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Thanks to AI translation, you can now read this article in Chinese. Scroll down to the end of the English text to begin reading in Chinese.

(For international readers, allow me to explain: My city of Chongqing, often abbreviated as CQ, is pronounced Chong Ching to rhyme with Wrong Ring. CQ is a megacity of 30 million people in south-central China, on the Yangtze River near the Three Gorges Dam.)

In Chongqing, the first real impact of the virus outbreak now known as Covid-19 occurred as far back as mid-January. This was before it was even recognized as a pandemic and a worldwide threat. My wife and young son both had made travel plans to fit around their holiday (from her work and from his elementary school). Despite some ominous reports, our understanding of the gravity of the situation was so minimal that both of them left on their respective journeys as previously planned. But, by the time they returned to our home in CQ at the end of January, we were on full alert. Throughout January, the news was increasingly worrisome. By the time they were preparing for their return home, there had been some concerns about if they would be allowed to travel (even within China), which airline and train services would be curtailed, and if they would be subject to a mandatory quarantine at the end of their journey. Both arrived home safely and without complications but, in the following days, the downward spiral of fear, restrictions, and uncertainty progressed. Those three months, January through March, have changed our lives and lifestyle irrevocably.

As I write these words in mid-April, residents of CQ are approaching the end of the crisis measures – we fervently hope. The warm, lovely spring weather has seen people venturing outdoors again, albeit the vast majority are still wearing masks. Most businesses and public places have reopened. My wife has returned to work and my son has been notified that his elementary school will reopen in early May, presumably after the May Day holiday. (I wonder what the festivities will look like this year for May Day. Probably much more subdued than in past years. But, on the other hand, we will have much to be grateful for.)

Those three months have changed our lives and lifestyle as much as a nuclear holocaust.  Really? As much as a nuclear holocaust? Is that hyperbole? Is it artistic license? I guess the accuracy of that statement will depend on how this pandemic plays out around the world. How many people will actually die or be permanently impaired? How many companies will never reopen? How many products and services will be difficult or impossible to obtain? How many people will not have a job to go back to, even after they are no longer in the shelter-in-place mode? How many people will emerge, blinking and smiling wanly, to find they have survived but have no financial resources to begin a new life? Don’t misunderstand me; economics is a distant second place in my priorities; avoiding filling body bags is first.

What is irrefutable is that we, collectively, have suffered a social and economic trauma that will not be forgotten quickly. Those of us who got lucky and dodged the Covid-19 bullet (so far, anyway) will still carry some psychic scar tissue into the future.

Yes, I am the one who glibly said, “Your grandparents survived the Great Depression of the 1930s and years of a world war that killed and wounded millions. You are being asked to wear a mask, wash your hands, and stay at home for a few weeks. Don’t screw this up.” I stand by those words. Compared to sacrifices made by previous generations, a mandatory isolation – complete with internet access, home delivery service, uninterrupted utilities, and 24/7 media coverage – seems pretty light. (That last one, 24/7 media coverage, is perhaps a mixed blessing. I wouldn’t want to be deprived of information but I wish we had a better signal-to-noise ratio.)

However, the cost for our generation is not so slight that we can completely overlook it. I have previously predicted that after the crisis passes and people are venturing out in public again, we will see a mini-Baby Boom (not mini-babies), a flurry of crash diets (by necessity), and a startling number of divorces. In some households, you may see all three. For many millions more, the cost may not be so visible but it will still be very real. In addition to the legitimate fear of death for ourselves and our loved ones, we will be dealing with the results of isolation and deprivation, plus a loss of security, innocence, and trust. Those feelings are real and they are not shallow. Indeed, I wonder just how objective I can be, given that I have been grounded for three months. Can’t see the forest because of the trees? What if I have become one of the trees?

My mother always said, “Things will work out for the best.” Also, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” And “It’s always darkest before dawn.” As a youth, this was assuring when my problems and confusion seemed overwhelming. As a young adult, I saw the value of an optimistic viewpoint when encountering difficulties – and difficult people. Now, in my, er, maturity, I have a different interpretation of Mother’s old saw. With my new, age-enhanced patina of enlightenment, I see it as meaning that every tragedy contains hidden opportunities for reinventing a life gone off-course, even dangerously dysfunctional.

In one of my favorite books – and still required reading for many classes in sci-fi literature – Pat Frank’s Alas, Babylon has the protagonist dealing with a nuclear armageddon and the following weeks and months. In doing so, the main character becomes harder, leaner, more decisive, and he exhibits leadership skills that were previously only latent. In many ways, Randy Bragg, in his old life, embodied the modern trend of taking things easy, of thinking primarily of convenience and avoiding confrontation, and of wallowing in his creature comforts… including several slugs of bourbon with his morning coffee. But when the bombs fell, the standard of living he had enjoyed was no longer possible. As entire regions burned and infrastructure crumbled, many of the old leaders proved incapable of providing either guidance or reassurance. In that novel, Randy Bragg was forced to step into this vacuum. Even as the old ways were no longer possible, new conditions opened the door to positive alternatives.  In doing so, he transformed himself into a man far superior to the old model.

