We are losing our jobs, our relatives, our mental health. Is COVID-19 a door to a new awareness?
I was always an environmentalist at heart. I think we all are. But growing up in a profit-driven society with “goals”, jobs, getting up in the morning and earning money, it is easy to become selfish and self-absorbed, cynical about good causes, and ever more distanced from things like the environment or the human rights of some poor person in a third world country. It all just seems so distant and far away. It seems like it can’t possibly touch us. It can’t happen to us. Until it does.
Coming down with stress at work a few years ago was my life’s tipping point and a shock to my system that changed me in ways that I could never have imagined. Having come to the point of considering suicide for the sake of a career, I suddenly realised how pointless all of this is, how I could even have considered calling an emotional support helpline just because of a “stupid” job.
Once I could see more clearly, I realised just how superficial, how fake our profit and performance-driven world is. It is the everyday face of capitalism: pushing us to our limits, constantly telling us we are not good enough, even as we jump through hoop after hoop succesfully. However well we perform its never enough, because this is the whole philosophy of capitalism: nothing is ever enough. The goal is to push people and natural resources to their limits. And this infinite growth requires nothing less than infinite exploitation not only of natural resources but of human resources as well.
Looking at what my mental health had come to, I was faced head on with my own fragility. This could be it. I could have a heart attack right now. Or I could just get hit by a car as I try to cross the road, while thinking of the millions of e-mails I have to respond to, as I have done countless times. I guess I had been lucky so far. Realising how fragile and precious my life was, I suddenly realised how fragile and precious all life on Earth is.
Then my mother got cancer. Life became even more real, even more surreal. Now unemployed, and with a sick mother to take care of, in a strange way I felt more powerful, more alive than ever. And the reason was that something inside me had woken up. I had found the human in me that I had been looking for, the part in me that had been asleep all my life: someone more compassionate, connected, grateful for every moment, every single moment that I live on this planet. Within all of this calamity, suddenly I was finding myself feeling not just able to cope, but actually happier. How could this be? I didn’t know why until now.
Humans cannot feel alive, cannot feel whole, unless they get in touch with their compassionate side. This is the side that our dehumanising capitalism kills. And once it does, we lose something of ourselves. We become half-dead zombies. We may be making money, but we are unhappy. In fact, we are neither happy or unhappy. We are just a vast nothingness, an over-achieving lifeless machine. Being alive and feeling alive means fully experiencing happiness and unhappiness at the same time. Fully experiencing your humanity.
COVID-19 is the first time in a very long time where humans get to experience loss and trauma on a grand scale, all at the same time acros the Earth. it is devastating but it is also a very special moment for us. We may be losing our jobs, our relatives, our mental health, but COVID-19 is a door to a new awareness. It is a wake up call that we must listen to. Because our “other human”, the one that we really are, is beckoning us. It wants to come alive.
Having lost relatives to the virus already and been on a furlough scheme at work, I fear not. I am embracing the change. I’m opening my ears to it so that I can listen to it once more, to hear what its trying to tell me. I’m embracing my fragility again, and it is a humbling experience. When you are humbled by life’s events you eventually realise that all you have left in you, all that matters, is love. And it is the one thing that is free and that no one can take away from you. No virus, no employer, no corporate job, unless you let them. Love is the one thing that does not obey the financial markets. The one thing that doesn’t understand economic growth, because it is itself infinite. Love is imeasurable.
But we are quickly running out of time. Because we need to find the love inside of us, and this time rather than direct it back to ourselves or other people, direct it towards our planet. Everything is already coming crashing down on us, and COVID-19 is only the beginning.
The reason why love, COVID-19 and the environment are all connected is that the impending climate apocalypse is human-made, and was caused by the lack of love. Our very society has rejected love for decades and decades. We have been filling this gaping void inside of us with more luxuries, more industries, more environmental impacts that increase exponentially the more we move away from love and compassion.
Unless we let COVID-19 change us, this will be the end for the planet. Humans are lost and unhappy and in fact they are already extinct on an emotional level. Unless we rediscover our Other Human, our death and unhappiness will spread like contagion across the planet. Because the more unhappy and dead we are, the more we need to destroy. The more we need our shopping therapy. The more we need revenge. We are attracted to negative emotions, destructive to others, and destructive to us.
We all have so much more love inside us than we think. A world that has been built around greed and our daily preoccupations, not our emotional needs, has killed it. We can’t give love because we have forgotten how to feel it.
Let this loss, let this pandemic change you. Because life doesn’t take place in a Starbucks queue while you’re waiting for your Frappuccino. It doesn’t take place while you’re scrolling through Instagram. It doesn’t take place on a screen you are chained to at work for 8 hours a day. Life is much bigger than that. It takes place outside of our confined world. In the forests and coral reefs, where species are breathing their last breath, catching a glimpse of their last ray of sunshine, before extinction.
Let loss in. Let loss change you.
to be continued…(or not)