What's Our Way Forward Now?
Personal Musings Arising from my First Real Pandemic Experience
If there is one distinctively positive lesson I can draw from my experience with COVID, it's:
Living without and finding sufficiency within.
A quick peek at my recent credit card statements is proof-positive my spending is way down. Just as well – my writing business has taken a tumble due to projects delayed. However, the paycheques my wife generates from her hospital administrator job, combined with the welcome relief from a dash of government largesse, ensure food, shelter and the odd 'necessities' (Netflix, wine and beer, need I mention?) are manageable without undue concern.
Do I miss going out for coffee with a friend, enjoying a delightful sushi meal at the local eatery, or jostling weights around in the gym? Well, yes. But not so much that I'm withering away mentally and physically.
I've often thought I could thrive on a much trimmer budget; where my gumption to explore that concept failed me, COVID has pushed me face-first to "give it the old college try." Ah hah – that's the trick. Withdraw options! Eliminate discretion! No effort required…
Saving money by living without and finding sufficiency within is not only doable – it's turning out to be more satisfying than I imagined (self-isolation tremors notwithstanding).
Now, I suspect it's just this sort of realization that has restaurant owners, recreation facility operators, travel agents, and a myriad other service providers lying awake at night in a cold sweat. Will things get back to 'normal' in the sense of what things were like before COVID froze society to a near standstill? Or, will a 'new normal' arise, one that departs significantly from that which we knew?
I found the article "The Pandemic Will Change American Retail Forever" a compelling and insightful assessment of how the new status quo will affect retail business. And change the face of big city living in ways that look dark but may create a wonderful opportunity in years to follow.
In self-isolation, I've had time to explore ideas around what's to come post-pandemic. My optimistic side hopes to witness societies develop new and better ways to operate than those preceding COVID.
Like what, for instance?
For starters, how about tossing out the common notion that economic growth is a primary measure of societal progress? Such a belief conveniently ignores the direct and tangential damage that growth-at-all-costs inflicts on social behaviour and the environment. Would it not make more sense to pursue sustainable growth, reduce consumption and lessen wasteful ways? What would the world become if we could adjust social conscience wholesale from one of insatiable consumerism to following the mantra that "Just enough is enough?"
Then, it's an easy step to consider the impact on us first-worlders financially – living with a mindset of sufficiency would offer us the simple joys of living authentically within our means. That's a stretch – can we avoid the almost erotic siren's call of easy credit that feeds unhealthy desires to buy more and have more, stretching the cashflow envelope and heaping plenty of mental stress onto our daily lives (and junk into our landfills)?
Perhaps we can crank the volume down on the incredibly influential marketing noise that has so many convinced they're losers if they don't sport the latest fashion, live in a 3000 s.f. four-bedroom, four-bathroom, granite counter-topped 'executive' home, driving the latest European SUV, taking annual trips to far-off destinations, and forever on edge trying to pay for it all. A generation ago, these were considered luxuries. Nowadays, we're entitled to these accoutrements – wants have become needs.
It's insanity to believe we can continue to grow the world's economies year after year on a planet of finite resources amid an overpopulation crisis. Never mind trying to accommodate the trend being set by those who occupy the have-not stratum of our global family, striving to live in a manner that many of us enjoy and take for granted.
But who amongst us wants to hear this message and take action?
What can we do?
I expect that advancing technologies will help us to become more efficient in our use of increasingly stressed resources. However, technology alone cannot solve all the tough challenges and heart-wrenching decisions we humans will have to make – probably sooner than we care to admit. Like global population control. Willingly and proactively sacrificing unsustainable living standards to accept a sufficient and viable existence. The 'haves' doing with less so the 'have-nots' can enjoy more.
What is required is nothing less than a rewiring of human nature, I figure. Good luck with that…
Then again, maybe it's out of our hands. It's more likely foolish pride to think we ever had control. Nature has a curious way of taking care of business without our input.
If you have potential solutions in mind, I invite you to share them. I expect that where we exert influence on the outcome, possibilities abound.
There – don't you feel better now?
I don't have the answers to some questions I raise about what we might strive to change after our shared experience with COVID-19. Do you?