Let Loss Change You

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)

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4 thoughts on “Let Loss Change You

  1. I considered suicide out of a longstanding failure to find a career. When I sought help, I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, and schizoid personality disorder. Given your story that you have shared, is that ironic?

    I lack the passion (and compassion) that most people take for granted. I drift through life instead of ‘pursuing it’. And I’m largely unaffected by the pandemic. I prefer social isolation as a lifestyle. I’m a hermit.

    Nine million people die every year of malnutrition. Where is the compassion to address that horrendous statistic? Why has the reaction to this virus, which is relatively minor at the demographic scale, been so overwrought?

    I’m hopeful the human species is waking up, but the catalyst seems improbable to me. We are capable of ignoring greater threats, from preventable illnesses to climate change. We ignore enormous amounts of suffering.

    I’m afraid this may be a case of overturning the apple cart, but only in terms of first world problems. Many are eager to go back to the world they knew, or as you put it eloquently, a “new normal”.

  2. Hi George, yes we are not in touch with our capacity to love. I participated in a seminar/encounter group many years ago. It is called Insight Seminars, based in California. The basis of the encounter is peel back our fear based ego and what is left is empathy, compassion, and unconditional love. Very amazing when you reach that point of egolessness. There were about 30 of us in the group from all of the classes of people that capitalism produces and many of us were able to get to that point of unconditional, non judgemental love in a group that had only been together for about 36 hours. I experienced an extremely powerful emotional connection to everyone in the room, and so did most everyone else. It was profound to say the least. The nonjudgemental part is what stood out the most. All of a sudden everyone in the room whas physically beautiful irregardless of our typical judgements of what is attractive or not. The experience was so pleasurable I wanted it to last indefinitely. We are just animated matter and energy (stardust) having a neurotic hallucination of separateness that does not really exist. All is one. There is no other. The ego mind creates a subject/object divide that is not real. The universe and all its constituents is one whole subject. No object. Difficult concept for the ego. A very clever neverending story/drama of experience of an extremely creative urge. We have all been trained to be self obsessed. The self is an illusion/delusion. Love is all there is. Love is metaphysical gravity as Bucky Fuller once said. Love Rick

  3. Hi again, the real human tragedy is our fear based societal obsession with material progress and winning. We have been duped by extreme narccisists that that is our lot in life. To harness human self interest to conquer the universe. To figure it all out, to become immortal. To become GOD. The universe is a mystery and will more likely than not remain one, whether we find that appealing or not. We are not going to become the new designers of the universe. We have become extremely self obsessed as a species. If we cannot live in harmony with the planet as all other life forms do, then we will be eliminated. We are acting like the spurned lover that performs a murder/suicide. The nuclear arms race is essentially that. One group contending to dominate the (other) and if they can’t win then no one will. Blow it all up. Complete ego insanity! Tragic mis understanding of reality. One taste of unconditional love puts the insanity into focus. If you are not careful deep depression may follow such a realization. It is natures way of showing us that something is drastically wrong with the way we behave. Every (culture) is a social programming experiment a.k.a. CULT. They are all narcissistic human fantasies about our role with in the biosphere. Not having much to do, if anything with reallity. Love Rick

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