What’s going to change forever?

Posted: March 30, 2020 in Uncategorized

As I headed out today for an extended ride on the trusty motorcycle (my favorite form of social distancing) I asked myself one question and it circled inside my brain through the entire trip: In light of this social liminality through which we are now passing, what’s going to change forever when we get to the other side?

The thing about liminality is that the former structure has disappeared or flattened or been suspended during the time of confusion, ambiguity and lack of coordinates. We’ve never been here before. The gift of the liminal period is the revealing of a future, or at least a glimmering of what a future could be. Interruptions provide enforced pause. And transitional pauses often hold the clues as to what’s next.

No one really knows, of course, unless we could travel to the future and back. But some prognosticators guess. If visionaries know human nature and discern large patterns well, the guesses are often on the mark, or at least close.

Back in 2006 Tom Friedman wrote a worldview busting book entitled The World is Flat. It was mostly about how the changes of globalization were sending everyone back to zero, leveling the playing field. In so many ways he was right. He discerned the big patterns and where they were heading.

The year is now 2020 and we are barely into this liminal period of the Coronavirus. People are just now getting over the shock of the changes imposed upon us. We are preoccupied with survival and dodging the bullet. But for those so inclined, it’s not too soon to wonder how we will become different as a result. Though I have no crystal ball, I do have some inklings. And inklings often become true.

It’s my guess, according to the way things have changed and revealed certain things about ourselves, that we will see some of these things in our future:

The continuing trend of urbanization and the rush to the cities may reverse, with people choosing to live in decentralized, smaller communities, towns and rural places. The presence of online communication and broadened transportation will allow many to work from home or partially from home and businesses will accommodate. Certain cities will still remain the center of commerce and the arts, for example, but not everyone needs to live there. More and more we will structure ourselves as networks of smaller living communities.

Education on all levels will diversify, including face-to-face interaction and growing online learning. The present crisis has forced adaptation and this forced change will be reflected in continuing use of those tools. In the future that will include projected holograms in real time virtual classrooms. We will be there and be together learning differently. The tools are already there. They will be extended and refined.

Our politics will become increasingly pragmatic, searching for solutions beyond the ideological. The more that the society moves away from ideological motives and toward the practical, leaders will be chosen for expertise in accomplishing ends and creating governance to serve the entire populous. Constitutional democracy will wage a battle for existence as pan-national movements of autocracies will attempt to remove them.

Meta-threats to planetary existence will move us toward international cooperation again. The recent pandemic reminds us that certain challenges transcend national solutions. Worldwide health challenges and addressing the environment are only the most conspicuous things that require international response. A new effort at collaboration will address multiple factors that affect all of the earth’s inhabitants, including food security, health, and education.

Access to health care will not be seen as optional but rather necessary for all citizens. What the pandemic revealed in stark relief was what happens to people in urgent times without health care or health insurance. For those whose health insurance was tied to employment and lost their jobs, they suddenly lost their health insurance as well. In the future, access to healthcare will be provided to all citizens through a variety of ways.

The economy will balance out into a combination of free market/common good programs. We in the United States already have a hybrid economy. What the crisis revealed was that there is a place for muscular government to step in when needed and that some needs in our time for a country our size are best met in the free market and others are best met in programs for the common good.

People will rediscover the importance of government, its servants and expertise. A responsive, skilled, and robust government will partner with all levels of the society to pursue common ends: Federal, state, municipal government; not-for-profits; the private sector and corporations. All working together, each functioning where is is most effective and efficient.

Religion and Spirituality will continue to shift, change and express itself differently. This recent crisis only solidifies the process that has already been in motion. A diversity of faith and non-faith expressions will multiply outside of traditional communities, beliefs and practices. The information explosion as set loose a planetary, timeless, geographically boundless access to the expression of our deepest aspirations. Much will take place in cyberspace and in micro communities of common cause.

Commerce will expand its online ordering and shipping capacity. Face to face services will continue but in different forms. With ready acceptance of online reality – including the arts – the public will adapt to paying for what has been assumed to be free; fees or contributions for online concerts, lectures, services. This will multiply and grow.

We will develop enlarged and focused government instrumentalities to respond to pandemics and disasters. In the same way that the Department of Defense is prepared to fend off national military threats and Homeland security addresses security threats, so we will establish a more coordinated office and network of states to forecast chaos events, collaborate with other countries, activate response among the states, and establish and maintain stockpiles of needed equipment and reserve personnel for such emergencies.

Neighbors will rediscover neighbors in micro-communities and come to one another’s aid. One of the great learnings from disasters is that the best impulses of human community are often released during times of greatest threat. Caring for one’s neighbor in times of great threat is part of the herd’s natural inclination for survival. Moving into close care in smaller communities makes that more available. Combined with national responsiveness during overwhelming disaster, micro communities provide maximum coverage.

Because we had to slow down we discovered what slowing down will give us. If there is one thing that has contributed to American angst and depression and overwhelming stress that has led us toward un-health, it is the frenetic, driven, crazy pace of life. It is by slowing down that we will catch up. Doing less with more is therapeutic. Slow shops, slow church, slow family, slow urban markets, slow and unhurried education – will create more good than anything we could have chosen for ourselves. Ironically, through the worst, it was chosen for us.

There is a difference between information and wisdom. The information explosion has saturated us through infinite web pages and unending streams of social media. We have not become wiser by drinking through this fire hose. We have become overwhelmed. Our children do not know how to discern the difference between timeless truth and temporary opinion. And we have been entertained to death. We have become sensory junkies. The coming of the slow quiet reminds us of the “deep down things.” Slow down. Listen. Go deep. Love. Make justice in ways that matter. Don’t confuse the secondary with the primary. Embrace neighbor. Wonder at the spectacular beauty. Praise your God.

***

All good rides come to an end sometime and this one did as well. How beautiful it was. How free and fresh. What a world we temporarily pass through. Worry not about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry for itself. But rather seek the reign of the Spirit in and among you. And it shall appear.

Comments
  1. Rod Carson says:

    I’ve been wondering when we’d hear from you on the liminality of the current situation. Wonderful blog! Has there ever been a time when so much of humanity is in the same liminal state?

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