We are smarter, faster, and better than any virus, but only if we work together. My favorite medieval historian, Yuval Noah Harari, gives us historical context in this Time magazine article. As usual, leadership matters.
“In this moment of crisis, the crucial struggle takes place within humanity itself. If this epidemic results in greater disunity and mistrust among humans, it will be the virus’s greatest victory. When humans squabble – viruses double. In contrast, if the epidemic results in closer global cooperation, it will be a victory not only against the coronavirus, but against all future pathogens.”
The world shifted on its axis this weekend as the impact of coronavirus on the human race came into focus. I felt the zeitgeist slip a notch, in contrast to its usual slow turning – borders of all sorts closing, new leaders emerging as previous leaders are shown – in a flash -to be ineffective, new concerns moving front and center and old priorities – once held dear – suddenly not even relevant. March 2020. Something new has been born into this world.
The Second Coming by W. B. Yeats
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
Cullen Murphy has written a fascinating article in the February 2020 issue of The Atlantic titled Before Zuckerberg, Gutenberg. It is about how successive waves of innovation were spurred by the introduction of the printing press. Some of the innovation and disruption we experience today are related to these earlier waves, even though digital technology is a new phenomenon. “… we no longer register the impact of the printing press because we have no easy way to retrieve the ambient sensation of “before,” just as we can’t retrieve, and can barely imagine, what life was like when only scattered licks of flame could pierce the darkness of night.”
It is a short read but packed with interesting details about connections between disruptions. A favorite: “More books and rising literacy created an eyeglass industry, which in turn brought advances in lens-making, which ultimately made possible the telescope and spelled the end of biblical cosmology.”
As human species continues its march to a future we really cannot know, I appreciate the cultural mapmakers like Cullen who think about these matters.
Do you get this guy’s emails? He writes (a lot) about the music industry, politics, his observations of life in general. I often agree with his point of view, and I admire his prolific output. This from today’s letter, about the Democratic debates in South Carolina last night:
This election is about hope.
I am utterly astounded that the media and most of those running, never mind the consultants, just don’t get this. They believe this is a game, a known quantity, and he or she with the most experience and expertise wins.
But they are wrong. A tsunami has already wiped out that game, but the people with the most money and the most power are somehow unaware of this.
His site is here; you can sign up for his letter here.
Because the second one – the second cookie, the second cup, the second scoop – can never be as good as that first one.
I am realizing that living life to the fullest doesn’t mean that you will be able to live the perfect magazine life you were dreaming of, or make up the life you want … it just means that it is possible to live fully within the set of circumstances life throws at you.
Well, this article certainly sums it up. Your future is yours to create until suddenly it isn’t anymore. The reader comments on this article were particularly interesting to me..
” … the aging of America demands serious reconsideration of the way we live. Confronting the issue and its many implications, from Medicare’s failure to cover long-term care to the ethics of physician-assisted dying, requires what seems to be the most difficult task for human beings — thinking about the future.”
The people I know now live in rural America. They aren’t who you think they are.
The people I know now think it self-evident that everyone’s water should be clean. It is obvious to them that everyone who needs medical attention should have access to it. They accept that mental balance and self esteem can be hard to come by, and those who will say the truth out loud are precious. They fight against the big foreign company stealing water at a bottling plant, and against the small fracking company that dumped chemicals on a road near their well. They have old cars, or none at all. They call the bus and wait. They are often between jobs, and always needing a higher-paying one. They seek dignity as they learn to live in the world after an addiction or time in prison. If they can, they grow their own food, and eat healthier than most in America. They don’t write a check for $50 or $100 easily, if at all. They don’t shop on-line as a hobby, and their clothes might be worn. The internet coverage out here is slow or non-existent. Few have big screen televisions and they still play their music off CD’s. I haven’t seen many new iPhones out here.
The people I know now inspire me as they matter-of-factly go about daily challenges that cause me to whine about life’s unfairness. I think about the inner resilience my privilege has earned for me (or not). I compare them to the corporate ghosts I knew in my past life: executives living on chemical-cesspool golf courses, drinking their way through long trips away from home; sales people making piles of money but filled with self loathing; leaders wanting to win, more than wanting to do right. Everyone striving for bigger cars and more stuff. No one willing, or able, to name a principle they believed in, much less take a stand for it.
The people I know now read, draw, cook, sculpt, think, listen for the owls and the coyotes at night, and talk quietly among friends. They protest, march, and speak up. They take care of their land, their animals, and one another as the earth slips slowly from solstice to equinox.
I came to this rural life a cynic. The people I know now are slowly turning me optimistic.