There is no need to explain the gravity of the effect the Coronavirus is having on the world—we are bombarded with it day in and day out.
I live in Croatia, which has just closed all schools, restaurants, bars, and non-essential businesses for the next 30 days; we are self-isolating and practising social distancing but a full lockdown, house-confinement scenario is probably on the horizon.
There is no sugar-coating the fact that these are scary times but amidst the fear and uncertainty, I feel like I am waking up, like the world may be waking up with a fresh pair of eyes. The question that arose from within, as clear as the plane-free blue skies, is this:
What if the Coronavirus is the ultimate pause and reset button?
As a society, we have been on a trajectory that is simply not sustainable. Perpetual economic growth is impossible and GDP is a poor measure of a country’s wellness. Mother nature has been crying out for help to no avail. Our school systems are outdated. Our values are out of whack. We worship the wrong heroes. We are overly materialistic and have forgotten the simple pleasures, the things which matter most. We are connected but more disconnected than ever. Suicide and mental health issues are on the rise. We are creating only with the intent to monetise or go viral. We don’t acknowledge our neighbours or strife of fellow humans. We have forgotten how to plant food, how to properly nourish our bodies. We stopped moving for the joy of it but only in aim of getting the perfect “beach bod” or not moving at all.
In a world driven by progress, we have forgotten how to be still.
We avoid and distract because we don’t know how to sit with discomfort and uncertainty. We lost the art of conversation; we talk to be heard rather than hold space to listen and understand. We have energised our fears and ego rather than our inner guidance. We have taken our loved ones for granted. We chase money, thinking it will bring us happiness or we delay our happiness to some point in the future, “when I get *insert wish here* I will be happy.” We forgot we are part of a community (which includes nature).
And yet, a worldwide pandemic may just save us.
We wanted more time, we have been praying for change; well, here it is—just not in the way we expected.
We are no longer looking to the stock market as an indicator of our society’s wellness. Utilities, mortgages, bills, loans, and the likes are being suspended and evictions banned. Most governments are trying to find ways to protect their people, including small business owners. Health, safety, security, and mental wellness are taking precedent over profit for possibly the first time, ever. We have no choice but to question our spending habits. Will we finally see that money and the economy are volatile institutions to build a society upon or rest our happiness on?
From the safety of our homes, we watch as the air clears in China and as Venice’s canals shimmer an emerald green. As humans have retreated, nature is flourishing. Mother nature is showing us that she can recover, when given the chance. Is it possible we emerge from our homes with a new understanding of our connection to and impact on the natural world? Will we be more willing to acknowledge and protect it, less likely to take it for granted?
Children are at home with their parents and siblings, maybe learning the school curriculum, having the chance to be kids or even to learn some useful life skills like baking and cleaning. Yesterday, I watched (from a distance) a mother hiking with her two young children, pointing out the names of plants to them—is this not learning? Universities are offering courses for free—could this not be the new norm? People in every field, from literature and the sciences to art and music are offering their skills, services, or courses for free—a new currency?
Isolated at home, I oddly feel more connected than ever. I have been consciously contacting friends and family daily and we are talking, really talking and listening. We talk of true and very real fears but still, the conversations cycle back to hope. During some of the darkest phases of my life, I never reached out to talk but now, it’s as if knowing that everyone is going through the same thing, has inspired me to forget “self” and reach out. When this passes, we need to remember that no matter what we are going through, we are never alone—someone has been through it, someone is going through it, someone will stand by our side as we navigate it.
We are self-isolating at the financial detriment to ourselves but for the greater good of the community. Initiatives are springing up everywhere in the aim of helping our neighbours, the elderly, and vulnerable members of society. We can finally see who the true heroes are; not Insta-stars but instead scientists, doctors, nurses, teachers, bus drivers, people working in supermarkets…All of the “unskilled workers” are the ones keeping our society functioning, putting their health on the line for the whole—these are the real heroes. People are standing at their windows, sending out rounds of applause to these unsung heroes.
Can we please remember this when the (new) normalcy returns?
I see empty shelves in the plant sections and think “yes,” we are remembering that we can plant our own food and try to live more sustainably. We are choosing food that has actual nutritional value instead of processed crap. Confined to our homes, we are realising we have taken movement for granted and are vowing never to do so again. Those of us who can are getting out in nature, appreciating it with a new pair of eyes, aware that it is a luxury that can be taken from us. Those who can’t are finding new and creative ways to move at home that don’t cost a thing!
We are creating for the sake of creating because it is what we were born to do. Not just to make money or become YouTube famous but because it’s what is written on our hearts. How many books, poems, and paintings are going to be born during this time? We are all turning to the arts to keep us entertained and sane; does this mean we can finally dismiss the notion that “there is no value in the arts?”
People are laughing, performing concerts from their living rooms and balconies, or hanging out of their windows to sing to their neighbours—even as I write this sentence, I smile. We are filling the darkness with so much light and joy that it makes me want to cry and has redeemed my faith in humanity.
With so much uncertainty we are finally realising the truth—we have no control over the future (we never did), all we ever have is “now” and it is up to us what we do with it; happiness is a choice. We have remembered that we are not alone, that we are one big beautiful community and we are in this together.
Isolation is also forcing us to be still. We may not like the uncertainty and discomfort that arises, but if we can sit with it, lean into it, we may inch toward healing old wounds. If we breathe into the stillness, we may even rediscover our inner guidance, our intuition, that little voice that whispers from our heart and knows what our soul needs—the same voice we have tried to silence or ignore for too long. There is a space and need for this wisdom, will we listen?
Everything we are seeing right now is proof that in times of darkness, we can still find love, joy, and beauty if we look, and, if we can’t find it, then we can be it.
Yes, there will always be the selfish and ignorant (people operating from fear), but I see more people shining a light in the dark and I have hope. Yes, there are people facing real-life stresses, particularly financial, but we are all in this together; it is not just one person, one country going through this, it is happening worldwide, so we will find solutions—we have to.
The system may crash but isn’t that what we wanted, isn’t that what we called out for, isn’t that what we need to create real change? The question isn’t: “How are we going to survive this?” I have already seen how we are going to survive this—together. The real questions should be: “What are we going to do with this time, what are we going to learn from this, and how are we going to build a better future together?”
In nature, some trees need fire for their seeds to sprout; maybe we need everything we know to “burn” so we can start afresh.
I know it is going to get worse before it gets better, but I have hope. We will get through this, together. Stay safe, healthy, and sane. Be the light for someone else. Remember to breathe. This too shall pass.