This doesn’t end. Ever.
There is an article in the Atlantic today that asks the question ‘what will things look like in the future?’. The author asks this question to a wide variety of people in various professions and gets some thought-provoking feedback. Two responses struck me. The first is ‘It looks weird’. Well, we are certainly there.
The second answer is the title of this piece, The Now Normal. I wish I could claim it as a book title but I can’t. But I think this is the most accurate way of assessing what the near future looks like. It looks like now. There are those who honestly think life in the ‘good old days’ was better. But the reality is that the only time we are actually alive is now. And that is the only normal.
This isn’t particularly insightful in itself when you take it out of context. But there are many who have seen their world change in unforeseen ways, virtually overnight, and they don’t like it. If you have built your life around a kind of worldview that seeks to have everything your way, you are not equipped for things right now. This is what drives the kind of political panic we are seeing from a large group of entrenched interests who seem to be ready to literally sacrifice others to return to the status quo. It’s a hard thing to watch.
Meanwhile, I am encouraged by the rest of us, every day. The kindness, the willingness to share hopes and fears, and the common sense sanity. Yes, we have children of all ages amongst us who cry that this isn’t fair. Of course life isn’t fair. Did someone tell them it was? What’s fair is a friend mailing me a handmade mask. Getting groceries for those who can’t get out. Keeping our distance. What is eminently unfair is the burden placed on healthcare workers and store clerks, but what they do is the fairest of all.
The now normal is as different as we could imagine, short of a nuclear war or cataclysmic natural disaster. In some ways it is stranger, because it is invisible and unpredictable. If there was a word I find myself using constantly while writing these pieces it is ‘unpredictable’. But humans are wonderfully flexible, if they allow themselves to be. Dwelling on ‘getting back to normal’ is wildly unrealistic. It is simply not going to happen.
I’m trying to look forward just a little bit. To speculate what we can take out of this that is good and what we need to learn from the bad parts. We can’t be unprepared again. We cannot again tolerate the willful dismantling, for ideological purposes, of services the government must provide. We cannot pretend that borders are anything but artificial contructs that can’t protect us. This is a planet and we are a global species dependent on it. We need to start realizing that and changing the way we live on it. That is the now normal.