A little while ago I cooked up a healthy recipe for people who work from home or who have to work from home. For me, the status didn’t flip much because of the nature of work I did pre-COVID. However, it was easier to pen it down than to get done. I feel this period of ‘lockdown’, despite being an ideal time to reflect has increased my susceptibility to lose agency over following a disciplined day and following a disciplined regime. I increasingly have come to believe that I have become vulnerable. Do you feel so too?
As I take my dog for his usual morning walk, I look up to the sky as if hoping for some mysterious ray of light will now shine on me through a tiny gap between the clouds to enlighten me. But nothing happens as the reticent clouds just blankly stare back at me and their indifference from up above shakes me a little on the inside. I’d like to believe that someone is watching over me, someone is watching over us, someone has a plan for me but that’s just my ‘fake optimism’ giving me the much needed momentary solace. The ‘all is okay’ and ‘the all is going to fall in place’ illusion that we try to live in and keep telling each other, whereas deep down we know we are nothing but a small tiny speck in this universe and none of what we do will make any dent in this cosmos. On a random stroke of an emotion, during the day, I go for an aimless drive like a tourist, as if to explore the city I have been living in for more than a decade now, to see what’s out there, to see what do the roads of the city now look like, to see what the parks look like, to see what does this ‘new norm’ look like. Somewhat with a feeling that’s post-apocalyptic. Expecting some change, despite the inherent beauty of this city, the sheer dreariness of life as I look around gets to me. As I aimlessly drive around the city, sequestered from the outside noise of the vehicles passing by as if the vehicles are screaming at mine ‘get the fuck out of my way, I have to get there fast’ - a sudden poise grips me and I come to terms with the thought that ‘hope is what I should hope for only’. Hope is the only thing to hope for. I should hope to be a better version of me. I should hope to appreciate today instead of hoping to acquire or reach somewhere tomorrow. I hope to do something better today instead of worrying about what the future would be like. But at times I feel lost in the mad rush that I see scrambling around me, after the long ‘lockdown hiatus’. Some like to call this rush resilience or robustness whereas some label it as bouncing back. To me, it’s more like – as if we had a choice? Calling this robustness or bouncing back is again our ‘fake optimism’ giving us our much needed momentary solace.
Interestingly all this rings a bell in me. Back in 2011, Nicholas Naseem Taleb, defined the prevalence of three systems irrespective of your status, be it corporations, be it nations, be it societies or be it, individuals. The first one is a ‘fragile’ system that cripples under external stress or pressure, kind of like a vase or like our classic banking system that collapsed one fine day in 2008. Over the years our focus has been to convert such fragile systems into more ‘robust’ systems, which is the second type of system, which will resist such volatile changes and resist from crumbling. But Taleb claims the existence of yet another kind of system being the exact opposite of fragile? Not robust, not resilient, not bouncing back but it’s what he coined ‘anti-fragile’ – a system that does not collapse under pressure but gains from the disorder or chaos, kind of like a start-up that evolves despite all the interim failures that it goes through. It benefits from a sudden fortuitous adversity. The human body and character have the ability to be anti-fragile.
Now, I see the funny side of this. This pandemic that has rocked is kind of weird. On one side we wish it hadn’t happened at all, and life would have been usual as it was. On the other side, some subtly rejoice from this adversity. Maybe this was like that much-needed speed breaker in our lives, which you didn’t see coming, and all of a sudden appeared out of nowhere hitting you so hard, you didn’t even have time to react and it lifted your car so high, you didn’t know and couldn’t even guess where you are going to land. But in that brief air-lifted moment, it creepily dawns on you that maybe you took things for granted, you took your life for granted and you didn’t appreciate what you had at that moment. You were so busy racing towards your targets that you almost forgot about the beauty of what is. A researcher I had read about says (I don’t know how) that approx 30% of the people suffer from PTSD after an adversity occurs in their lives, the rest 70% experience some form of growth from it. Even technology has a greater role to play in shaping our society than we humans itself, but our technological efforts have been persistently towards easing out things for us, towards convenience or ease-of-doing things, which in effect is pushing us and our society towards fragility instead of anti-fragility.
Our efforts not only as individuals but as corporations, businesses and nations as well should be to make humanity more anti-fragile instead of trying to move towards a society where we wish that sudden fortuitous events won’t happen. That is not possible. That is utopia. Shit is bound to happen no matter how much we try to prevent it. And I believe that an individual’s hope for a better reality is what can make us anti-fragile. I believe that an individual’s hope for being a better version of itself can make humanity anti-fragile. As a species, that would be our greatest contribution, would be our biggest safeguard, and shall be our greatest legacy for times to come.