There’s nothing like a good crisis to bring people together. At times of catastrophe and urgency, it gladdens the heart to see society embracing its shared humanity as it fights for the last hand sanitiser in the supermarket. Self first, family second, and neighbours and everyone else third. Seriously, if ever there was a time to listen to the advice of Corporal Jones and of Douglas Adam’s and “Don’t Panic” then now would be good.
Eschatology and apocalyptic thinking has always been with us. More recently, we all remember seeing Doomsday sandwich-board men proclaiming that the end of the world is nigh. Nowadays it has become impossible to go to conferences without everyone agreeing that climate change is the number one threat to our existence. Personally, I’ve always put climate change as number four in the list behind terrestrial threats (volcanoes, earthquakes and the “imminent” switch of polarity from North to South), extra-terrestrial threats (asteroids, solar flares) and, of course, pandemics which are now finally getting the focus that they deserve. And on a micro level, barely a day goes by without some questions being raised about whether or not we should eat bacon, drink coffee, burn wood, and how many bottles (sorry, glasses) of wine we should consume each day (sorry, week). One thing’s for sure: regression analysis and epidemiology are jolly difficult subjects. Few of us properly understand our dependent from our independent variables let alone the difference between correlation and causation.
So what’s a person to do with all this doom and gloom about? Should we all ask our slaves to walk behind us whispering “Memento Mori” into our ears? What about asking for whom the bell tolls? Actually, the most practical thing that we can do is to pause. Times like this ought to provide an opportunity for a bit of welcome self-isolation to weigh up risks and rewards and to maybe to reset some of our life priorities. Ask yourselves the question of what is really important to you. Look around and see what you’ve got, because if today is your last day then what you see really is your legacy. And is that how you’d like to leave it, at work and at home, and with family and with friends?
As you reflect you’ll see things that you can change and influence and things that you can’t. It may be that you decide that you need to do more, or do less, or even do something completely different. Reassessing how you work, where you work and why you work can be of benefit. For some people, life has taken them on a journey without them being consciously aware of the costs and effect and it may be time to reappraise. Sometimes when you pause to look at the eager beavers running around the office you realise that many actually define themselves by what they do and not who they are.
Time and distance provide real opportunities for seeing things for what they really are. So maybe we all need a bit of self-isolation to stop and think. And remember that all those books aren’t going to read themselves.
And as for the end of time, rather than catastrophising why not just keep dancing until the music stops.