That was just a book, although somewhat prescient. Today, the Covid-19 pandemic brings death and economic devastation around the world. We cannot yet predict the amount of damage and, indeed, we are far from being through even the initial spread of infection. However, the pandemic also delivers an opportunity to reinvent ourselves, to review and perhaps reject various aspects of our old life. This is a remarkably valuable gift, this ability to consciously cull out the negatives, the inefficient, and the misdirected. Maybe we can use this period of isolation as an incubator for reinvention. Let me insert a short excerpt from my book China Bound:

Sometimes, such isolation is highly therapeutic.  The only time we are truly free is when we are completely alone.  Being alone means we do not have to be distracted by concerns about appearances or impressions, interacting with others (communications, different values, different styles, and privacy issues), or with division of labor and agreeing upon tasks.  Or interruptions.

As Gordon MacQuarrie wrote,

When a man is alone, he gets things done.  So many men, alone … get along with themselves because it takes most of their time to do for themselves.  No dallying over division of labor, no hesitancy at tackling a job.

There is much to be said on behalf of the solitary way ….  It lets people get acquainted with themselves.  Do not feel sorry for the man on his own.  If he is one who plunges into all sorts of work, if he does not dawdle, if he does not dwell upon his aloneness, he will get many things done and have a fine time doing them.

More Words of wisdom from Wisconsin:

1) Expect a “slow thaw”. Regardless of how fervently we want an overnight return to “normal”, it ain’t gonna happen. Better, instead, to prepare for a gradual approach to the New Normal – after we get through the crisis phase.

2) Pride goeth before the fall… and, right after fall, you get a long, hard winter. Denial is not a good defense against Covid-19. For those who relied upon hoping something wouldn’t happen rather than active preparation, the consequences will be terrible.

Currently, millions of people have such aloneness and opportunity. Indeed, in the coming years, some people will look back at this period as a positive turning point in their life, an awakening to their potential. The isolation will be seen as the impetus to step out in a completely new direction. As the old ways are irretrievably gone, we are forced to explore new methods, new routines, new relationships. It is not a requirement but, for some, this will also be the spur for finding a new location. As George MacDonald Fraser’s famous character, Harry Flashman, noted, war gives some people who never had a purpose something to focus on. For the first time in their life, they have a direction, a mission. Leaders emerge from the fragments of the shattered lives and, like Randy Bragg, they are harder, leaner, and more decisive as they develop vision and skills that were previously only latent because they were not necessary.

What will you do with this opportunity? What is the silver lining in your cloud? What will be your first step to achieve the new life that is available to you because of this seismic shift in our world? As you emerge from the chaos and destruction of this period, you can make new choices, see the world differently. Hint: In a few decades, what would you like your grandchildren to say about you?

WHAT DO YOU THINK? PLEASE GIVE US YOUR FEEDBACK IN THE COMMENTS FIELD (BELOW THE ARTICLE), PRIVATE EMAIL (randy@randy-green.com), OR ON THE WECHAT OR WEIBO PLATFORMS.

三月之期,紧张而非恼怒

对于国际读者,请允许我解释一下。我的城市重庆,通常简称为CQ,发音为Chong Ching,与 “错环 “押韵。重庆是中国中南部一个拥有三千万人口的大城市,位于长江三峡大坝附近的长江边上。

在三个月的时间点上;依然紧张但不生气。在重庆,早在1月中旬就发生了第一次真正影响到现在被称为Covid-19的病毒爆发。那时候,它还没有被认为是一种大流行病,也没有被认为是一种全球性的威胁。我的妻子和年幼的儿子都制定了旅行计划,以适应他们的假期(从她的工作和他的小学)。尽管有一些不祥的报道,但我们对情况的严重性了解得非常少,所以他们都按照之前的计划出发了。但是,当他们在1月底回到我们在CQ的家时,我们已经进入了全面戒备状态。整个1月份,消息越来越令人担忧。当他们准备回国的时候,人们已经开始担心他们是否会被允许旅行(即使是在中国境内),哪些航空公司和火车服务会被削减,以及他们在旅行结束后是否会被强制隔离。两人都安全地抵达了家,没有出现任何问题,但在接下来的日子里,恐惧、限制和不确定性的螺旋式上升。从1月到3月的这三个月,不可逆转地改变了我们的生活和生活方式。

