OK, who else remembers “Sliders?”
One … two … all right, you can put your hands down. And if you need to take 20 seconds to wash them, I’ll wait.
For those of you in the great majority, “Sliders” was a 1990s TV show about alternate histories where every week, the heroes would step out of a wormhole into an unfamiliar reality. Maybe it would be a world where Egyptian pharaohs still ruled … or where the American Revolution never happened … or where humanity had been replaced by androids. (You know, as opposed to being replaced by voice-mail trees and self-checkout stands.)
Each week would have its own weirdness. And no matter how hard the heroes tried to find their way home, the world would keep becoming unrecognizable, frequently and without warning.
Doesn’t sound familiar at all, does it?
Yeah, you can stop laughing now.
If anything, “Sliders” looks a little conservative now. Reality turning upside-down once a week? I think most of us would kill for something that dull and predictable. Lately, we seem to have been bouncing around like a ping-pong ball in a clothes dryer, always in motion but not really getting anywhere. I mean, who would have thought we’d be in the timeline where Australia burning down was just the opening act?
Maybe we should have been warned when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series four years ago. But I digress.
We keep trying to find “normal.” And like our heroes, we’re not having much luck. Even when a vaccine or a cure finally arrives for the pandemic, some pieces of the new normal will likely stay. Maybe we’ll keep seeing fewer people drive 40 minutes to work and more of them walk 10 seconds to the living room. Maybe masks will become the new cutting edge of high fashion, with the new styles announced each spring.
And maybe, just maybe, we’ll realize that normal isn’t what we think it is.
Oh, we like to believe we know it when we see it. After all, normal is what you grew up with, right? And then the next generation comes along and laughs, gapes, or shakes their heads. “You did THAT? You didn’t know THIS? And Mom, who let you out of the house with that hairstyle?”
The simple truth: Every age is a chaotic one. Granted, some are more obvious than others, whether it’s the Depression years of the 1930s or the 2020 That Refused to Die. But even in the best of years, nothing stands still. It’s only memory that turns a time into a perfect photograph, with all the stress and injustice conveniently filtered out.
Things will change. We will not always like it. But we’ll always have to be ready for it, so that we can do the best we can with what we’ve got.
Together. Eyes open. Not just hunkering down and hoping to ride it out, but staying aware and putting in the work that hope demands.
It won’t be easy. It may be painful. But if we watch out for each other, if we adapt, if we learn — then just maybe some of those changes can be for the better.
And what we survive, we’ll survive as a community. Even in 2020.
But if I see a pharaoh marching in next week, I’m talking to the screenwriter.