A dear friend recently sent me this Lenin quote:

“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

Lenin

War does that. The destruction of blood and treasure will be profound, our losses immense; foremost, the premature parting of some of our dearest, wisest and most fragile.

The economic costs will be extraordinary. The great humming of the machinery of human activity, of innovation, of building, of trade and consumption — all falling silent. There is a poignant noblesse to this intentional, synchronised, quieting of our societal engines; a brief moment of grace, humanity acting as one.

Within the world’s financial systems gargantuan, opaque credit markets creek and groan under the whirlwind’s impossible pressures, while leviathan central bankers respond with incomprehensible trillions.

The images will haunt us: the mother weeping outside a hospital on news of her husband’s death, herself infected, unable to enter for lack of a bed, while in vain her children comfort her; the cook and his wok, with sickening indifference he stir fries, earnestly basting his still yelping meal.

“Stars are the scars of the universe.”

Ricky Maye

This collective scarring, the deepest most of us will likely ever know. Yet inspiration shines through: urban apartment dwellers and their songs of support, and the evening applause, honouring front-line warriors.

And there are other signs of hope. We can slow the spread and death toll. With time will come other answers, technologies of testing, of therapeutics, antivirals and perhaps even vaccines? Sledgehammer responses giving way to the surgical precisions of the epidemiologists, mathematicians, clinicians, statisticians, programmers. The return of the experts.

“All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.”

John Steinbeck

Of course now it seems so clear. Our visionaries warned us. Without even realising, we experienced test runs. Outbreaks that seemed like distant noise were actually strong signals of what would come. And now we begin our new future.

The geopolitical consequences will be profound. Fortress America will turn inward as it did after the First World War, turning its back on the world. Debates over strong borders, energy independence and localised manufacturing are resolved, as are the discussions of large versus small government. A little something for both right and left wing populists in this, our new future.

“You can’t calm a storm, so stop trying. You can calm yourself. Remember storms always pass.”

Tracy Malone

Buried beneath the dead, the personal tragedies, the falling knife statistics and endless red ink, lie delicate green shoots. Cleaner streams, clearer skies, kinder hearts, more patient people. In poker it’s said you pay for your lessons, so make sure you learn them. A year from now life will be better; in two years, perhaps seemingly normal. My fear, and it’s a hopeful one, is we recover so quickly that we forget these never fully paid for, priceless lessons. Perhaps it’s not too early to begin to embrace our new future.

This article was first published on Medium and has been republished with permission.

Bruce Saunders

Bruce Saunders

Bruce Saunders writes from Bangkok. "I am passionate about history. Understanding our past can help us make better decisions about our future."