The very words we use to describe our economic patterns betray our hearts. Boom and bust speak of explosions and destruction. Bull and bear are both fearsome animals to be avoided at the best of times. We have the wrong words and thus we think about changes in economic activity the wrong way.
Nature paints for us a better picture. The rhythm of nature is the seasons – winter always leads to spring, which turns to summer, and then into autumn and back to winter. Every. Single. Year. Balanced. Reoccurring. Reliable. Each with a specific and different purpose. Each intertwined with the others. Each reliant on the others. When the natural seasons get mucked up, we have a super-big mess.
Our financial geniuses have convinced us that the continual and relentless upward swing is the only pattern worth pursuing. Esoteric financial instruments “protect” us against downturns and slower times. The growth season – the spring – is wonderful. Until it’s not. Until it’s spring all the time, and the other seasons of hidden investment (winter), riding the waves and enjoying what we’ve worked for (summer), and pruning that which isn’t working (autumn) are ignored. For years and decades. The absence of the human rest cycle in the rhythm of seasons leads to burnout, depression, broken relationships, and illness. A hollowing out of purpose and meaning. Too many pragmatic decisions that sound right in the moment but violate deeply held values and principles. Going through the motions from the depths of exhaustion – disengaged internally but plastering over the disengagement with too much coffee and other stimulants.
Perhaps that which we refuse to honour in regular small doses – a day off a week, a good night of sleep, time to think and reflect – eventually builds in pressure until the whole planet can’t stand it any longer, and we’re forced by forces more gigantic than any of us to stop. Entirely. Suddenly. Painfully. And with an uncertain outlook.
In this season of enforced rest – “don’t travel,” “stay at home,” “maintain your social distance,” be careful, “the borders are closed” – we can either rail against the apparent injustice of it all or learn to ride the rhythm. To catch up on long-neglected sleep. To read the books that have sat unopened for too many years. To write the long letters of love and appreciation we should never have given up on, rather than relying on the ephemeral and far too short snippets of hurried text messages. To cook real meals at home, instead of relying on fast food and empty calories. To be present with those we live amongst, not the horde of faceless virtual friends we amass too easily on social networks.
And to make different plans for the future, where rhythm and rest take a more dominant place in our practising of life.