerability are intricately woven. As we see community members succumb to this virus, we become aware of our own vulnerability and the vulnerability of those around us and we become better humans.
Creativity and Innovation: It’s old news, but Sir Isaac Newton and Shakespeare did some of their greatest work during quarantine. Calculus was discovered. King Lear was written. It makes sense. There are fewer distractions during quarantine. Our brains are able to make connections and be creative in ways that our pre-quarantine lives didn’t allow. (Though I often resent the expectation that I should do something profound during this quarantine. I, for one, will likely be aiming just to survive with my two toddlers). But edge environments are fertile ground for creativity and innovation. I have seen it in our own community – games drawn onto the bike path in chalk, companies re-working their processes to make critical protective gear for our health care workers, work teams building an even stronger connection through a virtual space, and houses across our valley creating teddy bear hunts for families.
This moment is an unprecedented opportunity to identify the tools needed to build a finer future. Let’s take the positive practices from this quarantine and expand them, for a better community, with improved quality of life, improved financial and food systems, and a stronger safety net.