Five major themes for what the pandemic has taught us.
I used to be an avid watcher of the animated series Family Guy. In one of the earlier episodes, Stewie (an evil-genius toddler, for those unfamiliar) is at a baseball game and receives a foul ball. He turns to an older kid sitting next to him and offers to trade the ball for a bat the other kid is holding. Other kid agrees, they make the swap, and Stewie uses the bat to smack the kid, retrieving the ball in the process. Then, he smirkingly asks the now-smarting kid what he learned from the experience.
Maybe it’s out of a sense of cosmic justice (“everything happens for a reason”), or just making lemonade out of life’s lemons, but a lot of folks cling to the notion that misfortune comes with lessons to be learned. Perhaps how to avoid recurrence of the unwanted events, or to better withstand them if and when they turn up again. Yes, it’s a shame I blew my finger off with fireworks, lost a bundle in the stock-market, or permanently misplaced my car keys. But, now, I’m wiser or otherwise better off as result of the experience.
I find that many of these lessons learned are things that people knew darned well before their untoward events occurred. You don’t need to be minus one digit to know that fireworks are dangerous, for instance. And, most people who ultimately lose things like their car keys, glasses, etc., have a background of temporarily misplacing more than a few items-plenty of warning episodes that could have prompted a change in behavior. In such cases, it’s not so much a matter of learning new lessons as respecting those already known and remembering to abide by them.
A minority of the lessons people tell themselves they’ve learned are of another order entirely, regarding misfortunes that they had no prayer of avoiding or even mitigating. And, they will be just as vulnerable to them in the future. Still, whether they’re genuinely wrong or are determined to wrap themselves in a comfortable fiction of security, they repeat this to themselves or others around them.
So, here we are, slowly emerging from at least the first round of widespread COVID-19 infections, and the urge is strong to identify things that we’re learned from our ordeal. Or, for those more inclined to fault-finding, to point out what others should have learned, but didn’t, or should’ve known to begin with.
In that spirit, I offer up some major themes I have seen in the past few weeks: