I used to watch The Walking Dead and wonder how people could possibly be stuck in a high-rise apartment or suburban house with zombies roaming about below or outside, respectively. Like most people, I thought, Why didn’t they just run for the hills? How stupid are they? I never considered that society doesn’t go from normal to the END overnight, or even over the span of a week. I don’t think anyone watched post-apocalyptic shows or movies thinking about the in-between; when the world has stopped, but not yet collapsed.
Yet in 2020, we’re locked in an awkward in between – schools are closed, businesses are failing, and national and global markets teeter on the brink of collapse. Families of all classes across the world are struggling to put food on the table or pay their rent or mortgage. People of all ages and nationalities are dying and falling ill. Essential workers are forced to weigh the possibility of infecting themselves and their loved ones against a steady paycheck. We’re not at the end of the world – in fact, it really shouldn’t end at all – yet we’ve got a small taste of what a slow descent feels like.
If i were to put on The Walking Dead or Outbreak now, I’d view the characters within those stories with much greater compassion. How could they have possibly known this would happen? I certainly never predicted COVID-19 or its effects, and I’m an overly cautious person. It’s clear our world and business leaders didn’t exactly predict it either. How could they know? How could we have known?
We’re still in the midst of this crisis, but it is finally starting to feel like there is an end to this tunnel, and at least a glimmer of light at the end of it. We’ve lost lives, we’ve lost money, and a lot of us may have lost faith. Yet, I am fairly confident we will not be the same people and countries and businesses and governments and communities we were before this crisis as we will be after it. We will likely be more compassionate, more cautious, more aware of our humility and smallness and less wrapped up in our egos. I would never wish the loss of a human life for any reason, but I do believe that there is some silver lining here.
Haruki Murakami sums this up perfectly in his beloved work, Kafka on the Shore. He writes,
“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”
That, my friend, is the point of this storm. The point is to change us, collectively and individually, on a million different scales. The universe has its own checks and balances, and perhaps this one is directed at us all. Perhaps, it’s even deserved.
Regardless, we won’t be the same when it’s over.
And that’s probably a good thing.