*Originally published on LinkedIn May 25th, 2020. Table of Contents added in Re-Publishing.
For years, there’s been a fake quote of sorts that I’ve used to inspire others in some way both personally and professionally. It goes:
“I can give you any resource but time” – Napoleon
Funny thing is, I learned that quote from a former senior leader (a General Officer, in fact) and loved it so much that I started to use it in kind as someone who loves to coach and mentor. Years ago I looked it up because I wanted to make sure I was getting it right, and also to read the larger context… yet after many, many googles it was no where to be found.
I’ve continued to use it as an inspirational quote nonetheless. Sorry, not sorry.
What is most precious in our human existence? Perhaps our lives extend beyond our human existence, but here on earth we have no actual existence without life. Meaning, once you’re dead ya can’t get your life back here on earth. Life is precious… but so is time.
Just like we can’t raise the dead, once a moment has passed there is no way we know to somehow have that moment over again. We can capture so much in hard copy and bytes, but cannot truly relive the past. Our lives are often shaped by the unique once in a lifetime opportunities and moments that occur in our experiences of life and times.
Once it’s too late, it’s too late. What’s been seen has been seen, and what’s been done has been done. If you have the “right of way” at a crosswalk, but get hit by a car illegally not yielding… you were right, but still dead… and not coming back. We don’t get to roll back our miles to redo life or time, and time wasted can’t be re-ordered to fix life like it was just a mulligan.
As long as we have life, there’s time to make change… but each of our neatly boxed lives is measured in time and we never actually know how much of it we even have. Will you live to be 18? Or 100? Both life and time exist again after any moment only from the perspective of memory and experience of the living here on earth… as far as we know, anyway.
Life and time are truly the most precious natural resources any of us has because they are beyond our ability to control or produce (as a force), and they are inextricably linked. You can do “everything right” and not make it to 18. You can do everything wrong and still break 100.
What we do with our time is really the only control we might have in life regarding how long of a life we might be lucky enough to get.
Our society has been in a time machine of sorts because of the Rona. Many lives have ended well ahead of their expected time because of it. Many lives have had to make choices ahead of when they would have because of it, which will change them forever.
Many lives have been put on fast forward, many in reverse.
How many lives were lost in the babies that didn’t get made during this time? There’s no way to know, just like there’s no way to know exactly how many people would have died if we would have done nothing different than our “old normals” all along.
Logic says there would be more dead if we didn’t Shelter in Place (SIP), but check out the difference in stats across the world (or even across America) between places like Japan and Sweden versus Italy or Spain… or even across counties in the same state.
We still don’t know enough about the virus to really know how any of our societal knee jerk reactions to it’s existence will impact us on the net-net. Did our time machine do what we wanted it to?
My guess is no, because none of us, individually, by collective, nor through government, can truly control life or time.
Many have missed their once in a life times: graduations, funerals, birthdays, weddings, home purchases, professional opportunities… which they will never get again. The opportunity to build a legacy that will outlast their time on earth has been lost as a result to our societal reaction against the threat of Rona, for many…
… but not all thanks to just the disease itself, but our reaction to it as well.
Perhaps we have saved some lives… but we have all definitely lost whatever degree of full control of our precious time as individuals in all of this that we once had, which none of us can get back.
I’ve seen media critical of people against shutdowns use the argument “how many lives is your haircut worth???” Such an approach alienates and misses the point. People aren’t mad about their hair… we must acknowledge that taking people’s time is infringing on their right to life.
The time people have and how it is spent, in essence, IS our life when it’s all said and done. Taking someone’s time from them requires them to invest some part of their finite human life in that time.
I want you to know that I spent 18 years of my life in service to our country on active duty with the U.S. Army. Here’s something I know about what it means to be free as an American citizen… or, rather, what it is supposed to mean, that I gave 18 years of my life for: I don’t owe you shit, and you don’t owe me shit either. Lol.
