Anthem

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

– Anthem by Leonard Cohen

In his song Anthem, the late Leonard Cohen sings that there is a crack in everything. But that that’s also the place where the light can get in. Cohen’s lyrics are often highly philosophical and subject to different interpretations. For me the phrase means that not everything works out, not everything is great, not everyone is perfect… but if you look at people, things and events with a positive attitude, there’s always something good in everyone, everything and every situation.

I already used the crack-and-light metaphor in another post on this blog, about champagne corks and factfulness, when I wrote about (unfortunately, also the late) Hans Rosling’s book in which the Swedish thinker iterates ten reasons why we’re wrong about the world, and why things are better than we think.

Photo by Sarunas Burdulis (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Today, most of us are locked down and locked in because of the COVID-19 virus and our daily news is dominated by the grim statistics of infections and deaths, by stories of heartbreaking personal tragedies and by gloomy economic forecasts.

But, this dark pandemic cloud has also a silver lining – a crack where the light gets through. Just look at the positive things people are doing today. The heroic dedication of health care workers. How neighbors are taking care of each other. How some (no, not all) governments and employers have become empathic leaders. How (again, some) virologists and scientists turned out to be great communicators. The (temporary?) positive effects on traffic jams and on air and water quality. The growing acceptance of tele-working and home working…

We’ll never live in a perfect world, so let’s not make perfect the enemy of good. We must learn to accept setback and imperfection. It’s all about taking the right perspective. Being positive about the post-corona future. Ringing the bells that still can ring. Thinking opportunities rather than challenges. Actually, the new normal may not be that bad after all.

Champagne corks and factfulness

We just welcomed another new year. And while opening a bottle of champagne at midnight, I had to think about this JFK quote:

“We celebrate the past to awaken the future.” – John F. Kennedy (1960)

Because, that’s exactly what we do each New Year’s Eve. At our home, we even keep the champagne cork as a souvenir for the future. As such, my family has already gathered a few dozens of corks, cherishing memories of past New Years, anniversaries and life events. Precious keepsakes of our wedding day, my wife’s first positive pregnancy test, or the birth of our children – just to name a few.

Predicting, awakening, or even shaping the future is never easy. I don’t want to make any statement about whether the past was better than the present. Or whether the future looks gloomier than, say, 10, 20, or 60 years ago. We’re living in a different era today, with a different zeitgeist, and with different challenges. Though I must admit that I’m not too excited about some of today’s (geo)political, economic and social evolutions, the world may be in a much better state than we often assume.

At least, that’s the message I retained after reading “Factfulness” by Hans Rosling. The book, subtitled “Ten reasons we’re wrong about the world, and why things are better than you think,” is the perfect antidote to negativism. Diving into statistical data of over 80 global trends, like population growth, poverty, girls’ education and child mortality, it shows us the positive changes that have taken place over the past years. If you haven’t read the book in 2018 yet, it’s recommended reading for 2019!

So, I keep looking at the bright side of life. As the late Leonard Cohen sang: “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.” Let’s be positive about the future. Let’s think opportunities and not challenges. And while valuing the corks of the empty bottles, always make sure there’s a full bottle of bubbles in the fridge!