Where are we?
It reminds me of the Irish joke of the American tourist lost in rural Ireland asking the farmer,” Can you tell us which way to go to get to Dublin?” and getting the response,”Going to Dublin eh? Well, all I can tells you is that if I were a man trying to get to Dublin, I wouldn’t be starting from here.”
Where are we? Who knows? And none of us wanted to start from here. And where here is is anyone’s guess.
A MOVEABLE FEAST
But here are couple of things we do know. Where we are today is not where we were yesterday and is not where we will be tomorrow. So this is moving and moving fast. To follow it, we need maps.
Second, we know that where ‘where’ is, depends on what it is in between.
Being in Washington DC means we are here, between Richmond and Boston, but closer to Richmond. And at the same time, we are between Annapolis and Las Vegas, and closer to Annapolis. Even if you are out in the middle of nowhere, you are at least between somwhere and somewheres’s else. So it is out of this conversation that we can plot our starting steps.
WE say Start with WHERE because that throws us into motion and it throws us in-between. A pandemic is a complex system so mentally structuring it as Problem- Solution just does not fit. Mind you, that is how most policy makers are trained to deal with things. And most medical professionals. Note the quest for a cure or a vaccine. As if that is all it is going to take. A magic bullet.
When we start with WHY or WHO, straight away, we get into blame. Starting with WHERE means we have to explore the movement and its momentum forward. We avoid spending too much time on the past except in so far as it might unlock the future.
We know that we are between the start of this and the end of it. ( short span or long span, we do not know but our decisions need to be informed by our best estimate) This is so obvious in a way and so not attended to. As AA reminds its addicts, “This too shall pass.”
We know that it can get worse and it can get better or it can get worse and get “worser.” We are not in any position quite yet to predict that but we must anticipate it. And more than that, we must anticipate by which time we will know or need to know. If the social distancing has worked, we will soon see the infections level off but if they keep doubling every three days for the next two weeks since we introduced these measures, we can pretty safely guess they did not ameliorate the spread. So part of the leadership has to build the ancitipation as a way to prepare and manage the expectations so we are not overwhelmed. And it is always better to stress the worst scenario knowing that if it does not turn out so bad, we induse a feeling of relief, that we dodged the bullet. To pretend things are great and then have them go bad is the worst tactic for a leader.
We are seemingly three weeks into when this virus showed up on our shores- China reported it in November 2019, and some are saying this could last till August 2020, and others are saying it could last two years, till 2022. Each prediction locates us in a different kind of WHERE.
Just as a marathon runner knows that at the 5 mile mark, that might not be a good.place to begin sprinting to the end, but at the 26 mile, with 200 yards to go, it could well be if a gold medal is at stake and you are 10 meters behind the leader.
You have to know WHERE you are before you decide where to make your move and what kind. Jockeys of winning horses know that exactly. Go too early and you exhaust your resources over the long haul. Go too late and you are the Kentucky Derby winner who shot to the lead 100 yards passed the finishing line. Too late he cried.
Start with WHERE means we have to know that we are in between- we are in the middle, but in the middle of what? We can play with this. If the virus right now puts us in the middle of
-treating it too lightly……Middle…….. and treating it too seriously
-treating it too seriously…..Middle……… and treating it too lightly.
The place right here and NOW is exactly the same spot but it is quite different depending on that in-between space, and we experience it quite differently depending on how we locate those co-ordinates.
If at the start, back THEN, the leaders told us not to worry, this was under control and that we should not be worried, where are we since then? That THEN has moved to NOW. We are seeing Wall Street crashing, people dying in the 100’s, talk about a vaccine but just talk, and not enough hospital beds to keep up at this infection rate. All we can do is slow it down. One can chart how the meaning of the Corona Virus has moved in the last three weeks in terms of what it means and how we are experiencing it. But the virus has just kept on doing what viruses do.
Right now, it seems we are in between almost totally ignoring the risks…. to…. now taking them deadly seriuosly. And where are we headed? The direction and the speed at which this is moving feels like we are hurtling towards the cliff. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
Where might we be headed? is the second question we need to explore and to further understand that, we can then ask how far have we come?
What concerns us is not the why or the who but the where from and the where to and where now. What we need to know in a hurry is the movement. Because that reveals best where we are likely to end up. And if the movement is in a hurry, we better hurry.
People are telling us to wash our hands, telling us to stay at home, telling us to be aware of social distance. And we are preaching the same thing, but we spell it differently. For us, awareness is always about A-WHERE-NESS.