by Paul Dowling

As we live through this unprecedented world situation, we find ourselves wondering when things will go back to “normal”. Many things are different during the pandemic, which is now expected to last several weeks.

When it is over, will we go back to doing the things we used to do before?

  • Will we pay for things with coins and paper that pass through many hands?
  • Will we sit together with numbers of people to make decisions, to share a film, to hear a song?
  • Will we travel all over the world in airplanes to see different cultures and sights?
  • Will we greet people by shaking their hands?
  • Will we greet friends with a hug?

Or, will we ask ourselves which of these things that we used to do are unnecessary and put us and others at risk?

  • Why not continue to pay for our purchases with a tap of a card, avoiding the risk and inconvenience of money?
  • Why not meet with others by phone or video conference, watch films in the comfort and privacy of our homes, listen to music on the radio or on-line?
  • Why not stay home and enjoy the many cultures here in our own City?
  • Why not greet people with a warm word or a friendly hand gesture?
  • And what about that hug?

This unprecedented experience gives us all the chance to reflect on what is important in our lives and to make choices for the future based on what we value.

  • Ensuring that the time we spend with others is used well, valuing the presence of other people in our lives. (maybe continuing those long walks together!)
  • Recognizing that the connections that we make with each other are meaningful, even when we are not physically present with each other.
  • Celebrating the differences between people, as well as the similarities.
  • Using scarce resources wisely, traveling only when it is necessary.
  • And making our hugs meaningful and heartfelt.

Let’s use this time wisely to ensure that in the new normal our world is a better place.

2 thoughts on “A New Normal”

  1. Thank you Paul for providing us with a thoughtful framework to contemplate what “a new normal” might look like in our lives. I was reminded of the Bruce Cockburn song, “The Trouble With Normal”.

    In the list of questions about our behaviour in the future, I would suggest that there’s an important question to add: “Will we continue to “work from home” as people have during this time of COVID confinement?”

    GO train ridership is currently down approximately 90 per cent. Will this continue? This “temporary” situation demonstrates that we do not need to transport hundreds of thousands of people into downtown Toronto daily. If this continues, what will happen to commercial real estate in city centres across North America?

    A similar question applies, as you suggest, to air travel for business and pleasure. How much of this has been superfluous and detrimental to the air we breathe? The CBC has a short photo collage of “before” and “after” scenes of the effect of COVID-19 confinement on air quality in various cities around the world.

    There is a question that I would add to the second part. We are witnessing what the greed / pleasure driven ideology of consumer capitalism has done to the air, water, and land that provide the necessities of life on Earth. My question would be something like how can we organize our economy for THE COMMON GOOD?

    I’ll conclude with a quote from Bill McKibben, who wrote this in the May, 2020 edition of Sojourners Magazine:
    “The day will come when we can easily return to church, to the store, to the hairdresser – for that we will be able to thank the scientists, and the brave doctors and nurses, who did what they had to do during this emergency. But their courage will have been wasted if nothing deeper changes in how we treat one another and the planet.”

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