It is truly amazing how everything attempts to find its balance. For example, the little toy tops we all played with as children, even though their very design is unbalanced, can even achieve balance as long as they have the proper amount of movement. The spin keeps them upright in spite of the fact that one end is much larger than the other. And if we are very careful, we can even add momentum to the spin when it slows to keep it upright and moving.

 This is how society works. Each part of society — all the member elements — adds momentum to keep the fun going. Some elements make it spin faster, and other elements add only a little to perpetuate the speed and balance the top has achieved. Now there are times when individuals or groups “spin” the top too hard and it shoots off to one side or the other, but, for the most part, society is able to recover and continues to spin fairly true.

When we first started the top-spinning, we noticed that it veered off to one side and then curved back somewhat to achieve the all-important equilibrium. This is necessary to discover the limits, among other things, of the surface upon which the spinning point turns. Fortunately, in most cases, that surface is broad and open, willing to accommodate wherever the top chooses to go. But as we have seen recently with the COVID-19 pandemic, there are times when the top slows drastically and the spinning surface becomes uneven; at times such as this, the top begins to wobble dangerously and is in danger of falling upon its side. And when this happens, needless to say, the fun is truly over.

The solution, the return to the “fun,” if you will, is to simply spin the top again. And under normal circumstances this would be true. But the circumstances in which economies around the world find themselves at this point are anything but normal. Our assorted “tops” have been wobbling for months if they have not in fact already been turned on their sides. We need to get them up and on point and apply some energy to start them turning again so that we can all enjoy the show once more. However, there is one very important thing we need to consider before we simply turn that top and watch it go.

The top did not wobble or fall because it lacked momentum — the fun came to a halt because the surface upon which it spun drastically changed.

Before, our tops spun on a fairly accommodating sidewalk. There were the inevitable impediments like gravel, cut grass and less pleasant things, but for the most part these were removed fairly quickly by people who were very good at such things. Society’s maintenance crew removed debris, patched cracks, and even built new sidewalks as needed, giving our “top” increasing avenues on which to safely spin. On occasion, though, even the best, most forward-thinking crew will encounter something new, perhaps even something for which there was no way to prepare. COVID-19 is one such thing, and the debris it leaves in its wake is almost impossible to remove without a special tool that does not yet exist.

So now we are faced with a difficult decision; the top must be allowed to spin, but how will it do so when the surface upon which it turns is dangerous? Unemployment has reached record highs as people have self-isolated to slow the spread of the invisible enemy. Both businesses and their employees are suffering in ways that draw comparisons to the Great Depression. The entire world has begun to look like a filthy, broken sidewalk that goes nowhere, and upon which no one ever walks. Our tops need to spin, but it can’t be like it was before. At least not yet.

State and federal guidelines are now in place to open up the country again, but this shouldn’t be seen as a cause to simply spin as fast as we can. Even though the sidewalk ahead of us might seem clear, we should err on the side of caution and take it slow. Before our sidewalks were wide open, but now the path has narrowed drastically. Now as we begin to spin our tops again we need to be aware that at best our path is a tightrope, and with each step — each spin of the top — we balance the necessity of health and safety with economy and the necessity of doing business. And it’s important to understand that caution serves both needs.

Sure, the top might wobble, and it might not be as much fun as we spin it over the tightrope, but we need to make sure we don’t fall victim to the hidden debris. COVID-19 hasn’t gone anywhere, and it is still as dangerous as it ever was. We need to do everything in our power to guard against it as we go back to work, such as wearing a mask and social distancing when we go out in public. The tightrope is our lifeline, but there are still traps to either side if we fall. And we don’t want anyone’s “top” to fall over and be broken or spin off the sidewalk and get lost in the weeds.

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