When all of this is over, I wonder if the world will look back and see both the stumbles and the triumphs clearly. I wonder if, when we attempt to rewrite history with 20/20 hindsight, we wind up agonizing over missed opportunities … or celebrating the changes we made that improved everything going forward.
I wonder if we’ll choose a path that lets this break us, estrange us, and split us apart. We may be tempted to boomerang back into our old ways and let 300,000+ lives be lost for nothing. We may want to stick our heads in the sand and let the carnage continue long after the virus is defeated. Or we may decide to see this as a turning point.
We can choose to learn from what we’ve experienced. We can choose to re-prioritize. We can choose to do what human beings do best and reinvent ourselves.
When all of this is over, we can turn reluctant adaptation into revolutionary innovation — innovation that, this time, doesn’t happen at the expense of our planet. Or our freedom. Or our ability to enjoy what’s truly important in life. This time, we can redefine the word “progress” to mean something that benefits us all — two-legged, four-legged, leafy and scaled alike.
There is a wonderful video going around by British poet “Probably Tom Foolery,” which looks back on the current pandemic and dubs it “The Great Realisation.” Obviously, this is oversimplified — glossing over all the death, the ruin, and the profound suffering caused by this virus. But it is prophetic and inspiring nonetheless.
No one is happy that Covid-19 is happening. But it is. It is clawing a defining line in the earth and daring us to cross back over. “The Great Realisation” spotlights an unprecedented opportunity to fix what was wrong before the world as we knew it shut down.
As Clarence the angel said in the 1946 film “It’s a Wonderful Life,” it’s a rare gift to see how the world would look without us in it. Right now, we are being shown what our planet would be like without humanity — or at least without its unchecked air-polluting, garbage-dumping, oil-spilling, ocean-ravaging, wildlife-annihilating tendencies. It’s as if Mother Nature watched all of our toothless pontificating about climate change, grew tired of our worthless political bickering, could no longer stomach our blatant denial of reality … and decided enough was enough. No fair-minded person can deny how the atmosphere is improving, and wildlife is flourishing, and waterways are clearing while we’re in detention.
The question is do we listen? Or do we become that world-destroying species we’ve prophesied and demonized in so many science fiction sagas? Do we channel our inner cinematic villain and sweep everything we’ve seen under the rug?
Life after the pandemic will inevitably be different, no matter how we decide to move forward. We will adapt. We will survive. But when has that ever been humanity’s ultimate goal?
If hindsight is 20/20, then let 2020 be the year we defog our lenses, prepare for the future, and stop letting petty rivalries obscure what is right.