Many of us fear the world will never go back to what it was before COVID-19 and to be prepared for that, i.e., that there is no going back.
That may well be the case, but it’s okay because it’s not as if there will be some new permanent mode of living post-COVID. Things will be that way until the next big thing shoves everything aside and radically changes everything again. Incessant and huge changes are just the nature of things. Just speaking from a US perspective – President Obama’s election changed “things forever” – then the Arab Spring changed everything “forever” and Brexit changed things again and the world was never going to be the same gain. Then the 2016 elections made it feel like Obama’s times were normal and now everything is changed forever. Then stunners started happening on a daily basis and the trade war with China was going to change things forever, fires in California, the Amazon and elsewhere changed things beyond recognition and the nuclear standoff with another country was a whole new reality whose impact was supposed to be for 10 years… until the virus came along. The list of every unprecedented thing positive, negative and ugly that happened in the last few years is long.
Some even fade from memory of those who didn’t experience it directly. The unprecedented blackout during the Camp fire may not be on many minds soon. The virus too is unprecedented, but I can’t help feeling that it’s just that way until the next crisis and is the world really that much different from the “end of times” in 2003 when a big war was about to be launched? Many good things have happened, racism and various unsavory sentiments have reared their head time and again, amazing cures have emerged, much brutality has happened. It is hard to say in many dimensions, whether the world has gotten better or worse since, say 2003.
We do acknowledge this in terms like the new normal – except it’s said tinged with a sense of sadness.
Many of these thoughts arise because of the illusion that something or the other was not going to change in the first place. As if the EU, for example, were an exception to this – the union wasn’t born a mere 30 years ago. But of course, everything that ever came into existence is impermanent, is subject to change, deterioration and eventually ceasing to exist. The Buddha called this anicca. The simile of the desert applies to the world – always changing, but in many characteristics, the same. Rather that worry about the new normal, we can recognize frequent arrival of drastic change as it has always happened. Change is the Old Normal. The Forever Normal.
Back to the virus – I do see that everyone washes hands a lot better and am delighted by that. Against all better sense, I hope that this is a change that is for good. Of course, I’m hoping for the quick discovery of vaccine/cure and do think it’s a serious situation, just not buying into the whole “game-changer” narrative.