We have had a back seat view of the pandemic as it has marched it way from China, to Europe and the United States. I’ve been monitoring a variety of international news Web sites, trying to get a macro view of what is happening by aggregating the stories into a broader narrative.
This is a bigger story than just a medical, or even economic, crisis. There is more behind all the numbers and dashboards, behind the blustery media briefings and the desperate pleas on YouTube.
Our collective reflection
This global crisis is a giant mirror. As MIT professor Otto Scharmer says, “The issues outside are a mirror of the issues inside.” This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the entire system to look back on itself.
When people experience a transformational social shift, they notice a profound change in the atmosphere.
On a global scale, we have seen how intimately connected we are. An unseen enemy has ripped through the globe in a matter of weeks through travel and simple touch. The virus has not heeded borders or times, cultures or social status. Everyone is sharing this experience, to one degree or another, in a collective holding of our breath.
Countries are facing the stark shortcomings of their health care systems. People see the fears and flaws of their political leaders. The lack of accurate tests, the flat-footed responses, and the disjointed, confusing messages all demonstrate what was wrong with systems before COVID-19. We have also seen entire populations sequester themselves at home for the benefit of the entire community, in what a UCSF epidemiologist calls, “one of the greatest calls for altruism.”
Being closed up at home, either alone or with family, also provides a mirror on ourselves. We have the moment to say, “By the way, have I ever noticed that before?” The seeds of our reaction were planted long ago. How we try to make sense of our place in this situation tells us a lot about ourselves and our relationships. Some people embrace the solitude and quiet as a welcome respite from their formerly busy lives. Some are turning to their homes with the enthusiasm of a religious convert, organizing drawers and baking bread. Others go into their own version of “panic connecting,” filling up their days with video conferencing gatherings, meetups, and wine o’clocks.
What does your reaction right now mirror back to you? What was there before COVID-19 that now has a moment to flourish?