What in the World is Going On?
That we live in “historic times“, comes as no surprise to anyone. That these are “challenging times,” that “we are all in this together“; how often we have heard these words in the media over these past, surreal weeks? But what do they mean? How, for instance, are these times historic?
It’s not just the global economic shut-down or the fear of contracting the virus or the number of deaths we are witness to that make these times historic (and horrific). It’s the changes they signify; changes that are evidence of a significant movement in our human evolution.
Before I speak of the relevant historic implications of what’s happening, a quick refresher on the four stages of the Community Building Process:
In the past, we dwelled in the first stage; Pseudocommunity. It was a stage of pretence. We revealed only the parts of our lives that were fine, even when, behind closed doors, sometimes things were much less than fine. Pseudocommunity is a little like the “face” we share on Facebook. Stage one is not authentic nor satisfying, but we were born into it. In our defence, it was all we knew. Even though, in our lifetimes…
Chaos has been creeping up on us. Various important institutions have begun to break down; marriage, the church, governments, the education systems. We now have a phrase to mandate respect, “political correctness”. No longer is the pretence strong enough to conceal the discontent we hid behind closed doors. But – still – we ignored it all and carried on as if everything was still fine.
COVID-19 forced us to pause, then stop, and then it pushed us into our homes and made us stay there. No longer can we pretend that everything is fine. On a professional level, we’ve had to pivot- fast – and find a way to adapt to this new reality. On a personal level, we found ourselves with ample time to think and to consider what was really important. We rallied valiantly. We occupied ourselves at home with cleaning and baking projects, we rediscovered the value of family time, and we began again to enjoy the shared meal.
We now keenly recognize the value of connection. Every politician stresses this, every marketing message, every public figure is telling us that we are all in this together. Of course, we are – we always were, only now, in the stage of Chaos, we feel the reality of it.
Are we ready for stage three? Emptiness is a response to the issues that Chaos is kind enough (albeit through tough love) to reveal. No longer can we pretend the issues don’t exist and that everything is just fine. It wasn’t just fine.
What Will Happen When this is Over?
What will happen when we can emerge from our homes again? There is no question that life will be different; the question is how will it be different? Will we try to go back to the way we were?
Politicians warn that if we end the lockdown too soon we will have wasted all the sacrifices we have made in sheltering in place for so long. So, too, if we try to go back to a world of Pseudocommunity, we will have not derived any value from the revelations of Chaos, nor from all the introspection of Emptiness. We see it now; we appreciate what is important – releasing what we now see was not necessary, not life-giving, not supportive of the inhabitants of this planet. If we went back to where we were, all this would have been a waste of time.
Are we a people of pretence, a Pseudocommunity (haven’t we had enough of that?), or can we be a true Community people at last?
We are people who care about one another. We are resilient, empathetic, strong and compassionate. These are not merely the characteristics of people in a crisis; these are the characteristics that reveal themselves when people are in a crisis.
A Microcosmic View
I’ve lived in this neighbourhood for nearly four years. During this time, I’ve gone for daily walks around the neighbourhood and said hello to the people I passed on the streets. I couldn’t help but notice how quiet this neighbourhood was, that there were hardly any people on the streets, and all the porches were empty. And with the exception of the children who initiated greetings, most of the people I greeted did not even respond.
That changed with COVID-19. No one sits on their back decks anymore. They are sitting on their front porches. Before COVID-19, the only people I saw on the streets were those walks were mandated by their dogs. Now, I see people walking with their children, their partners, their friends. They are on bikes, skateboards, and rollerblades. And everyone smiles and waves and speaks to one another.
I hope we won’t go back to the way we were. I hope we keep going forward, moving into Community.