Let’s talk about this year for a moment, shall we? Wait, you’re burned out on that? One more 2020 meme and you might junk social media for good? I understand, I do. But the below is a conversation that seems to be showing up just about everywhere in my life right now, and I think it merits unpacking.
Some of us can’t wait to get back to normal. A vaccine and we will return to life as it was. A new administration and we will rebalance. It may take some time, but normalcy will surely prevail when all of this is over.
Others among us sense that normal itself has already been rewritten. That there is not only no going back, there is no real collective impetus to do so. We are all irrefutably changed by the events of this year, and as it draws to a close I hear questions arising out of the mist on the nature of normalcy itself. What is a status quo? A zeitgeist? What happens to all those Super Bowl commercials if there is no football, and who are we, anyway, if we are no longer that?
This questioning pushes even further into the unknown. No aspect of our lives is untouched by this year. No corner of our reality remains upright. And amid the turbulence and shouting, there are whisperings, wonderings…
With remote work and the drastic slow down in human movement, will we see a birthing of new energy resources and availability for all? With hybrid and remote learning, will we see our education systems reinvented? Our workdays loosed from the 9-5? Will we go backward or forward, and into what? In short, will this great space we have all created in 2020 between what was and the as-yet unseen show us gaps in which we can imagine anew?
It seems to me we have lived funneled through tight constraints for millennia, and it feels like we are just beginning to wake up to this. The scaffolding around government is now showing, and capitalism itself seems virtually suspended, despite what the stock market says. The incenses of religion and Hollywood are losing their potency, at times no more than traces in the air. The limitations of patriarchal top-down structures have never been more obvious, or more challenging.
What can we do about health care—about health itself? When will we know what it is to be well? What about our forgotten reverence for the earth? How long can we live in this disconnect? And perhaps the most poignant question at the moment: Can we take the events, energies, and information revealed to us this year and channel them all into something approaching revelation?
We won’t see a magical reprieve in a few weeks when the new year dawns. We have largely given up on the cute catchphrases that write all this off as a 2020 glitch. What has occurred is irreversible, and it has been building for centuries. Now that it is here, do we want to go back? Can you remember how it was before? Can we tell ourselves that what we had was tenable? Normal? Worth saving?
We each have individual and personal answers to these questions, of course, and we are allowed to differ in our responses. To me what is worth saving is what we can become, the precious possibility in each person. I think of living a human life like squeezing the soul’s immense creativity through the eye of a needle, the body, the container of years. It’s a profound and impossible distillation, this being human, and yet somehow all of us have managed to do it.
So what will do with it, this new as-yet unseen architecture we are creating in the midst of chaos? As Carl Jung says, “In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” But how will we build it without the old foundations?
There are answers coming. Genius waits in the wings. If we can keep our senses tuned, we just might hear it speaking, glimpse its movements. I remind myself that mankind does one thing very well, and that is to evolve. Sometimes slowly and sometimes, if we get lucky, in unexpected quantum leaps.