People often scoff at unbridled optimism. I do it myself. Optimists are looked upon with skepticism in my culture. We speak condescendingly of the cockeyed optimist. We see ourselves as cool, rational people. We’ve had plenty of disappointments. Unrestrained optimism doesn’t seem realistic.
But the cockeyed optimist might say sure, optimism is unrealistic. Optimism is the frame of mind with which you approach the action that changes reality.
Fair enough. Brace yourself, I’m going to let go a flurry of shameless optimism. I’m in that mood today. You see, I got my second vaccination. In two weeks I’ll be considered completely immunized. And then at last, after this past unthinkable year, I will be free to move again, to travel near or far.
Gradually, day by day, mobility is being restored to the world. I struggle to even comprehend what a colossal liberation this is.
A Feeling in the Air
Spring is coming. You can sense it in the air. The new blossoms have perched themselves at the extremities of the branches, ready to burst open as soon as there’s a stretch of sustained warmth. The fine vibration of new life is in the atmosphere. Spring and winter are still battling, but spring will be the victor. And I am expecting the most joyous spring in memory.
I foresee us coming into a new renaissance, a perfect storm in reverse. As oppressive as COVID has been, the liberation will be proportionally exuberant. There has never been anything in our history to compare with what we have been through over the last year. We are now looking at our deliverance. I am ecstatic.
It’s hard to describe the feeling of going and getting the vaccine. It was just going to a vaccination site, filling out a form, getting in a physically-distanced line, waiting to be assigned to a nurse to get my shot, then sitting for a few minutes to make sure there was no bad reaction, and then done. Physically, that’s all that happened. But that doesn’t describe the experience.
With everyone I encountered in that process there was a kind of barely-suppressed sense of celebration, as if everyone would break into cheers at the required signal.
There was an underlying joy, a sense of a shared realization. This is happening! We are doing it. We are going to beat this pandemic. It’s no longer a pledge toward a distant goal, but now. We are making progress.
Every day now 2.4 million Americans are being vaccinated. More than 109 million doses have been administered to date, reaching 21.4 percent of the U.S. population. And the numbers improve every day. Every hour as we do whatever we do, this is happening.
We are experiencing one of the greatest senses of relief in our history. When we see each other, even strangers, we know that there is at least one thing we share: we went through this damn pandemic together. And now we are coming out of it. It’s producing a shared sense of elation.
When I predict a renaissance, I am referring to the tremendous reprieve that is coming to us, a sense of freedom spreading through the population, setting off chain reactions of ideas and action. It’s a magnificent phenomenon. I am greatly enjoying observing it, and experiencing it.
Those who are immunized can begin to return to their previous ways, mobility restored. There will be numerous ways to leverage the power and utility of the vaccinations, such as health passports that can be used to lower risk for travelers.
Rapid testing at airports will help stop the spread of COVID, keeping it off airplanes and ultimately banning it from our midst. The combinations of all of these scientific tools, technologies and practices will end the pandemic, even if we can’t eradicate the virus.
We are at the beginning of a great new flowering of our country. We are about to see the release of 330 million imprisoned people. We are going to see them freed to work on the plans they’ve been hatching during the year of hibernation. We’re going to see a bursting forth of activity and creativity on an unprecedented scale. I don’t think I am overblowing it when I use the term “renaissance.”
When the Black Death wiped out a third of the population of Europe in 1348 it also broke down the feudal system, helping to set the stage for the Italian Renaissance that exploded in the 15th century.
COVID has been a powerful force for change, creating havoc and disaster. In the face of dire necessity it aroused creativity and engendered innovation. COVID challenged everyone, pushed us to find new resources within ourselves.
Many of the changes will lead to good outcomes in the long run. Many of the benefits are only beginning to appear. We are seeing the emergence of new technologies to detect infection on the spot at airport boarding stations. There is even a technology that can detect COVID over the phone by analyzing the sound of the voice.
These and other new technologies will help to prevent future pandemics. Technological progress was accelerated by COVID. Many lines of research and development were pushed into higher gear in response to the urgent demands of COVID.
That’s why I predict a renaissance, a rebirth of culture and commerce. It’s a major watershed moment in American history and world history.
And perhaps this is where optimism edges out objectivity in my life — I believe in the great resourcefulness, adaptability and creativity of human beings.
It’s basic human behavior to take whatever can be salvaged from a bad situation and build something good out of it. Just as beavers make dams and cheetahs chase down antelopes, this is how human beings behave.
So we will see people taking the lessons learned from this disaster and we will see innovation in many fields of endeavor that will dazzle us.
Travel was a huge element in the Italian Renaissance. Travel, trade and exploration are how ideas and culture are shared around the world. Cross-cultural exchange is one of the main drivers of innovation throughout history. The expansion of travel, trade and exploration during the 15th century produced the cultural exchange that set off the explosion of new ideas.
Travel will be a huge part of our new renaissance too. The whole world has been penned in for a year. We have developed a new appreciation of travel that will change the way we travel in many ways for the better.
I’ve made good use of my year of exile from the world, but I’m more than ready to mark its ceremonial ending. And now I’m in the process of planning how I will make that break, that first, delicious trip. It will be like coming back to life.
Your humble reporter,