Coronavirus is humanity’s chance to find its lost humanity.
How’s your quarantine going? It is a question that you have most likely not been asked, and won’t be asked, as there is no one to ask you directly. Besides, the person who asks you is probably wondering the same about themselves. If you live alone like me, you are in isolation — minus the occasional WhatsApp text, the surreal work conference call where you pretend the world is still standing, or Skype with family.
We are all in some kind of shock: experiencing social withdrawal, avoiding some of our favourite activities like exercise and restaurants, and slowly sinking into a quiet, uneventful life. A walk in the park, where you can keep a safe distance from strangers that might have the virus, is sometimes the highlight of the day. This does feel like a world after a dystopian collapse of some sort. But at the same time, it feels peaceful. My highlight of the day is kneeling in the dirt and smelling dewdrop-covered hyacinths in the park early in the morning, before I come back to my urban enclosure where I have to sit and pray all day in front of a shrine that serves a God that serves himself, not humanity. The shrine is my laptop, and the God is big brother capitalism.
But like the flower hyacinths, unaware of the virus, we were unaware of the toxic life that we were leading. The life that we all had even as recently as a few weeks ago seems so distant, so far away, like another lifetime that was happening on a world running at 5 times the speed. Getting on trains, getting on planes, spending gas, spending money everywhere, doing anything and everything we wanted to, and doing it in excess. Consuming, throwing away, and repeating. Now, a time of simplicity, frugality and sensibility has dawned upon us. Home cooking, reading, and simple pleasures that require no expense or “purchase” whatsoever. We are having time to ourselves to just feel our own breath, hear our own hearbeat. like digital zombiescoming out of deep sleep, we are become self-aware. Sentient again, we are also understandably much more careful of our surroundings, and slightly more aware of our place not only on the street, but on life and on earth. The change is subtle, but it’s there. And it feels like a slow, deep breath of fresh cold morning air.
And all this because we’ve been humbled. We realise that we don’t own everything. The Virus is our humbling momentas we retreat into an almost monastic life focused on survival in the present, and gratitude that we are healthy and alive. It’s funny because living in the present, and being grateful are said to be important ingredients of deep and lasting happiness.
It’s kind of where our head should be, but where it hasn’t been for centuries. We went on a binge: pursuing mad careers in professions we didn’t even like, numbing the pain away with alcohol and drugs, and taking the rest of our traumaout on nature by destroying, consuming, exploiting, or on our colleagues and relationships by going on power trips. We finished off our transformation to modern humans by numbing ourselves with fake happiness, fake news, and fake identities in a society where everyone has to wear a mask, otherwise their reality is perceived as a dysfunction and weakness. What’s the matter with you? Why can’t you be fake?
Now the surgical masks are on, but the people are more real. Isn’t it Vironic?
to be continued…