Editor’s Note: What I’ll Keep Post-pandemic

Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO, tweeted a help-wanted ad a couple weeks ago for another of his companies, Neuralink. In the short term, employees would work to solve brain/spine injuries. In the long term, the work would help to create human/artificial intelligence symbiosis.

“Latter will be species-level important,” he concluded.

Sounds like gratifying work – helping to preserve the species – particularly for the new planet, Mars, that SpaceX is aiming to populate.

That same week, Jeff Bezos stepped down as Amazon’s CEO to free up his time, he reportedly said, for another of his companies, Blue Origin. “We’re committed to building a road to space so our children can build the future” reads Blue Origin’s mission.

I did not get the Musk or Bezos genes. This gene I did not get must hold past and future memories of Mars – at the millions of years past and future we’re talking, they would tend to loop together, I imagine. It’s a gene that drives an ability to earn massive amounts of cash to fund space vehicles that will take humans to the Red Planet. 

I was thinking of Musk only because I saw the tweet, and of Bezos only because I saw the press release, and the two came together in my mind for some added context.

I’ve learned many things during this pandemic. Some of those I’d like to keep. I’d especially like to keep virtual meetings to save time and gas, working from home at least some of the time, and wearing a mask during the winter for the extra insulation it provides walking to and from a store.

I’d also like to keep the space the pandemic forced me to carve out for myself. With no place to go and few people to safely see, it’s been a time for introspection, more hikes, more reading, more garden planning, more home attention, better meals, being with my partner. Energy-sucking drama still persists on social media, of course, but beyond that, this pandemic has been a time to gain space. It’s been a time to release the sometimes crushing demands and social politics that life imposes, which we then magnify and chew on over and over inside our heads. 

My head has cleared. When things fell apart and all the externalities of life were stripped away, the core, my basic life – the person with whom I spend my life, where I live, my family and friends, what I do for work – is deeply satisfying. I don’t want to live a hermit’s life once the pandemic ends, but I’m grateful that I’ve been forced to slow down and see all this, learn all this. And it’s probably the real reason – rather than genetics – that I have no desire to find refuge on Mars from this stormy, sometimes inhospitable planet called Earth – though it would have been nice to get the gene for the part that drives the ability to earn massive amounts of cash.