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Opinion: Stressing a comfortable norm – in muscles and community – can lead to growth

Foresight is a bit less certain, writes Rob Wynen
View of Cove from ferry

Several issues ago I had my first poem printed in the Undercurrent.  It was the first poem I had written since high school and pretty much done off the top of my head. I wonder what the poets on island thought about it? The title, “Hindsight is 2020,” was a take on a conversation I had with my mother. We agreed that looking back in hindsight we will get some but by far not all of the answers to what we did well and not so well during these crazy times. 

Looking ahead is another story and predicting what this year will bring and what life  will look like post, assuming there will be a post, pandemic is much more difficult. Will we go back to our old ways? Will we increasingly separate ourselves from one another? How far will our desire for safety go and what price are we willing to pay for this safety?

On a recent industry Zoom meeting with various participants in the fitness and health industry, the future of fitness was the topic of discussion. Many of the participants were putting on a brave face when discussing how they had needed to pivot their business models. How they are dealing with constantly changing health orders and in short, how to keep staff and pay the bills at the end of the month. No one was discussing, as in years past, how to grow and prosper in the fitness sector. Survival was the topic of conversation. No one is immune to the situation, even on-island we have seen the closure of a well-known yoga facility. The growth of home equipment sales, online virtual personal training and the challenge of putting fewer clients in a workout space with continually increasing rents does not bode well for the traditional model. I have worked for around 25 years in physical rehabilitation and the fitness sector. It is and hopefully will remain, a line of work that allows me to help others and bring people together. I question whether the next generation of fitness professionals will get these same goals met in the new fitness norm.

Several weeks earlier I attended a Zoom event, the new meeting format which may permanently replace many of our face to face interactions with our fellow homosapians, to listen to a talk by renowned Bowen author Wade Davis. I received his book, Magdalena: River of Dreams, over Christmas.  The talk was put on by the Rotary Club and featured beautiful photographic images by Wade of this majestic river forming the backbone of Columbia. What stood out for me was the beauty of both the people and the country juxtaposed against the brutality of the country’s history over 500 years. The resilience of both the environment and human spirit is on full display in the book. The book gave me hope that we as a species can be very resilient but unfortunately this resilience is often in response to terrible suffering and changes that are brought about not to thrive but as in my industry, to just survive. 

A crisis can bring about opportunity for change, re-evaluating our priorities and doing things in a new manner.  A crisis can also cause fear, a break down in the social fabric and what worries me most, forgetting what makes life special. Just a year ago we could not have imagined that our government would dictate how many people we could have in our home, that we would all be wearing masks, keeping a six-foot distance from one another or spraying disinfectants on almost all of our physical surfaces.  The rate of societal change has been remarkable and I suspect more is to come. Change is often preceded by analysis of the issue at hand and hopefully by good solid and robust public discussions. This has not been the case with this pandemic. Change has been very reactionary and made under duress to a largely unknown virus by a population that is scared out of their wits.  It has been tough to even analyze the effectiveness of the changes we are making before more changes are introduced. We are so beyond normal that many of the safeguards we have in our society are gone. The road ahead could lead in so many different directions. It could lead to new opportunities that our old way of thinking may have prevented but it could also lead to a very negative place. Our foresight is anything but 20/20, it is much more like my latest eye exam, somewhere between blurry and blind.

Navigating the road ahead will be challenging. This is not necessarily bad. Growth, whether it is muscle growth, personal growth or societal growth only happens when the comfortable norm is stressed. In my day-to-day job I put stress on the human body to encourage muscle, organ and bone growth. Not enough stress and nothing changes, the right amount of stress can produce amazing physical benefits but the wrong or too much stress can create irreversible injury. It is a very delicate balance. How we deal with stress in our community on Bowen but also on a global scale will determine to a large extent our future. 

Here is hoping that we as a community can meet the stresses we have already encountered and will likely continue to encounter for the foreseeable future with an eye on a future we can thrive in. The conditions right now are not ideal for good decision-making but we will have to make do with the situation and tools on hand.