I find myself thinking and reflecting many times a day about the COVID-19 virus that continues to wreak havoc on everyone’s lives. I am trying to observe and understand everything I can beyond the daily reports about the sick, the dying, the dead, the recovered, the local geographical spread and projections. I wish to understand what is going on beyond the economic, political and health consequences. I am more interested in the psychological, philosophical, spiritual undercurrents that are playing here.
This will not be one coherent essay. It will be a collection of thoughts that came to me during the first few days of the lockdown.
Here they are.
COVID-19 is forcing us to physically stay away from friends, workmates, crowds, places to eat, concerts, movie houses, etc. It is forcing us to be alone, to be quiet and reflect amidst all the noise in the world. The unraveling of the virus is leading each one of us to get in touch with our inner life.
The fear is palpable. People are panic buying. And they do so because they feel helpless about the situation. They delude themselves into thinking they are empowered when they throw money at the problem. Strangely, it makes them feel that, somehow, they can and are doing something to control it. This is, of course, an absurdity, a false consolation. The truth is, panic buyers prevent other people from purchasing their own supplies. They are depriving others of the chance to protect themselves. Thus, those who buy wantonly out of fear of the virus are actually allowing the virus to multiply faster and infect other people.
God threw humanity a spiritual monkey wrench. All of a sudden, the rules have changed. The first law of life which used to be survival should now be set aside. The greater reality that we are facing runs on different rules. And the reality is, this virus can only be stopped if it is eliminated everywhere. Otherwise, it will keep spreading and may even come back. Nothing else will suffice. Only by saving everyone will this virus be eradicated. We are ALL vulnerable. And so ALL countries must be rendered virus- free. It’s an all-or-nothing scenario. There is no doubt in my mind now that the first rule of life is this: We are all one.
It is so amazing how dedicated the frontliners (doctors, nurses, hospital staff, technicians, and all those under direct exposure to the virus) are for showing up every day and risking their lives to save others. It is a sure thing that we are all going to die sooner or later. But no one wants to die voluntarily. And yet that is what they are ready to sacrifice: they are voluntarily risking their lives so that others may live. That is heroism and greatness. It is the same as what Christ did.
COVID-19 is already changing the world and life as we know it. And it is happening faster than we realize. Consider that each person alive is actually personally threatened by it. We are all forced to think about our own mortality AT THE SAME TIME. No one is exempted. Social class, race, age, nationality and any other categorization you can think of: these do not matter. This has never happened in human history. The experience is globally felt.
Do I believe that some unseen power is behind all this? Without material proof, I am willing to say yes, definitely! I feel it in the deepest part of me that God is once again entering history to alter its course. We are trapped in a historical trajectory where we are going to end up with a whole planet destroyed by greed, selfishness and alienation. This virus is hopefully getting everyone thinking about their own lives and future. It is forcing a lot of people to think of others. And people are realizing now that we can’t go on living the way we have been living. Mankind is in reflection mode, dreading what will become of all of us after this. And we as one humanity will have to make a collective decision about that.
Whatever decision we make these days, big or small, is subject to health or sanitation considerations. You can’t behave or live your life like you used to. Every action now has potentially serious health repercussions. For example, every object you touch could potentially have the COVID-19 virus. Or you could have the virus and you could be passing on the infection to something or someone. You can’t do things on a whim like visit a friend, or go to the mall, or just hang out. You must always be alert and conscious. We need to remind ourselves constantly that we now live in a world with new social protocols. What used to be paranoid thinking has become normal.
Social distancing will be especially hard for us Filipinos since we love to socialize with friends, family. We are quite touchy-feely as a people. Almost overnight, many activities, innocent as they used to be, suddenly have become potentially dangerous and threatening. We can’t “beso-beso,” “mano po,” spontaneously hug anymore and not feel we are exposing ourselves and others to COVID-19. In fact, we can’t even go now to birthday parties, baptisms, weddings, graduations, etc.
It is especially sad for us Filipinos to know that what used to be big important family events such as funerals and wakes have become devoid of relatives, friends and other mourners. As much as the immediate family and friends of the departed need people who can give them sympathy, consolation and physical expressions of condolences, they will have to be deprived of it till this pandemic is over.
We may understand the science of how we can be infected, and what the virus will do to our bodies. We may have figured out what to do to protect ourselves. But it is so hard to understand WHY it is happening.
Just a month ago, life seemed to be so different. Now everything seems bleak, tentative. Our lives are not only on hold as we stay at home to save ourselves and others from infection. Many things that we used to rely on are now uncertain. Will we still have jobs after this? How many of our friends and relatives will survive this? How many years will it take us to recover economically and psychologically?
One thing I am sure of though is once we begin to accept that the sudden decline of the world’s fortunes (including ours) is the start of mankind’s new spiritual journey, we will adapt and learn faster.
Ironically, what is threatening to kill us may in fact make us better people and ultimately save the human race.
Neale Donald Walsch, one of my favorite authors and spiritual teachers, once wrote that all our thoughts, actions, feelings and decisions come from only two sponsoring thoughts: love and fear.
We are watching fear playing out every, day and it is making everyone more fearful. Fear gives us feelings of insecurity and scarcity. And fear is highly contagious.
Let’s try to imagine how we would think, feel and act if we consciously decide to come from love. People will be calmer, more patient and giving. I am sure we can help many more people survive this. We can change the world into something better for the earth’s environment and inhabitants.
As simple as it is, perhaps love is the answer.