We are sense-making our way through a global crisis unlike any in recent memory. We need to lay down markers to guide us in the fog of uncertainty. Without public markers, we will not sense our progress and could end up looping back again.
We are in an unusual and uncertain experience for our times. We are challenged to make sense of new restrictions on our lives for our safety and the safety of others. We don’t know what effect we are having for good or for bad. We struggle to make what we can of our life work in this new and difficult world.
Like the man spreading, elephant powder in the old joke, we measure our success by an absence. Even then we face the uncertainty that what appears an abscence may be too much, may be not enough or may be the darker longer threat of asymptomatic spread. We struggle to understand the exponential and to appreciate how a little can quickly become overwhelming.
In the fog, it is easy to get lost, to get confused, or to follow false leads. A lot of the usual markers for our decision making aren’t their usual sure and certain guides to balancing the complex trade-offs we face as societies, as organisations and as individuals: prosperity, rights, entitlements, privilege, equity, normal practice, custom, habit, power, security, health or life. Now is a time to step back from shorthand and ask ourselves what values should guide our way and make decisions consistent with their application at this time.
We don’t get to live life in a double blind trial, so we will never know the differing outcomes of other paths. What we can know is our path. We walk one foggy and uncertain way. We can lay down markers of the way we have taken and set guides for our future course. If nothing else markers, create a path for action where otherwise there is only confusion. Bending the curve, herd immunity, supression and elmination have acted as markers in a frenetic public debate.
We can define what getting there looks like and refine that in continuous conversation as we learn, as we experience and as we adapt. Knowing and agreeing our collective course will help us to know when we change and to make that choice clear to others and to ourselves. Markers will help us refind the way if our choices to change don’t work. Markers will help others to learn and adapt from our experience.
If our path was obvious, then there would be no challenge. Now is a time for the robust discussions of civil society, not pat answers. You don’t build a cairn alone. It is a collective task with stones added and maintained by others over time. If nothing else, laying down some cairns in the fog will tell us where we went should we come this way again.