Looking for the right image for a post can be an arduous project. But today I checked my photo database, which houses a massive number of museum shots, and found Peter Blume's The Rock - immediately. While it depicts a harsh landscape, it also presents humans at work rebuilding. The big red chopped and broken sphere - a moldy microcosm representing a ruined planet? A planet in this case savaged by World War II, but close enough to signify where the earth stands as Co-vid 19 shakes us down.
My mind has been spinning the brave new world we could create when we emerge from our cocoons. Sticky little winged things we will be. But bright and new.
Will we change the way we live? The way we work? We will have learned how to work from home, so can we drop three or four of the five days spent in “the office”, and even re-situate what were formerly office meetings to public spaces? Meaning perhaps that countless office spaces could be converted to living quarters? Housing crisis abated? Air staying cleaner?
During the lockdown, many of us will have discovered that life’s real pleasures are quite basic. The great outdoors suddenly becomes a paradise. Friends are like living gold. And the value of money vs time? Will we have discovered that the old paradigm “Time is money” takes on a different hue? The value of time in fact becomes more than that of money.
Anyone who works remotely realizes they can accomplish the same amount of work with less stress, less expense, and more freedom as to how they tackle it. They can take naps and work in sweats and eat when they need to, not when only it’s convenient. We have all learned self discipline because we have had to. And we are healthier for it. But we are the lucky ones and we need to act as if we are the disadvantaged instead, and link arms with them. Why can’t we all be happy? There probably are too many of us making too many absurd demands on resources, but we can reduce our demands and reduce our own numbers.
But entire systems need to change. Chains of command. Chains of supply. Chains of information and content. The chains restraining people must be replaced with bonds of education and love.
The economy itself needs to be recalibrated. Markets will change. Businesses will die. Fossil fuels will lose out. So sorry you Barons and Titans, but your days are numbered. We will become intoxicated with clean air and demand a revolution. And then other businesses, let’s call them projects, will grow.The education business, the world of geo-engineering, energy systems, architecture, and agriculture. Developing new business and governance models. In fact what we are faced with is a massive and necessarily Global Project.
This must be a moment of great innovation. Every student on earth could be encouraged to conceptualize new and sustainable products, techniques, and systems. This should have been the mission of every university for the past few decades, but the tragic flaw of humans is that they only learn the hard way. We could have been busy, with a little more lead time, adapting to the vicissitudes of our changing climate and redressing the evils, but now we have no time for anything but facing the onslaught head-on. And clearly no half-measures are going to cut it.
NEW NARRATIVES, NEW STANDARDS, NEW SYSTEMS, NEW CHANNELS
How we consume, what we consume. Beyond our daily wants and needs for security, and for sure the occasional vacation, all those things we thought we had to have? Maybe a little less significant.
And how will we entertain ourselves? Aren’t we seeing now that it isn't just the average jack-and-jill of the internet, but the showbiz celeb as well who is presenting their real selves in a way that is funny and intimate? New narratives are emerging. And new standards for excellence and value as well. In some ways they look back to older standards, pre-industrial, even indigenous ways that remind us of what it means to be connected to nature and to each other. We must create new channels of intelligence that flow everywhere.
Through this pandemic, this exercise in humility and simplicity that teaches so many lessons, we learn how interconnected we all are. How in many ways, we are all one. And, along the way, we become acquainted with something invaluable - ourselves. As time slows down and we have time to notice the meaning intrinsic in our every action, the charm hidden in life’s small things, we become entranced with how truly beautiful the mere fact of living is. To be greedy for more is primitive, passé, presumptuous.
And thanks to this most precious realization, we will demand a revolution, won’t we.