Why “Getting Back to Normal” is the Last Thing We Should Do

Cobey Williamson
2 min readJul 1, 2020
Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

When I think about the coronavirus pandemic, my mind often wanders to what I would be doing did it not exist. Going about my business. Continuing to be a cog in the machine. Perpetuating the status quo.

Is that what we want?

In our rush to get back to “normal”, are we perhaps overlooking the possibility that normal is precisely the problem?

Personally, I don’t want normal. I never have. And I certainly don’t want to get back to it.

Have you ever considered the impetus behind the massive appeal of the troves of aspirational media on the internet — photo blogs, Tumblr, Instagram? These microcosms of alternative reality — cosplay, virtual reality, vanlife, nostalgia. Could the source of their allure be because we find the real world, the one we have literally constructed around us, completely unfilling?

Ever since we ceased having to constantly struggle to merely survive, there has existed the opportunity to create, with intention, a built environment that doesn’t only meet our basest needs, but actually serves to evoke within us positive emotions — inspiration, creativity, courage, joy.

I have long considered what might result from the following experiment: ask everyone to render, in whatever medium they chose, their ideal landscape. The image they see when they look out their window, gaze upon their home or neighborhood, walk out their front door.

I suspect the vast majority of them would appear strikingly similar.

In my mind, there exists an image of a perfect world. I often think about what keeps me from realizing it.

When I watch scenes on the news or video clips captured on smartphones on the internet, I am struck by how unnatural and uninspiring the settings I see featured in them appear to me. Gray. Monochrome. Uniform. Concrete.

Contrast this with the image that we imagined above. Or any image from your favorite influencer or visual artist on Instagram.

Do they evoke similar emotions in you? I doubt it.

So why not? And, more importantly, what can we do about it?

The coronavirus has brought the “all stop” to the economic juggernaut that my wife and climate scientist Dr. Steven Running told me was utterly impossible and potentially disastrous. With that achieved, getting “back to normal” is the very last thing I want to do.

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