It is necessary to destroy the illusions and imperfections of this world in order to pave the way for something new to emerge. COVID 19 is uncovering, for us to see, what was already crumbling and decaying. A system that had been slow-poisoning our planet, society and spirit.
Change is difficult at first. For everyone. We move from shock, resistance, denial to blaming others before we start to eventually let go and accept the change.
One of the most common reasons for resistance to change is fear of the unknown. The future – post-COVID19 lockdown – is going to be unknown territory in many ways.
That people fear the unknown is an evolutionary defense. Many generations ago, our ancestors survived the vast and unknown savannah grasslands because they were cautious and lived mostly in survival mode – the fight or flight response.
Modern humans are genetically primed to become wary of things they know nothing about. Their need for control goes deep – they want to be in control of their lives and the world around them. They want to know what their future looks like, they want a paycheque at the end of each month, be able to go to work and do the same thing everyday. Not because they love going to work or do the same thing everyday, but because forecasts, routines and rituals are reassuring: they provide people with a familiar framework for their daily lives.
From an evolutionary standpoint, when we are in control of our environment, we have a far better chance of survival.
But in early 2020, an infamous COVID-19, jeered millions of lives out of their control.
Something is Painfully being Born
There are good reasons to suggest that we are in the cusp of change. Perhaps, this is a transitional phase, which Dr. Otto Scharmer describes as, “when it seems that something is on its way out and something is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying and exhausting itself – while something else, still indistinct, were rising from the rubble.”
What is crumbling, decaying and exhausting itself is an old system. A once “normal” system that was not only broken and fragmented but has been slow-poisoning “our planet, our society and our spirit”.
Our planet, society and our spirit represents the collective dimensions that make us human. But we have been heartlessly destroying the three pillars that support our survival on Earth. We pollute the air, raze forests to the ground, and kill and incarcerate reptiles, birds and animals. We, as a species, have impoverished spirits – we kill each other mercilessly, we live in fear and anxiety, we war and are intolerant of each other and our different ways.
The Crisis is exposing Our Inner Crisis.
The COVID 19 lockdown has not only forced us out of normalcy but is testing the generosity, humility and resilience of the human spirit. It often takes a rare big earthquake, or the sudden death of a loved one, or a tumultuous event like COVID19, to open us up to the far reaches of our human nature. It is when a crisis strikes that our inner world starts moving and transforming on its own.
Viktor Frankl, recounted from his harrowing experience at the Nazi concentration camp: ‘Everything can be taken away from a man – but not his attitude. Not how he chooses his way in life.’
It is this freedom of choosing our attitude, the independence of our minds – that Viktor called spiritual freedom. Viktor observed that under the most terrible of conditions, people would preserve their spiritual freedom.
He narrated the experiences of the Nazi camp life, which show that man does not have a choice of action but they have independence of mind. Their ability to choose their attitude, reaction and behaviour under any circumstances is spiritual freedom.
In other words, human beings are not shaped by their circumstances. Human beings are shaped by what they are, the choices they make. They are shaped by their attitudes and behaviour.
Viktor relates how “every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom.”
Becoming Victims of Our Circumstances – An Inner Crisis
Many of us have been conditioned by our past to allow people in power and authority to rob us of our inner freedom – our ability to choose our way in life. When our parents or someone in authority controls us, we do not object because we trust them to provide the control we need in our lives.
When we seek advice from experts, teachers and obey those in authority, we are depending on them for our sense of control. Often people with a victim-mentally believe that others like the government and people in authority, have control over them and they can do nothing but obey and follow the rules. And so when the experts, teachers or the government don’t give us our sense of control – we get angry, we blame and we suffer. We become victims of our circumstances.
Overtime, this giving away of our power to others and our dependence on others to prescribe to us our way in life, has caused in us a deep inner turmoil or a spiritual crisis.
Destruction is Necessary in Order to Create the New
We must not fear these times of change, and Eckhart Tolle reminds us that: “Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realise that space is being created for something new to emerge.”
In Hindu mythological triumvirate there are three gods. Brahma is the creator of the Universe and Vishu is the preserver of it. The third god Shiva destroys and causes chaos. These three gods are responsible for the creation, upkeep and destruction of the world. Shiva’s role is to destroy the universe in order to recreate it. In Hindu belief – this destruction is constructive and necessary.
It is necessary to destroy the illusions and imperfections of this world in order to pave the way for something new to emerge. COVID 19 is uncovering for us to see what was already crumbling and decaying. A system that had been slow-poisoning our planet, society and spirit.
Destruction of the old and re-creation of the new is a natural process in all life forms. The multi universes with its galaxies and millions of stars are in a continual state of expansion and contraction, and destruction and rebirth. The 6th century BC Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu observed that ‘Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes.”To stop changing will mean we are fighting against our natural instincts, our natural way of living.
Nietzsche remarked, “The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die.”
A new future is waiting to be born and slowly rising from the rubble of the old. The choice is ours however – whether we want to cast our old skin and nurture a not-yet-formed future. Or we want to continue to preserve the status quo that had been crumbling, decaying and exhausting itself for a long time now.
Many centuries ago Socrates left us with a secret that is apt for these times: “The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
The COVID 19 lockdown is our opportunity to build the new. Perhaps, this is our time to retreat into silence and ask ourselves questions we never had the time to ask:
- What does it mean to be human? How do we want to live? Who will we be to each other?
- What kind of future wants to emerge? How can we become a part of the story of the future rather than holding on to the story of the past?
This is our moment now. Our moment to choose our future. A collective future that promises to revitalise our planet, society and the human spirit. Deep down, we know that a deadly COVID 19 virus will be unable to rob us of our independence of mind. Our spiritual freedom.
We are larger than that.
Let us put our evolutionary defenses aside and allow our inner world to start moving and transforming on its own. So that we can all be awakened to the depths of what makes us all truly human.