For nearly two years now the globe has endured a series of lockdowns and emergency measures occasioned by the covid-19 pandemic. Until recently, I treated this as a temporary blip in our lives, assuming that we would soon be returning to normal. Earlier this year, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that masking mandates would be lifted in the spring and that something like normal human interactions would resume. But the unanticipated spread of the omicron variant prompted the government to put plans to ease restrictions on hold, subsequently followed by new lockdown measures. Now Ontario is anticipating the removal of mask requirements by March 21st – let’s hope no new variants emerge between now and then.
So when will all this end? Of course, we have no idea, and no one is making promises, given the unpredictable course of the pandemic. The Spanish flu of 1918 was far more lethal than covid-19, and as late as the end of 1920 it had claimed the lives of John Francis Dodge and Horace Elgin Dodge, the founders of the Dodge automobile brand. By then the flu had come in four waves, after which it grew much less deadly, evolving into a mild seasonal flu. We cannot foresee when and if this will happen with covid, but already omicron, while spreading more quickly and easily, appears to be milder than previous variants.
For now, however, we have to live with the pandemic and make the best of the available means for doing so. The face mask has become such a part of life that I have very young grandnieces and grandnephews whose only memories are of people wearing masks, expressing bemusement at seeing unmasked people on television. Schooling them has become a more precarious proposition, and we have yet to see how all this will affect their educational outcomes. We may see a generation with certain deficits or delays in the acquisition of skill sets that previous generations had acquired more readily.
The age of Zoom
I am hesitant to make predictions in uncertain times, but I can foresee some permanent shifts in the way we live. For example, I expect that the Zoom meeting will become a permanent fixture in the work landscape. Had the pandemic come at the turn of the millennium, we would have had more difficulty coping, as the internet was still in its infancy. But with so many means of online communication now available to us, shifting to at-home work – for many of us at least – has been far less difficult than it would have been then.
Speaking for myself, the pandemic revolutionized my own work. Prior to 2020, I had accepted the occasional invitations to travel and to speak in such places as Germany, Brazil, Australia and various parts of Canada and the United States. In March of 2020 I had planned to fly to North Carolina to teach at a seminary there, but that had to be cancelled once the pandemic had broken out.
But around the same time, I began receiving multiple invitations to write and speak from around the world. Obviously, with the dawn of the “Zoom age,” those interested in my work had quickly discovered that they could easily have me speak from a distance without having to fly me in and billet and feed me during my visit. As a result, I am busier now than I could have imagined beforehand.
Still, something’s missing. I am not one for social distancing. I embrace people easily, something undoubtedly stemming from my Greek Cypriot roots, but I can’t do so now. I am thankful that I have been able to connect with so many people online, and I’ve seen genuine friendships emerge from these contacts. Yet it’s not the same.
Like everyone else, I look forward to an eventual return to normality. For now, we can do no more than to make the best of our current circumstances, praying that God will give us the patience to do so.
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