Friday, June 26, 2020

What Will We Want from a Post-Pandemic World?

I drove to a local bookstore yesterday. All my life I have loved bookstores, and they have often been a place for me to go to pass a free hour or two. That may be a commentary on the overall lack of excitement in my life. Even so, wasting time in a bookstore is one of the things I have most missed these past few months. So, having heard that the store was open again, I made a brief visit, just for the sheer joy of having somewhere to go, even if I was too cowardly to browse any actual books or buy anything in the cafe. Perhaps next time!

What do I want from next time? As more and more of us emerge (rightly or, more likely, wrongly, given that the disease is actually on the increase in much of the country), as we emerge from physical and moral isolation, from physical and anti-social distancing, what will we look for? And how will we relate to one another from behind our masks?

Will it be back to business as usual? Surely, the suspension of society has revealed so many of our society's defects - surprisingly so, perhaps, but no less definitively. Surely, the intense sadness that has gripped our communities cries out for something different - not just for more of the same that has served us so poorly so far!

Clearly, the simple pleasures one took for granted until recently - browsing a bookstore, sharing a meal in a restaurant, visiting a friend - represent the tip of the iceberg of what we value and want from our world. Their absence has dug down deeply below the surface of such expectations.

What form might such expectations take today and tomorrow in a world that has had to learn to live without such simple pleasures? Both for better and for worse, what form will our fellowship take?  In what new ways will our heightened fragility strengthen or enfeeble us to express our shared humanity and care for our common home?

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