How Do You Want This To Change You?

There are many questions that arise due to the pandemic and our efforts to deal with it. One question that I have not seen much of yet: How do you want this to change you?

The Opportunity

While the reasons for it are regrettable (for some heartbreaking), we live in a time of remarkable opportunity. Our normal, daily routine has been completely upended. Moreover, we don’t know when things will change, or what the end state of our world will be.

This means we have a chance to have a larger impact on our own future lives, and the future condition of our entire society right now.

Think back to before self-isolation started, before schools were closed and people started wearing masks. The thought of making changes, on an individual or collective level, was daunting to say the least. Could you imagine not driving everywhere all the time? Could you imagine working from home?

But now we see what kind of change is possible, if we want it enough and agree to make it happen. For instance, massive, structural changes to address climate change is possible. Evictions can be stopped. Paid sick leave, universal health care, and working from home can be done.

Making Change

But in order for those things, or others, to happen, we have to want them and be willing to change our behaviors in order to make them happen. We have to convince our elected leaders we want these things. And if we are told they aren’t possible, we know that’s simply not true, because we have seen them happen when the need is great enough.

All this change has to start at the individual level. How do you want your life to change? Before life goes back to pre-pandemic behavior, spend some time thinking about what it is that is truly important to you. What have you learned about yourself, your community, and larger society?

Related questions: Are there unexpected benefits to what we are going through? How have you changed? How have we changed? Can people change?

Can People Change?

This is an age old question, with many examples of conventional wisdom on both sides of the debate. Can people change? Or are facets of their personality fixed forever?

On one hand, cautionary tales abound. If your spouse cheats on you, they will do so again in the future. Addicts will use again. A convicted criminal will re-offend. A liar will continue to lie. Because people don’t change.

Conversely, stories of redemption are some of the most powerful stories of all. Everyone deserves a second chance, as the saying goes. Someone who learns from a mistake and takes steps to correct it is a hero.

How you view this issue may influence how you view the criminal justice system. Is it about punishment for doing wrong, or a chance to redeem yourself as a member of society? Does someone who serves out a prison sentence deserve the benefit of the doubt? In addition, does it matter what the offense was?

If you think it is possible for a person to change, how can any improvement be shown? In other words, at what point do we accept that a lesson has been learned, or that someone is truly remorseful?

Furthermore, what about change for the worse? Someone who has previously been kind and generous and thoughtful can do something selfish or mean. At what point does it become a change in personality? Is a nice person always nice, even if they do some things that are definitely not nice?

Usually, change is the one fixture in our lives. As we age, our body goes through physical changes: we get grey hairs, wrinkles around the eyes, gain some weight. But does our personality go through similar changes? Or do we have some traits that remain constant?

Related questions: What is time? What is necessary to change your mind? How have we changed? How have you changed?

 

What Is Uncomfortable But Rewarding?

There are a number of things in life that we might find uncomfortable. Discomfort can be found all around us, in both our personal and professional lives.

These can range from something relatively innocuous (say, an itchy sweater) to something more serious (like an inappropriate joke at work). For the most part, we experience discomfort for a reason. Typically, it is an indication that something is wrong.

Sometimes, however, a feeling of discomfort can be prelude to an improvement of some sort. Most people like things that are stable, and events or people that upset that stability, even in the process of making an improvement, can be disruptive. Change is uncomfortable.

Over the last decade or so, disruption has even become a buzzword in the business (and tech) world. AirBNB has disrupted the hotel industry. Uber and Lyft have disrupted the taxi industry. Used in this way, the word “disruption” suggests a change introduced that may cause chaos to an established industry or service, but ultimately leads to a better product for the consumer.

What are some other examples of something that starts out being awkward or difficult, but ultimately lead to positive change or growth? What is uncomfortable but rewarding? How can we tell “positive” discomfort from the “negative”?

Related questions: When is a lie justified? When is it useful to fail? Why do we put up with unhappiness? When is doubt helpful?

 

Is Technology Neutral?

The word “technology” refers to methods, systems, and devices which are the result of scientific knowledge being used for practical purposes. Examples are all around us. Whether you’re reading this question on a desktop, laptop, or a smartphone you are, of course, using technology.

Cameras are an example, from the early devices called daguerreotypes to today’s digital cameras. Are each of these devices neutral, their value only determined by their use? For example, cameras can be used positively or negatively.  You might capture a loved family portrait or stalk celebrities as an over-zealous paparazzi.

In addition, what about technology being used on a grander scale? For instance, the science of splitting the atom is used to produce electricity from nuclear reactors as well as to build potentially population-erasing bombs. Are these technologies neutral or do they have inherent value?

Simply asking if nuclear energy is “clean,” or do its waste stockpiles serve as a danger for current and countless future generations implies value, doesn’t it?

Do nuclear bombs make us less safe due to their destructive capacity? Or alternately, do they make us safer because of the deterrence their existence creates?

This debate is a long-standing one. Critics claim that technology is used/built for a reason — reasons that carry inherent positive or negative values — while the other side posits that it is simply a process or tool that derives value solely from its use by the user.

Where do you stand on this issue? Is technology neutral?

Related questions: Are science and religion compatible? What role does technology play in your life? What do you get out of social media?

What Is Keeping Us From Sustaining The Planet?

The U.S. Global Change Research Program just delivered “The Fourth National Climate Assessment” to Congress and the President. While the report does not present a pretty picture, it concludes with tangible actions that Americans can collectively — nationally, regionally, and locally — take to mitigate our situation as well as adapt to changes that are already certain to happen.

The report begins: “Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities. The impacts of global climate change are already being felt in the United States and are projected to intensify in the future — but the severity of future impacts will depend largely on actions taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the changes that will occur.”

With us already seeing the impacts of climate change, what is keeping us from taking action to sustain the planet? We are experiencing more intense forest fires and hurricanes, disappearing coastlines, and changing climate zones. If not for the sake of the planet, what about for current younger generations who must live on a less hospitable globe?

What! What will it take?

Related questions:  Now or Later? What Do You Revere? What Are You Doing to Make the World a Better Place? How Can You Help? What Are Our Responsibilities to Others? What Is the Greatest Problem Facing Humanity?