当我在4月中旬写下这些话的时候,重庆市的居民们已经接近危机措施的尾声–我们热切希望。春天的天气温暖宜人,尽管绝大多数人仍戴着口罩,但人们又开始外出活动了。大部分商家和公共场所都已重新开业。我的妻子已经返回工作岗位,儿子也接到通知,他的小学将在5月初重新开学,估计是在五一假期后。不知道今年的五一节会有什么样的庆祝活动)。可能比往年要淡定得多。但另一方面,我们也会有很多值得庆幸的事情要做)。)

这三个月的时间,改变了我们的生活和生活方式,不亚于一场核浩劫。 真的吗?像核浩劫一样多?这是夸张吗?是艺术授权吗?我想这句话的准确性将取决于这场大流行病在全球范围内的表现。有多少人将真正死亡或永久受损?有多少公司将永远无法重新开业?有多少产品和服务将难以或无法获得?有多少人即使不再处于避风港模式,也将没有工作可以回去?又有多少人会在眨眼间、微笑着摇摇欲坠地走出来,发现自己活下来了,却没有经济来源开始新的生活?不要误解我的意思,经济在我的优先级中远远排在第二位,避免装尸袋才是第一。

毋庸置疑的是,我们这些人集体遭受了社会和经济的重创,不会很快被遗忘。我们这些侥幸躲过了科维德-19子弹的人(无论如何,到目前为止)仍然会带着一些心理上的疤痕组织进入未来。

是的,我就是那个调侃说:”你们的祖父母在三十年代的大萧条和多年的世界大战中死伤无数的人都活了下来。你被要求戴上口罩,洗手,在家里呆上几个星期。别把事情搞砸了。” 我支持这些话。与前几代人所做的牺牲相比,强制隔离—-包括互联网接入、送货上门服务、不间断的水电费和全天候的媒体报道—-似乎相当轻巧。(最后一项,全天候的媒体报道,也许是个喜忧参半的事情。我不想被剥夺了信息,但我希望我们有更好的信噪比)。)

然而,我们这一代人的代价并不轻,以至于我们可以完全忽略不计。我之前曾预言,在危机过去后,人们又开始在公共场合发泄,我们将看到一个迷你婴儿潮(不是迷你婴儿)、一窝蜂的崩溃式饮食(迫不得已),以及惊人的离婚数量。在一些家庭中,你可能会看到这三者都会出现。对更多的人来说,代价可能不那么明显,但仍将是非常真实的。除了对自己和亲人的死亡的合理恐惧之外,我们还将面对孤立和被剥夺的结果,再加上安全感、纯真和信任的丧失。这些感受是真实存在的,它们并不肤浅。的确,我不知道自己被禁足了三个月,究竟能有多客观。因为树木而看不清森林?如果我已经成为了树的一员呢?

我母亲总是说,”事情会有最好的结果的。” 还有,”每一朵云都有一线生机”。而 “天亮前总是最黑的时候”。作为一个年轻人,当我的问题和困惑似乎压得我喘不过气来的时候,这让我很放心。作为一个年轻的成年人,当我遇到困难–和困难的人时,我看到了乐观的观点的价值。现在,在我的,呃,成熟的时候,我对母亲的老眼光有了不同的诠释。随着我的新的、年龄增强了的启蒙,我把它看成是每一个悲剧都蕴含着重塑偏离轨道的人生的机会,甚至是危险的功能失调。

在我最喜欢的书之一–也是许多科幻文学课的必读书目–帕特-弗兰克的《唉,巴比伦》中,主人公要面对核大爆炸以及接下来的几周几月的生活。在这样做的过程中,主人公变得更加坚韧、精干、果断,他表现出了以前只能潜伏的领导能力。在许多方面,兰迪-布拉格,在他以前的生活中,体现了现代的趋势,把事情简单化,主要是考虑到方便和避免对抗,沉湎于他的生物安慰…… 包括早上喝咖啡时喝几口波本威士忌。但当炸弹落下时,他所享受的生活水平已经不可能再有了。随着整个地区被烧毁,基础设施崩溃, 许多老领导人都无法提供指导或保证。在那本小说中,兰迪-布拉格被迫踏上了这个真空地带。即使旧的方式不再可能,新的条件也为他打开了积极的替代方案的大门。 在这样做时,他把自己变成了一个远超旧模式的人。

那只是一本书,虽然有些先知先觉。今天,Covid-19大流行病在世界各地带来了死亡和经济破坏。我们还无法预测破坏的程度,事实上,我们甚至还远远没有经历过感染的初步蔓延。然而,这场大流行病也为我们提供了一个重新塑造自己的机会,让我们重新审视并摒弃我们过去生活的各个方面。这是一种非常宝贵的天赋,这种能力让我们有意识地剔除消极的、低效的和被误导的东西。也许我们可以把这段与世隔绝的日子作为重塑的孵化器。请允许我插入我的《中国行》一书中的一个简短节选。

有时候,这样的孤独是有很大的治疗作用的。 只有当我们完全独处的时候,我们才是真正自由的时候。 独处意味着我们不必因为担心外貌或印象的问题、与他人互动(沟通、不同的价值观、不同的风格和隐私问题)、分工和商定任务而分心。 或者说是中断。

正如Gordon MacQuarrie所写的那样。

男人一个人的时候,就能把事情办好。 所以,很多男人,一个人………..和自己相处,因为大部分时间都是为自己做的。 没有在分工上的磨蹭,没有在处理工作上的犹豫不决。

孤独的方式有很多值得一提的是…..。 它让人们认识了自己。 不要为自己的人感到惋惜。 如果他是一个投入到各种工作中的人,如果他不磨磨蹭,不纠结于自己的孤独,那么他就会做很多事情,而且做得很好。

来自威斯康星州的更多箴言。

1) 期待 “缓慢解冻”。无论我们多么热切地希望一夜之间恢复 “正常”,但这是不会发生的。相反,最好的办法是在我们渡过危机阶段后,准备逐渐走向新常态。

2)自尊心在秋天之前………..而在秋天过后,你就会迎来一个漫长而艰难的冬天。否定不是抵御科维德-19的好办法。对于那些依靠希望事情不会发生而不是积极准备的人来说,后果将是可怕的。

目前,千千万万的人都有这样的孤独和机会。事实上,在未来几年,有些人将把这一时期看作是他们人生中的一个积极的转折点,是对自身潜力的觉醒。这种孤独感会被看成是踏出全新的方向的动力。随着旧的方式不可挽回地消失,我们被迫探索新的方法、新的套路、新的关系。这不是一个要求,但对一些人来说,这也将成为寻找新位置的鞭策。正如乔治-麦克唐纳-弗雷泽的著名人物哈里-闪电侠所指出的那样,战争让一些从来没有目标的人有了一些可以关注的东西。他们的人生第一次有了方向,有了使命。领袖们从破碎的生活碎片中走出来,就像兰迪-布拉格一样,他们更坚韧、更精干、更果断,因为他们开发出了以前只潜伏的视野和技能,因为他们没有必要。

面对这样的机会,你会怎么做?你的云云中的银子是什么?你的第一步会是什么,你会因为我们的世界发生了这种地震式的转变而获得新的生命?当你从这一时期的混乱和破坏中走出来,你可以做出新的选择,以不同的方式看待这个世界。提示:再过几十年,你希望你的子孙后代对你有什么评价?

你有什么看法?请在文章下方的评论区(文章下方)、私人邮件(randy@randy-green.com)或微信或微信平台上给我们反馈。

4 Replies to “At the Three-Month Point; Still Nervous But Not Angry.”

  1. Glad to read your new blog. Everything becomes better and better in China, but it‘s still worse for other countries. I totally agree with you that the isolation is a positive turning point in my life, I made use of it to pay attention to myself, reading books, watching movies, and cooking. When I was in college, I didn‘t want to do things alone, which makes me feel lonely. But now it’s relax to be alone, I can do what makes me happy and relaxed, and needn‘t consider others’ feeling.
    Maybe we have to learn love ourselves before loving others.
    Best wishes.
    Bonnie

  2. Thank you for quoting MacQuarrie in your very thoughtful essay.
    ****************************
    (From Randy)
    Looks like we were found by yet another MacQuarrie authority. Ted Eastlund is also a proponent for the lifestyle Mac described in his writing. After the experiences of the lockdown, perhaps other readers will also be considering ways to simplify their life. It may not be feasible to attempt to recreate the outdoor life of hunting and fishing that MacQuarrie came to symbolize but a simple, natural life might be more enjoyable and sustainable even for people in the largest cities. Being eternally busy, enjoying the beauty of nature, and working with your hands is a lifestyle that can be pursued by anyone.

  3. Coming from the US (Wisconsin) it’s good to see you coming out the other end. We just got an extension of shelter in place to May 26, schools will not open this school year. Cases are modest in numbers out here, especially in sparsely populated areas (many of us were already socially isolated before this!
    *************************
    (From Randy)
    We have been honored with a visit by a special person. In recent posts, I have often referred to Wisconsin writer Gordon MacQuarrie. This comment is by Dave Evenson who has written two books about MacQuarrie and even lives in the same area of Wisconsin. Dave is an authority on MacQuarrie’s writing and history. He also personifies the lifestyle Mac wrote of. Last month, Dave Everson was collecting sap and boiling it to make maple syrup. That’s getting close to living off the land as our ancestors would have done it.

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