Thursday, May 07, 2020

Planning for the End Times

This year has put a lot of things on hold. It has caused many to put off trips, life events, gatherings, and routines. Often, when describing the nature of these cancellations, we prefer to use words like "postpone" or "suspend." These give an air of temporariness: these things are gone for a while, but eventually, they'll be back.

But what if not everything we're not currently doing will return? What if the last time we did certain things really, truly was the last time?

Eventually things like sporting events and concerts and restaurants and job responsibilities will come back. But will we want to do it all the exact same way? Will we want to get together with others in the same way or for the same reasons or for the same activities? Will we want to see or approach people or organizations or commerce or whatever else makes up our "normals" in the same way?

In a follow-up to his viral essay from a few weeks ago, Julio Vincent Gambuto reflects more on what we may or may not want to do once this is over:
Right now, we are all experiencing “the dark night of the soul.” Screenwriters use this term to refer to that moment when the main character has lost everything, has not achieved his or her goal, has been beaten up and broken down, and is at her or his lowest point. You know this part of the movie. It takes place about three-quarters of the way in. The character is alone in her bedroom, his shower, her car, a forest, a cave. And they must look inward before they can move forward. That is where we are as a nation. We have ridden the “fun and games” upward arc of the consumer free-for-all of the 20th century. We thought we were invincible. And then we fell. Flat on our face. Thanks, Covid. And now, here we are, alone in our houses, surrounded by loss, many in great despair, being asked to look inward. There is no brand, no leader, no voice that can help us now. We have to help ourselves. This is the moment in the movie that the truth comes out — the truth of who we are and who we most want to be. Armed with that truth, our main character heads into the next act with a better understanding of herself or himself and a revived purpose in the world.
Even as states and local municipalities begin "re-opening," this is still the time to wonder what we're fine with not coming back. Who are we fine reconnecting with, and who might it be best to conclude with? What voices of authority might we begin paying more attention to, and what voices have proven less reliable or toxic? Who do we want to be when we emerge from our own dark nights?

What times will we want to re-live, and what times will we want to be permanently ended?