I’ve been paying attention to the language I am hearing and using in relation to the pandemic the past few weeks. The word “unprecedented” makes a regular appearance, and various synonyms for much the same idea. When I reflect on the response that generates for me it is one of fear, uncertainty, and instability. There is no knowledge that one can usefully bring to an unprecedented experience, because it is, well, without precedent and therefore no prior learning has occurred.
I have decided to modify my own language. I’m finding that replacing the concept that everything that is happening is unprecedented with the idea that it is interesting, is psychologically more manageable for me. In the past few days I have said:
- Won’t tomorrow’s local council election outcome be interesting!
- Isn’t it interesting to see how quickly our large institutions, like universities, hospitals, and even our governments can change when they are motivated to do so!
- It’ll be interesting to see whether we all prefer online meetings in the future, now that we have discovered that we can get just as much done.
- It’s so interesting to see how creative people are in addressing the new challenges that are coming up.
As an academic and researcher, knowledge generation and communication floats my boat. Considering the rapidly changing world around me as a vast opportunity to observe natural experiments unfolding fills me with excitement, rather than dread. I don’t have choice about what happens in the world outside my personal influence, but I do have a choice about how I frame it up inside my own head.
So consider joining me in saying – don’t we live in interesting times!