Put slightly more eloquently, as Americans we don’t incur a personal duty to one another… or to any institution outside compliance with laws… as a matter of citizenship. In most places, there’s no law that says if I walk by you and you’re on fire that I even have a duty to so much as piss on you to put you out.
We pay taxes so that someone else can take care of stuff like that for us.
Sounds harsh, perhaps, but that truth is a pillar in the reality of what it means to be American. The government cannot require people to risk their lives against our own free will and/or personal interest. We have a volunteer military these days, and police, firefighters, medical professionals, they are not forced into the lives of risk they undertake as a requirement of their existence.
Whatever motivation any individual might have for taking on a life of service to others, in America it is a choice of freedom to do so, not an obligation of it.
The inalienable right (entitlement) to our own individual life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is what makes us American.
… I haven’t seen me, you, nor Julio down by the schoolyard lately… and it’s a shame.
What has been most disheartening to me in this time of Ronamerica is to see how we’ve so wholly lowered our standards, rather than raising them in the face of this adversity. We’ve thrown all of our collective American values out the window in selfish interest, not leaned into them in the name of the greater good.
That may sound strikingly juxtaposed against my previous remarks, but it’s not. What has happened is that we’ve leaned into the best and worst facets of our Americanism against each other, and not in a way that embraces it all holistically and cohesively.
We’ve lowered the quality of our education in Ronamerica. We’ve taken away agency from businesses and people alike in life, liberty, and their pursuit of happiness.
We’ve crippled the underdog in the face of the Rona, and leaned into our powerful capitalist institutions. Jeff Bezos does look like Lex Luther, but it’s not a conspiracy… we just got caught up and lost in the perfect storm for our planet at this point in time of the human existence we know.
The reality of the SIP is that while it may ebb some of the spread of the Rona, the measures have gone over the line to favor the rich and capitalism in its outcomes way above the greater good to support the American freedom of all individuals.
TV stars can do their shows social distancing because they can afford to… Bob’s barbershop can’t.
Perhaps with no rules Bob would lose in the market anyways because everyone would be afraid to get haircuts… but we didn’t even give Bob a fighting chance. We told Bob he can’t be a part of the market even though some consumers would come out, and regardless of the fact that he is already fully certified in the hygiene practices and standards we regulate for businesses like his.
It ain’t right, and it ain’t American.
The reality is that the SIP, and the degree to which people have abided it has been much more about self preservation than anything, which is American in a way.
The idea of SIP is that it is for the greater good – to save “our” “collective” “lives”. That by having done the SIP we will slow the spread of the Rona, hopefully, to the point that our hospitals are trained and capable to handle the influx of people that need help… or maybe even in time for a vaccine… so that overall less people will die from it.
Any of us could die from Rona, so the idea for SIP as American is that it is for the people and both in your own personal interest and mine. I’ve seen lots of stories lauding how well we as a people come together when volunteers go the extra mile to sew homemade masks and give them to the poor, and such, for example.
But the idea that we should just all get behind it because of… limited science (it’s coming for all of us!!!)… and predictive models… and under the threat of potential death (from Rona), indirectly (but kinda directly), if we don’t… at the behest of our individual liberties and freedom?
I realize that you may not have served in the Army like I did for 18 years, but putting a SIP in place and giving out free masks is like punching America in the dick and then giving it a piece of gum. It is not gonna be a net-net great experience for the culture of what it means to be American in keeping with our fundamental ideals.
If Gavin Newsom couldn’t get TP he’d think a little different about SIP. In order to SIP, people must have the means to SIP. The American way is to make our own means, not to rely on the means of the government.
SIP requires investment of people’s time, and so, in essence, in reaction Rona, with SIP the government is “telling” Americans that they have to sacrifice their life for others while also not allowing them agency for the means to even do it, perhaps. Definitely unAmerican.
