Welcome to an interesting new chapter in all of our lives! With a suddenness and global reach a tiny organism has abruptly changed our world, swept away the conventions of everyday life and brought joblessness, isolation and confinement, food queues, uncertainty, health fears, mortgage and rental nightmares, a litany of problems and anxieties. Our customary world skidding to a halt!
Yet behind all of this, behind the pain and panic and anxiety, a possible new world is beckoning. Every now and then in human history we see an evolutionary jump upwards – and crises, wars, great challenges are frequently our harsh teachers, opening us up to new possibilities, ushering in a brighter future for all of humanity, reminding us of the quiet perfection behind the narratives and appearances of things which helps us to awaken and evolve. Ultimately, this experience can hugely benefit our human race that is so needing and ready for major change. For those who bring a spiritual perspective to history, the Indian saying that “Not a leaf turns but God is behind it”, reminds us of this same truth.
Once we are past the widespread global suffering, the tragedies of so many afflicted lives and losses, this pandemic can usher in many unforeseen positives. It can be a time of new beginnings, reflection, insights and little epiphanies about the deeper truths of human life. And for many, clear unpolluted skies; silences and space in our lives; a step back from ‘doing’ to simply ‘being’; family time, a house becoming a home, families rediscovering love and unity and play; gridlock traffic gone; the discovery that working from home really works, a new paradigm in future employment; and poor Planet Earth enjoying a respite from emissions and pollution; an experience for everyone too of a whole new way of living.
In a world brought to a sudden standstill, what else are we learning? Certainly how fragile we are, how the assumptions and certainties of endless tomorrows can be swept aside in a moment, a familiar world cast in to shadows, humanity suddenly confronted by the most basic instinct for survival. And seeing too how global we are, how inter-connected and inter-dependent, a single human family inextricably linked together, nationality and borders erased by a tiny virus, life suddenly a fragile thing for our race. Evident too, the compassionate hearts we have, caring for others and other nations, for we are brothers and sisters in a one-world family.
Confronted by mortality, we also begin to review our personal lives – what is really important to me now, what is my deeper purpose, what will make my life meaningful?
Uncoupled from the all-consuming dramas of our usual, everyday lives we have time to pause and wonder – sitting on a park bench or aimless on a beach we might wonder ‘what is left to me, what is of value now?’ Then all of our attainments and all of our possessions fall away, and the last and only measure of our progress is how happy, how peaceful we are, or how much gratitude we can feel, living in a very blessed and privileged country. The inner attainments alone survive this questioning.
Many are turning to meditation, another positive, stilling the busy mind and connecting us with the deeper and more peaceful part of our nature. Crises often awaken us spiritually, serving to remind us of our frailty, the brevity of life, the existential truths, humbling us and bringing us back to reality, making us unburdened, calm and sane. And perhaps consolingly, seeing all of this against the great canvas of millennial time. Asks the Tibetan master of his disciple – “What did your face look like before you were born?” Understanding this reminds us of the soul’s journey through countless unremembered lives.
Covid-19 arrives among us as a widespread disaster, but may play the final role of a great teacher and corrector, compelling us to enact the measures so needed to protect our planet and humanity’s future. We must learn to be the guardians, not the exploiters of our beautiful planet-home, and move beyond nationality and race to a global paradigm, an evolutionary jump upwards, the quantum shift that we see periodically throughout history. Can we do it?
The inspirational spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy perhaps has the last word:
‘Individually and collectedly, we must take a positive attitude towards life. We can and we must throw aside our past failures. We must pay attention only to the future brightness. Just because on some days the sky is overcast, we cannot say that there is no sun. No! Life is a journey. Sometimes we move forward slowly and sometimes quickly; but we must not stop. We must not look this side or that side; only we must move forward. Each individual has to become the pathfinder of a new world.
Just as a rose has many petals, all of which add to the beauty and fragrance of the rose, so too the world shall become one world-family. Together we shall live in harmony in a spirit of self-giving for the good of all. Now we are all exercising the love of power. But a day will come when this world of ours will be inundated with the power that loves. Only the power that loves can change the world.’
– Jogyata Dallas