23 April 2020

8 Ways the Virus Could Change Us

8 Ways the Virus Could Change Us
reflections by Troy Cady

I’ve been reading lots of theories about how the pandemic will change us. I offer these 8 thoughts for your consideration.

1. Keep the long-range in view.
We can make educated guesses, but my suspicion is we cannot begin to fathom how our lives will be changed even long after the imminent physical threat has passed. Likely, it will not be until today’s youngest generation comes of age that society-at-large will be able to discern lasting meaning from this crisis. I feel it is the kind of event that will play a significant role in defining a generation. We would do well to keep the long-range in view.

2. An opportunity: begin practicing generosity now.
The economic implications could affect us all in deep, deep ways. Those who have means will have plenty of opportunities to practice generosity; I encourage us to begin practicing that now. We will also be stronger as a society if entrepreneurs can embed the value of generosity in the very ethos of whatever initiative they might undertake in the aftermath of the pandemic. We will all need to be much less selfish. Those who are consumed by the ideal of simply amassing wealth will miss out on much beauty that can be created if we can just learn to share more.

3. An invitation: put away our divisions.
Whatever is to come, however dark the days may be, we will only be able to flourish as a society if we look to one another and rely on the different strengths each has to offer, becoming champions of one another. United, we stand; divided, we fall.

4. Is our current situation comparable to past crises?
Comparisons to how society responded en masse to the Spanish flu crisis of the early 1900s are limited in their application to today’s challenge. For starters, our society has become more pluralized and polarized since that time. This puts our efforts towards unity to a greater test. If we can learn to direct our differences towards the common good, we will flourish. To the extent we fail to do this, I suppose we will languish.

5. Look at what is being revealed to us by this crisis.
There is already a given as to how the current pandemic will affect us. Prior to any transformative work the pandemic may produce, a threat of this nature offers a revelatory function. For example, the pandemic is already beginning to reveal in a new light the way our society is deeply, deeply fractured. And, yet, there is also hope to be found in how some are digging deep to bring out the best we have to offer. For those who are willing to look honestly and openly at what this crisis can reveal about just who we are, there is much insight to be gained on many fronts: socially, politically, artistically, and spiritually.

6. Religion has a wonderful opportunity to adapt.
Those who serve in formalized capacities within the field of organized religion (such as churches, synagogues, and mosques) need to consider now how they will engage this crisis in such a way that they will embrace long-term change proactively rather than succumbing to the delusion that the crisis itself will produce the change such institutions have sorely needed for many, many years now. Those organizations that rely on how people will (merely) naturally respond once the immediate threat has diminished will enjoy the kind of revival they desire only on a temporary basis. The law of homeostasis will gradually lull those who experience an immediate flash of renewed fervor back into the comfortable patterns that have been killing religious institutions for some time now.

7. Beware the law of homeostasis.
That same law (homeostasis) will also yield the same kind of long-term results in other fields (such as education, economics, care for the environment, and questions of social equity) if we are not intentionally reflective and proactive about how we wish to change. A reactive approach can only yield temporary measures (at best) and destructive trajectories (at worst). When we rely on how the crisis itself will change society (without factoring in the powerful dynamic of human agency and creativity) we fall prey ultimately to various shades of mere determinism.

8. Hardship alone doesn’t change much; desire changes more.
Going through hardship alone does not produce the kind of change we need. Hardship gives us an opportunity to change, but it alone cannot change us for the better. While it is true that most of the time we do not change unless we must, it is also true that lasting change is rooted in true desire. How much do we really WANT to change? That is the key question. Now is a time to put sober (yet open-minded/playful) thought into it. Now is the time to dream of new possibilities. Now is the time to muster the resolve, strength, and courage to go after those dreams. May God give us the grace we need to do just that. May God give us the grace to come together to make those dreams come true.


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