The bad side of “American” in SIP is the preservation of self above all else for the wealthy and powerful. The SIP really only serves the needs of those who can sustain through it. Oh shit, you lost your job? Sucks for you… and ya can’t come over for dinner, because I’m social distancing.
Selfishness is quite American, but allowing government to enforce the wealthy’s agenda on to the people at expense of their individual liberty is not. American government is meant to be for the people, an apparatus of our will, not the enforcer upon us dictating the terms of our way of life to us.
How SIP has propagated has been wholly unAmerican, even though elected officials ordered it.
I was really excited to see protests at state capitols and such get so much attention. What was sad for me is that the protesters weren’t more diverse.
The real importance of those protests was lost under the association of the protesters with racist and extremest groups, which I also would never endorse…
… and the irony extends to the fact that the protesters bringing guns had the exact opposite effect than was meant. They didn’t bring guns actually wanting to get into a firefight, people.
I see the purpose of the protests as to say “people, our individual rights are being infringed and it’s worth coming out in the risk to address, regardless of the danger.”
It’s sad that the only people getting press for carrying that important message forward aren’t more representative of all Americans (who should agree with that message). Popular media I like shot those messengers down quite swiftly and hasn’t spoken much to the message itself.
John Oliver and Trevor Noah, I love you guys, but you both helped us to gloss over the most important points against the SIP mentality through your simple dismissals of the protesters themselves on your social distancing shows.
Why wasn’t every stakeholder in our government’s SIP decisions out there protesting? Every business owner, every worker, every student… every American… even illegal aliens for that matter!… should have gathered in protest the first day any part of our government “ordered” a SIP.
The unfortunate point that has been made in this time for the state of our nation’s identity is how many people didn’t come out to protest the SIP.
Perhaps everyone should have a turn in government service after all. I did my time already, did you do yours?
Police should not harass without probable cause. Innocent until proven guilty. Fundamental to our American judicial. It cannot be probable cause simply to be out in public (aka curfews, etc), or for not wearing a mask, and still be constitutionally legal in the “real” America.
Someone coughing on you or invading your space with threat or intent to harm in some way was already against our laws before Rona.
It’s sad that our culture largely has not upheld those ideals at all with things such as “snitching hotlines” and social media trolling and moral judgement against people doing anything but staying at home… even though many of those “non-compliers” didn’t actually have the virus and were minding their own business not actually assaulting anyone…
…and some of those Yelp reviews on businesses in judgement of Rona, yikes!
Hey fuck you, Karen, this is America.
Do you have probable cause to believe I have the Corona Virus? How dare you attempt to tell me to do anything that would restrict my freedom under the premise that I might have it unless you have probable cause against ME. That’s (supposed to be) our American way of life.
Some protections and standards to keep non-sick safe from the sick as much as is reasonable and practicable without infringing on the inalienable rights of the non-sick makes total sense and is prudent. New requirements for institutions to mitigate possibility of spread in the course of their operations as part of safety responsibility is also an obvious “duh!” thing to do.
We should raise our standards in reaction to Rona, not lower them, as we have too much already.
I applaud all the folks in our government for their effort to react correctly to such an unprecedented set of conditions as we living have experienced with the Rona, regardless of their political affiliations. I don’t envy the position any of our elected officials have been in during this societal crisis.
While some governments may have leaned harder on SIP whether the data and/or lack thereof supported it or not, I believe such decisions were out of genuine care for lives. While others did the polar opposite and made decisions against the obvious needs for some mitigation in the face of the data and/or lack thereof, I believe such was in the name of freedom. I stand behind both of these guiding principles, just as most Americans do too.
However, we’ve had a great identity crisis in the face of Rosie Rona and we have not balanced well the rights of what the government should do by operation of law and regulation and what choices we must acknowledge are wholly the own of every individual American regardless of the risks that exist during their lives.
Can we all agree on that? I wonder. All things in time, for better or worse.
