Editor’s note: A shortened version of this piece was published in the Community Letters section of The Seattle Times on March 15, 2020. Seattle is in King County, Washington, the first epicenter of Covid19 in the United States, and the first county to enlist its entire population in helping to slow the virus’ spread.
There’s a blessing—albeit a harsh one—in the Covid19 pandemic. It’s offering the whole world a chance and a need to replace anxiety with resolve. A reason to refocus on core priorities—Self, Family, Friends, Community—instead of multi-tasked busyness and distractions. And a way to act individually and collectively on behalf of everyone regardless of our usual divisions—without a World War forcing us to do so.
Does anyone else have the feeling that this is some kind of boot camp for drilling in skills we’ll need as more and more consequences of past choices show up in the world’s future? (The countless consequences of climate change, for instance? A note I saw this week said “Climate Change should hire the Corona virus’s publicist.”)
I’m talking about skills like adjusting, prioritizing, calming down, slowing down, taking care, changing plans, changing habits, listening, organizing, making do. Thinking. Inventing. Intuiting. Planning. Convening. Allowing. Forgiving. Honoring. Dealing with the unexpected. Leading from afar. Anticipating cause and effect. Bouncing back. Remembering. Waiting.
Plus all the physical skills like building, cooking, gardening, fixing, and, to finally give it the respect it deserves: cleaning.
In short, every skill that’s useful in Confucian-style “interesting times.”
I don’t mean to downplay Covid19’s seriousness in any way. Many people are dying or suffering, with more to come; most of us are scared or nervous about our health or livelihoods or economic futures, or are at least facing significant disruptions. If we don’t quickly seize this chance to practice shifts in our daily habits and work routines, our health care systems could be completely swamped in a matter of weeks, and the consequences could up-end a teetering economy.
My point is that we can learn and practice. As we focus on finding solutions, what will ultimately matter—the real life skills—will come from how we work them out together.
Editor’s note: A shorter version of this piece was published in the Community Letters section of The Seattle Times on March 15, 2020. Seattle is in King County, Washington, the epicenter of the first outbreak of Covid19 in the United States, and the first county to enlist its entire population in helping to slow the virus’ spread.