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Walking Through the Tunnel

by Milenko Matanovič

April 8, 2020

My daughters are taking care of their families all day long. They have little time for anything else. These challenging times have stretched many to the max. I think about all the people doing essential work, like parenting, and all of the doctors and nurses on the front lines of patient care.

I, in contrast, get to stay home with my wife Kathi, and we fix things around the house and prepare meals, work in the garden and connect virtually with family and friends throughout the world. The rest of the time is for thinking. I feel as if the familiar routines are not there any longer, and I have time to discover new ones.

As I speak with my friends, I’m learning that they, too, are thinking similar thoughts. Sooner or later, we will exit this crisis. But will we ever return to “normal,” to how things used to be?

I sleep a lot. I had a dream a couple of nights ago where a large group of people had a fierce discussion. We were in the tunnel, with no light from either entry or exit. We used our cell-phones to light the way, but they were running out of energy. One by one, they went dark.

One group wanted to go back, arguing that we can’t even see the light at the end, that we already walked a long way, and that there is no certainty that the exit is reachable. At least we know what we will find if we turn back. “We have no idea what lies ahead, so let’s start walking back to the entrance.”

The second group objected. They argued that during the crisis, we’ve already proven that we can change our ways. We learned to work from home. We drive much less, something unimaginable just a few months ago. We shop only the essentials, and we miss the other stuff but realize that they are a luxury, not a necessity. Our skies are cleaner, and the creatures that share the land with us have more breathing room. We see that the heroes are the doctors and nurses and delivery people and farm workers and food store clerks. Their courage and contributions humble us.

One person from this second group said: “look how we now celebrate leaders for their knowledge, science, and clear advice, and we are reluctant to trust those with empty slogans and vague ideas. This realization is good for our future. Having a functioning government is not a bad thing.”

The second group marched forward. A smaller group peeled off and started to walk back. The rest just stood in place, uncertain about where to go.

In my dream, I joined the group going forward. For us, the promise of the possible was more compelling than the discomfort of the status quo. We formed a line, holding each other’s walking sticks, and we all took turns in taking the lead. Our phones all died.

My dream ended when someone shouted: “I see the light!”

In my retreat mode, this dream urges me to figure out how we can turn this disaster into an opportunity. Perhaps, the irritation of this moment will create a glorious pearl.