Something I was lucky enough to learn from my daddy before he died years ago keeps coming to mind throughout this whole quagmire as I have seen how the SIP has unfolded around me in my community… and in the headlines… and definitely every time I’ve heard people talk about this “new normal” mumbo jumbo… and on the faces of my children when I try to explain to them what everyone is talking about.
You cant make anybody do anything. People will always do what they want to do.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some pretty profound personal revelations and crossroads come up to choose from during the era of SIP, which otherwise would not have happened when they did… nor maybe ever.
I reconnected with a few people from years and years ago that I thought I’d lost forever (thanks Facebook suggestions!). I found out some things I never knew about a few people close to me that has caused me to question a few friendships that I’ve had since before I was even an adult.
In this time “re-connecting” (thanks to social distancing?) many of us have realized that our idea of people in our lives over the years doesn’t necessarily evolve the same way as who they actually choose to be in their individual life does.
Many people I’ve talked to have had some similar sort of epiphany or another, or reached some sort of new understanding of themselves through the unavoidable personal reflection in these times. As people have pondered the existential reckoning we will all face knowing now that the Rona is out there (and may be fast upon us!), many have been “forced”, perhaps, to come to terms with themselves about who they have been, and, more importantly, who they intend to be.
Some have leaned into their bad behaviors. A friend of mine, a grad student, showed me recorded video of her professor doing cocaine during their class break when he thought his camera was off. Maybe getting out of the house helped him keep his habit under control but the four walls of his home teaching online class was just a bridge too far.
I know some people who’s sexual behavior has gotten way more risky because there’s been no way to “date” “normally”… people’s desperation in a way is causing them to skip steps. Tinder has been getting more business in SIP, I’m sure, not less… and here’s another secret: people will always fuck. Therefore, there will always be a limit to the effectiveness of any SIP. Just sayin.
Those are perhaps unhealthy examples, so, on the flip side, it’s been positive to see a lot of folks I know leaning into passions or hobbies or interests and ways of living that seem like really great changes as a result of this dubious time period. That is, assuming those positive changes actually becomes part a sustained new way of life for them.
“I’m going to work out every day!” “I’m going to pursue my dream!” “I’m going to be more considerate of others!”
Lots of folks on my radar seem to have made these kinds of “new life” resolutions for when this is “all over” or for living “in the new normal” (whichever comes first, lol).
I don’t believe there is going to be a new social normal.
I believe that new life resolutions will stick at about the same rate as new years resolutions do across the population every year at the individual level. People will always do what they want to do.
However, my hope is that coming out of this hard path (which we as a society haven’t navigated as well as we could) is that we might collectively level up in recognizing the kinds of fundamental change we need in our society to make it’s new life more sustainable against the challenges of today, yet in keeping with our core American ideals.
If nothing else, its pretty obvious that Americans should have healthcare not tied to our jobs, and that we severely need to improve the checks and balances on our government in favor of the rights and fair treatment of our all our people ahead of capitalism and the wealthy minority.
Good things and bad will come of all this. There’s always threats to face in life, but it is American to be free in the face of threat.
I love people and hope for the lowest number of casualties from the Rona as humanly possible. However, no person owes their life to another under order. As much as possible the government should allow for people to not work, to a degree, who need to be away from others due to the Rona, and to supplement businesses affected by it due to the extreme market changes they might encounter in consumer behavior as a result of it.
However, you cannot take away the rights of people to live and operate freely and still accurately call such an action America as intended. The only duty I owe you is my taxes.
If there is a new normal, it won’t be America still unless we re-shape how we are thinking about the decisions being made for us and over us a lot more critically, and start remembering how far each American’s right to their own freedom extends, and where our requests and expectations of others infringes on their right to a free life on their own time.
I hope you are having the time of YOUR life in the face of the Rona. It is the most precious thing any of us will ever have and cannot reproduce.
If you like the art please check out the Velvet Bandit on IG, and here’s a great song: