We’re saying it: the first half of 2020 has been an exhausting roller coaster. Our country—our world—has been shaken up on multiple fronts these last several months. It’s fair to say we’re living in some crisis moments.
Like us, you probably think of the term crisis with negative connotations. But if you go all Greek etymologist on the word, it turns out crisis defines the critical point in a disease. It’s the moment when things take a turn, either for better or worse. The loaded moment at the top of the roller-coaster before it comes whooshing down one side or the other. Crises tend to force us to look harder at our world, and dispel our illusions about the way things are. As we continue to process through this year and the lessons it’s providing, we’re sharing a few of our own illusions that have taken a recent axe hit.
The illusion of control
The COVID-19 outbreak continues to shatter the shiny façades of way too many systems and mentalities to list here. But high on that list is our carefully constructed idea of control. It’s one thing to scan a blurb in the Morning Brew about a weird virus detected in China. It’s another thing to realize the virus is swirling in the air of your own neighborhood, altering your day-to-day activities, rattling the economy, and casting a frustrating blur over every tomorrow. Short of doing our part on an individual level, a global pandemic and its hurricane of effects are largely outside our control. We like to believe we have at least some grip on the wheel of our health, careers, and where we go to dinner. But the truth is, stronger forces can—and do—frequently turn the wheel without consulting us.
The illusion of power
If you think about it, every person is born into a bit of a paradox. On one hand, we’re born into the natural world, which treats us all the same. Weather, hunger, the law of gravity, death…we learn quickly we’re all under the natural order of things, regardless of who we are. On the other hand, we’re also born into a society. We burst into a time and place that recognizes a separate man-made order to create and maintain identity. An invisible order, but learned and adopted just the same. The natural order is pretty much set in concrete. (Good luck evolving beyond hunger, right?) But the man-made order is constantly shifting and changing, from time to time and place to place.
If you’re still tracking, this was just a fancy lead-in to another issue in the 2020 spotlight: racial equity. Our current order is being challenged. We’re being called to a better one that tilts more toward the natural order—the one that refuses to recognize any unmerited hierarchies of power we construct. Lots of people have been pointing at this imbalance for a long time, and lots of us are just now starting to see it with a new eye. Events of recent months are producing a “glitch in the matrix” moment for our country, and we get to decide for ourselves whether to swallow the red or the blue pill. If we go red, then we have responsibilities. We choose to follow the path deeper, open our eyes wider, and begin the work of cutting through an illusion that’s proving harmful and dangerous for many.
The illusion of independence
No man is an island, and the last handful of months have made this pretty clear. We sometimes have the feeling that our success is solely dependent on us, or that our shortcomings are only affecting us.
But whether this is good news or bad: we’re deeply interconnected. Our personal choices affect our family. Our family choices affect our neighborhood. Our neighborhood’s choices affect our city, and these concentric circles eventually create…well, humanity. Long story short, we’re learning how much we need and affect each other. Cliche that it is, we truly are in this thing (and all things) together.
So what now?
Winston Churchill may have said it best: “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.” It’s just human nature. We find the gold, and then we fumble it. Find the gold, fumble it. It’s hard not to sink back into our illusions, even when we don’t want to.
We’re not running the show.
We’re not more or less important than anyone else.
We’re part of a bigger community.
These things feel clearer now—a true place to believe and act from. If we begin orienting our decisions from this center, our crisis moment has the potential to push us in a good direction. We hope this will reflect in our work and our relationships going forward. Let’s not avert the crisis. Let’s grab it and make use of it.
We’d love to hear from you: which illusions have been cracking for you this year? What are you seeing for the first time?