“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

― Blaise Pascal, Pensées

The Coronavirus Pandemic has swept across the globe with frightening speed, leaving debris of disruption and death in its wake. This is a challenging time. But not dissimilar from many other challenging times that humanity persevered through.

This reflection aims not to dwell on the capriciousness of political machinations, ephemeral data points, or blaming and shaming. Rather, this contemplation seeks to step back and reflect on the broader consequences of the Coronavirus Pandemic. What has changed? Is it here to stay? Is it good or bad?

There is certainly some good here in this moment: We have collectively focused as a society on flattening the curve, protecting our most vulnerable, and limiting the spread of COVID-19. The greatest epidemiological minds, medical researchers, doctors and scientists in the world are working tirelessly to mitigate the impact of the pandemic, and ultimately, find a sustainable solution to combat the virus long-term. Stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and other countermeasures are working.

However, this global pandemic will change our lives in irreversible ways. How we learn from this experience and apply these lessons will shape our society and culture for years to come.

Things Gained – For the Greater Good

  • Focus on Individual Health and Wellbeing – COVID-19 is particularly dangerous for those with preexisting conditions. This simply reaffirms the need for more attention on lifestyle management and preventive care. If we collectively take the same focus that we are tackling COVID-19 with and apply that to other preventable health conditions, we will make great strides. Finally, the prevalence of social isolation shines a spotlight on mental health; This is a light we should leave on.
  • Better Hygiene – With greater awareness about communicable diseases, comes greater focus on preventing communicable diseases – including hygiene practices. Even something simple like washing hands can improve public health. If we lose the custom of shaking hands, but gain cleaner public spaces and better hygiene, it will be worth it.
  • Acceleration of Telehealth Technology – The Coronavirus Pandemic has forced the hand of regulatory agencies and expedited the availability of telehealth technology for patients. The application of these technologies to healthy lifestyle management will be rapid and powerful. The private sector will lead, but governments should be pressured to quickly follow and make this technology available to underprivileged populations like those on Medicaid.

Things Lost – That We Can Let Go Of

  • Busy-ness – A full calendar had become a badge of pride for many professionals. Parents felt pressured to create ever-busier activity schedules for their children – rushing from music class to sports practice and back again. Many younger people have been juggling work, school, and parenting duties with limited resources. Our connected devices bombard us with constant notifications. Lost in all this chaos – silently and stealthily – pollution, traffic deaths, and mental health issues have risen. 
  • Diversions and Distractions – A lot of our busy-ness is simply us filling up of our lives with diversions and distractions.Social distancing and Stay-at-Home orders have blown up our schedules. And not everything destroyed is missed. Without constant diversions, we are forced to be alone with our selves. We have more time now for: meditation, contemplation and prayer; taking a long walk; learning how to bake bread; or being in nature and noticing the beauty of the world.
  • “Face Time” – No, not the videochat app, but the dated convention of rushing to-and-fro running errands, sitting in cars, sitting in offices, and sitting in waiting rooms. The acceleration of cloud technology and logistical solutions will eliminate the need for all this purposeless scurrying about. There is so much that can be done remotely: learning, working, meeting, connecting socially, and of course telehealth. The current crisis is shining a light on these critical advancements that will benefit people and the environment.

Things Lost – That We Should Fight To Restore

  • Active Presence – Humans are social creatures that crave close connection. We rely on the support and presence of others to live our best lives. As we relax social distancing measures, we should focus on restoring opportunities to incorporate quality social interaction into our lives. We should quickly reinvest in our key social gathering places – whether they be restaurants, musical performances, art museums, or fitness centers – that foster positive social environments.
  • Team-Spirit – One of humanities greatest qualities is our ability to combine our powers in a complementary way and achieve greater success together than we ever could apart. One of the most prevalent positive examples of this in society is team sports. Diverse teammates coming together to achieve victory is a microcosm for some of the greatest human success stories.
  • Our Sense of Adventure – COVID-19 has sewn fear and distrust and locked us in place. There is a hole in our lives. It is intangible, but most of us feel its absence. Each day feels the same. There are no places to go or people to see. When we venture out in the world, take a chance, or connect with a stranger, we open the door for something exciting or unexpected to happen. We should quickly embrace a return to adventure. Travel and hospitality businesses should be treated as essential for human wellbeing – and should be invested in and patronized with enthusiasm. Let’s bring the unexpected back.

Gradually, as we make medical advances, and things open back up – and they will – the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020 will fade into history. However, the lessons we learn should endure and give us greater appreciation for the beauty of human interaction and more focus on the health and wellbeing of every person. And hopefully, we also find that sitting quietly alone in a room is actually not so bad.