St Paul’s Cathedral in London is one of the most famous buildings in the world. When filmmakers want to show that the action has shifted to London, a shot with St Pauls in the background is an easy way to accomplish this without having to include the new location in dialogue or as a caption on the screen. The spectacular dome of St Pauls is instantly recognisable for many people.
But St Pauls’ Cathedral did not always have a dome at all. The present cathedral is not the first to sit on that site. The old cathedral had a spire, not a dome. So what happened? The Great Fire of London in 1666!
The old St Pauls was left gutted by the fire. While it could have been possible to rebuild it as it had been, those in charge took a big and courageous decision. They would use the opportunity to build a cathedral to a new, more modern design, and appointed Sir Christopher Wren to be the architect. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Great Fire of London destroyed lives and buildings in a way that made it a huge turning point in history for that city. To have lived through those events must have been horrific, but as is so often the case, the aftermath brought opportunities, and the St Pauls Cathedral that we know today is just one of the results of those opportunities being seized.
Of course, we too are living through a seismic event that will long be remembered in history. We will continue to mourn those we have lost, and, I hope, to learn lessons from the mistakes made. But as we emerge from this time, there are and will be opportunities for all of us.
The adjustments that we have all had to make through the pandemic have demonstrated that there are very few things that absolutely must be done in one particular way. There is nearly always a choice, and nearly always more than one way to do something. The hollow argument that something has always been done like that so must continue in that way forever is utter nonsense in most circumstances.
So how can we make the most of these opportunities, and bring as many positives from this difficult time as possible? By thinking about and questioning everything. We should not ever assume that the way we used to do something before Covid was the best way. In some cases, it may have been, but it does not harm to ask the question.
What is beyond doubt is that the pandemic has shown that many employees can work from anywhere and in no way need to be present in an office all of the time. Some bosses and organisations are coping with this new reality better than others!
But this new reality extends to almost every corner of our lives. The phrase “build back better” has been used frequently, but I am not sure that everyone using it fully appreciates what it means. For something to be better, it must be different in some way. We cannot rebuild everything to be exactly as it was before Covid and expect it to just be magically better. Being better requires changes.
Change can be hard. I am one of the most change-averse people that I know! But while some of the changes we have been forced to make as a result of the pandemic may have been difficult at first, they now seem a better way of doing things. Let us not return to old ways that we now see to be poorer just for the sake of it.
We all have a role to play, and we all need our vision of how we will build back our own lives better. But this time will not last long. We must act now to make the positive changes we want, in our own lives and the wider world. Don’t let this opportunity pass by – it may well not come again.
Mark Palmer is a freelance writer specialising in mental health, autism and neurodiversity. He can be contacted through his website www.markpalmerwriter.co.uk, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, on LinkedIn and on twitter @MarkPWriter.