It’s OK, go ahead and admit it. Given the way 2020 has transpired, if a biblical-scale plague of locusts descended upon our land, we would hardly bat an eyelash. I mean, what else can happen? Answer: anything that once seemed possible only in the vivid imaginations of the writers of fantastical dime-store shock novels or TV shows like The Twilight Zone, Homeland, or 24.
And we still have three months left to dread before we relegate this damnable year to the history books, never to be forgotten. Yes, it seems to be a year that more closely resembles an apocalypse, which will never end. Nevertheless, we shall collectively stagger forward to the finish line, that precious moment on December 31 at 11:59:59 pm when we all deliver a collective one-finger salute to a year which will live in infamy.
Even in our bitterly divisive political and racial climate, most everyone can agree that, no matter what lies ahead in 2021, it could not possibly measure up to the wringer through which we have been put in 2020.
The Hits Just Keep Coming
It’s as if we thought for a moment that a hurricane – which has already left a path of destruction in its wake – must have finally subsided. Suddenly, we discover that another perilous wave is inexorably upon us, and we now speculate only about the extent, not the certainty, of further upheaval.
Can we be confident of anything anymore? Are we so numbed by this many shocks to the system that even the safest presumptions about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have been challenged? The strewn wreckage of 2020 has piled up like city garbage during a sanitation strike: millions contracting a virulent virus, tens of thousands dying from it, widespread job losses, businesses shuttered, schools closed, public life put on ice, a sickening execution in Minneapolis followed by horrifying racial strife and widespread destruction altering our entire urban landscape.
Next, we try to process the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The delicate balance of the Supreme Court appears threatened for a generation. And then we endure the shocking illness of the president. Both of these events coming at this most dramatic of times; the final stretch of a presidential campaign which both sides consider the most important of our lifetime.
Left with no other choice, we have all doubtless been forced to learn many hard and bitter lessons in these last months. Operating on the oft-stated theorem that things which don’t kill us make us stronger, can this rollercoaster ride fortify us for the rocky road ahead? Other than the ability to remain standing after getting staggered by a dizzying succession of roundhouse punches to the jaw, what can we take from this annus horribilis that will serve us well in the months and years ahead?
Well, quite a bit, actually.
We have learned the potentially game-changing truth that we can function well – or better, in many cases – when working from home instead of an office. We have entered a Zoom world, saving countless hours previously expended in preparing ourselves and traveling to in-person meetings and appointments. In a time of radical distancing, connecting with others has paradoxically seemed easier than ever. Only a presentable appearance from the waist up and a functioning webcam are required.
Everything from doctors’ appointments to Senate hearings has adapted to this brave new virtual world. With forced homeschooling, we have been given greater opportunity than ever to learn about and influence our children’s education. We have rediscovered the simple joys of more time with the people closest to us. We have remembered passions and hobbies which the busyness of our lives had forced us to shuffle aside. We have been launched into a radical solitude, and consequent opportunity to reflect deeply on our lives and the centrality of our core values to a degree we never could have envisioned. For some, that has been encouraging, for others depressing.
Most of all, whether we recognize it or not, the entire human race has been, beyond all else, humbled. After all, if a virus from a bat can shut down the whole planet, and everything we hold dear can so unrelentingly spiral out of control in the twinkling of an eye as we have witnessed in this year like no other, who are we to think so highly of our strength and abilities?
No matter how you cut it, through a harrowing and unforgettable wave of chaos, hardship, and strife we never saw coming, only one thing seems certain: after 2020, we will never be quite the same.
Read more from Tim Donner.