A lot is happening in the world these days, and – of course – the main focus is on the coronavirus and how it has been disrupting pretty much everything, pretty much everywhere. If we stop for a moment and think about it, isn’t it REALLY astonishing that something so small and so invisible can send ripple effects throughout the whole world and the fabric of all our lives, everywhere?! If that one fact is not an indication to us living in a completely interconnected and interdependent world, then I don’t know what is.
There are a few perspective on coronavirus that really resonated with me. A dear friend, Rashmir Balasubramaniam, wrote “Contagion or catalyst,” which is not only beautiful in her perspective, but also contains a lot of links to resources with valuable and relevant information. Then there is Michael Meade and his usual eloquence and timeless wisdom, “To not abandon ourselves.” And for more of a spiritual perspective perhaps, check out Jeff Vander Clute’s “A message from coronavirus.”
What follows, then, is my take on the current reality that we are all facing.
“In a social phase in which thinking about one’s garden has become the rule, the virus sends us a clear message: the only way out is reciprocity, the sense of belonging, the community, the feeling of being part of something greater to take care of and that can take care of us. The shared responsibility, the feeling that your fate depends not only on yours but on everyone else around you. And that you depend on them.” – Francesca Morelli
Having lived a fairly long life, of over 57 years, and in 3 different continents, countries, and cultures – not including travels and work in quite a few more – I’d like to think of myself as one who has a hint of a perspective on human nature. Through these experiences, I have seen some of the best, and some of the worst, of how people show up in diverse and challenging circumstances. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” phrase comes to mind.
What I have observed is that extreme turbulences and moments of huge pain, challenge, and devastation oftentimes awaken the most beautiful parts of our human nature. When I think about stories I have seen and heard, of how beautiful, kind, compassionate, loving, and caring ways we humans can be – as a result of disasters of, say, 9/11, Katrina, Fukushima – I am filled with hope. In such times of crisis and disaster, whether natural or human-made, I have seen again and again the human capacity for building each other up. These times would bring out the best in us, catapulting our we-are-all-in-this-together spirit through the roof. That hope would fade when I would witness how our collective human memory is short, and some time after the disaster, we go back to the “good old ways” of focusing on our individual selves. Life goes on.
Unfortunately, these situations would inevitably evoke a thought that we – humankind – need something stronger, more disruptive, and longer lasting – to really wake us up. Otherwise, we forget and move on with our lives. It has been a while now that I have been thinking about what would be the “next thing” that will wake us up. It will have to be stronger, more painful, more devastating, and more global, so that we will continue remembering and not go back to the “same old, same old.” On one hand, it is hard to think about it, realizing that many – whether I know them personally or not – will be paying the price for our collective awakening. On the other, I believe that this the price we have to pay, because nothing else seems to work over time. Much like in the field of personal development and individual scope, when the shock to the individual’s system is strong and painful enough, one remembers and adjusts their life accordingly. I certainly know it has happened with me on enough occasions. Collectively, though, it is a much bigger scope and impact.
Well… we now have the coronavirus. One small invisible being disrupted everything, everywhere. Everything. Everywhere.
“Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can do it alone.” – Margaret Wheatley
One of the things the Enneagram has been teaching me is that we are all human. We all have our beauty and shining light, and we also all have our blind spots, fears, and shadows. So, sure, we can laugh at those stockpiling on toilet paper (like, “WTF, you selfish inconsiderate <insert your favourite word here>?!”). Yet, remember that everybody does their best given their current worldview. Under fear, stress, and pressure, this worldview narrows. A little bit for some, a whole lot more for others. For instance, even in the best of times, try to tell me, “Simon, I have a request” and see how my feathers get ruffled, because underneath it, I am hearing “request means you don’t have a choice, or freedom,” which triggers my deep core upbringing wounds. Yet, tell me, “Simon, can I ask you a favour?” and I am in your corner immediately, “Sure. What do you need?” My Enneagram type, as well as childhood fears, play out everywhere, all the time. Most of the times, with most people around us, we have absolutely no idea what are their pain points that are being triggered.
“For as long as we’ve been around as humans, as wandering bands of nomads or cave dwellers, we have sat together and shared experiences. We’ve painted images on rock walls, recounted dreams and visions, told stories of the day, and generally felt comforted to be in the world together. When the world became fearsome, we came together. When the world called us to explore its edges, we journeyed together. Whatever we did, we did it together.” – Margaret Wheatley
There is an increasingly prevalent concept of social distancing that is being brought forward through governments and media; while I understand the intention and fully agree with the spirit of what it is trying to achieve, this is not the approach to take. Physical distancing – yes, absolutely! Yet, socially, we are called to find ways to connect with each other, now more than ever before. All of us are being invited to re-evaluate everything we think we know about what it means to be human. There are many habitual ways of “doing life” that we need to pause, postpone, or abandon altogether, Yet, throughout it all, how do we not abandon who we are as beautiful, creative, resilient, joyful, caring, and compassionate beings? Staying connected, remaining open to others’ experiences, being of service and support are, among many other qualities, is one of the essential meanings of being human. I believe that awakening that part within each of us, individually and collectively, without ever going back to “same old, same old” is the only way we will survive and thrive as human species.
And I think that the only remaining question is, will we?