Spoiler Alert: This post has more questions than answers.
Those of us who have flirted around the edges of Buddhism, or have downloaded a meditation app or two, have come across one pervasive truism: everything changes. During this present pandemic, this seems truer than ever. How can we know what the future will look like once this is all over? Will this ever be over? Will we be the same people tomorrow as we thought we were yesterday? I can’t help wondering…
- Will we have the same jobs we had before? Once we have found ourselves working in new ways, adapting to work lives which are more solitary and unstructured, or worse, finding ourselves without any work at all, will we still want to do the same jobs in the same ways if they become available again?
- Will our global economy rely on the same industries as it once did? Will the so-called ‘gig economy’ where all imaginable services are provided by freelancers still exist? Will the airplane industry look the same? Will manufacturing take on a renewed position of importance, and what will be manufactured?
- How will we teach and how will we learn? All we hear about now is remote learning and on-line studies. How can we assume that students will have the necessary technology at home to take part in all this? Will school systems have the necessary resources to develop and provide this? (We are already seeing how mistaken is the assumption that students can continue their studies remotely — not everyone has computers, not everyone has teachers capable of developing and using new technology, few parents can successfully oversee at-home learning while maintaining their own workloads.)
- Will we travel less? Will access to travel become more limited and what will that mean for the way we experience the world? Will those of us whose lives revolve around travel, like mine, find themselves wanting to stay home more, become even more inward looking? Will others who have been happiest at home discover a new urgency in their desire to experience more of the furthest corners of the world?
- Income Inequality? Will the gap between the poor and the rich around the world become even more glaring, or will now arise a time when the value of providing social services and paying higher taxes to underwrite basic communal needs be more globally appreciated?
- Will we begin to define ourselves and our personalities differently? Will those of us who considered themselves introverts long for more interaction with the world around them now that their natural introverted tendencies are mandated? Will the life of the party discover how much she enjoys the quiet of a less externally stimulated mind?
We are all still in the phase of needing to ensure that as many of us as possible live through this. Our health is paramount. But as I near the end of my own quarantine, and the intense anxiety about my own health and that of my loved ones lessens. I find myself wondering more and more what the world will look like once we all step outside once again. Will it be safer to hug than to shake hands? Will we stop allowing proximity to strangers, or will we realize all that connects us and crave a new closeness? We know everything changes. Who will stop being afraid of change and start embracing it? Will it be me? Will it be you?