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Saints & economists

I am not sure who to listen to most these days, saints or economists.

In his recent book, The Great Reset, Klauss Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, looks back at worldwide pandemics of the past and considers the effects that the Covid-19 pandemic will have in our modern world. Be on the lookout, he says, for demands that call for: interdependency, velocity, and complexity.

Interdependency means that no single risk will exist in isolation. We don’t necessarily choose interdependency and in many areas our institutions and organizations are not structured to value or operate with a high degree of interdependency. But it still is manifesting itself in every quarter. Interdependency persists. The insulation against “other people’s problems” disappears. Your neighbor’s problems are your problems. And in like fashion, with a little practice, your neighbor’s success can be your success too.

Velocity is expected whether we are talking about internet speed, Instagram posts, dating apps, or food delivery. Does the expectation of velocity prompt anxiety? If it’s not fast, it is not good enough? A correlate of the expectation and habit of velocity are vulnerabilities like just-in-time supply chains that can be fragile and prone to disruption. Something of a shock, we have seen grocery store shelves emptied – twice in one year. Velocity is seen as a saving element and indeed when situations are dire, a quick fix is better than a long awaited one. How do we name, manage, and tame the demand for velocity?

Complexity clouds our ability to predict. So many different yet interdependent factors influence what will happen next, making it all but impossible to predict what the next global crisis will be. Covid-19 is not the first to catch us off guard, Schwab points out. The financial collapse of 2008 found us similarly unprepared. Without a framework for sound predictability, we experience more chaos and begin to pull out our resources to mobilize a response towards resiliency. This is change embraced or change created.

The economist asks “what’s next?”

But alas it is Lent. And the saint on the other had asks “Who is next?”

In my 30 days of reading with Francis of Assisi, his biographer from the 13 th Century, Thomas Celano, Lives of Francis, shows the picture of Francis in action – living out his practical spirituality in a world he wished to flee, but which he never rejected. In the story of this extraordinary person (less garden icon, more lifestyle radical) is a response to the world of the 13th century that gives shape and motivation to our response in the 21st century.

A spiritual journey with Francis is marked by new insights and experiences with poverty and humility. He intentionally gives up so many things and finds new life on the other side. Francis took inventory and changed almost everything about his life. He was not all that convincing to some of his old companions and added more stringent and obvious changes to show his commitment to a new way. He could not change the whole world, but he could make changes for himself. The life experiences of 2020 and 2021 have brought us all closer to the places of poverty in our community and humility, or at least vulnerability, in our own lives.

“Who is next?” What version of You is ready for the re-set after Covid? Is it the same you of 2019 and before? Or, are you more experienced in or mindful of the value of interdependency? Like your 13th century counterpart, Francis, do you find that compassion has been restored to a more central and rightful place in your life? The writer says of Francis, “he practiced before he preached.”

The idea of RE-turn is not nearly as desirable as the idea of RE-set. A RE-set to something that is informed by our experiences of interdependency, velocity and complexity that we have known in these crises times. We may feel uncertain as a result of crisis times, but we can shape ourselves. “Who is next?” may be one answer to “What is next?”

Suzii Paynter March is chief executive officer of Prosper Waco.


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