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July 27, 2020

Forward to a New Normal

Striving to recover the pre-pandemic normal could be fatal.

Our kids grew up swimming in swimming holes and playing near streams running fast and frigid in the spring. “If you fall into a moving stream,” we told them umpteen times, “don’t try to swim back to the point on the bank where you fell in. You’ll be swimming against the current and you’ll get exhausted and drown.”

“Then what’re we supposed to do, “they asked on cue; “float over the waterfall?”

“Just point yourself towards the side and swim in that direction without worrying that the spot on the side you’re headed for keeps changing. You’ll get to the side very quickly. Once you’re out of the water. You can worry about how to get back where you want to be.”

We had to take them to a moving stream and have them practice to prove to them that they get to some point on the side in the same amount of time whether the stream is moving or not so long as they don’t try to choose a particular landing point. Sounds very Zen but just vector physics 101.

We will exhaust ourselves before we get through the pandemic if we try to get back to the world the way it was rather than just taking the shortest route to physical and economic survival and then figuring out what we want the new world to look like. All we know now, all we can know now, is that the new world will be different than the old. We have to go with the flow and see where we end up.

In practical terms things like wearing masks, wearing masks (repetition intentional), social distancing, test and trace, and reopening schools and businesses count as swimming for the shore. The schools and businesses we reopen will look very different than they were pre-covid; once we are free of this virus as an overwhelming threat (it may just be one of the diseases we worry about), we will certainly want to change our schools and businesses some more. They still probably won’t look like what we had before.

None of us should worry that the compromises we make to get to shore commit us to a specific future. We probably won’t have to wear masks forever; we can worry about the forever part later because we need the masks to be safe and open up now. We probably won’t have to give up our privacy so test and trace can work; but we have to now. Teachers won’t have to take the apparently minimal risk of infection from their students forever; they must now or the money we pay them must go to educational and childcare alternatives.

It’s only a few strokes to some shore, even in a fast-moving stream. We will drown if we try to swim back to the place where we fell in.

Play swim to the new normal from:

Forward To a New Normal - The Scratch Version

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