It is a strange and unsettling time. Our lives take place inside the foreboding realm of a pandemic from which there is no retreat. We are surrounded by creatures to small to be seen. The most virulent of these organisms can turn an entire village into a graveyard. A haunting sense of uncertainty infects our sensibilities. Covid-19 strikes anxiety deep into the being of even the most resilient among us.
Still, viruses lack malice. They survive at another creature’s expense but are indifferent to the trauma they inflict on their host. They are not trying to cause harm; they are surviving – at our expense. Nature is designed to consume itself.
Covid-19 reveals the fragility of life. It exemplifies the foreboding power of nature while exposing human vulnerability. We exist by virtue of forces we cannot fully understand, control, or avoid. Our subservience to nature is the essence of humility. The emergence of Covid-19 conjures angst coupled with liminality.
Some people spread the infection without experiencing symptoms. Others suffer through symptoms and find a way back. Sadly, the vulnerable perish. During such tragedy, is it possible to find wisdom?
Sometimes, human beings behave like pathogens. We survive at the expense of others. We exhaust ourselves inside cultures of indifference. We cause harm to others through the virulence of racism, ecocide, narcissism, corruption, and inequity. Some of us do this unconsciously. Others cloak their pathology in the guise of progress, success, leadership, wealth, and power.
Covid-19 is a summons to reality. Human beings, however, thrive on manufactured realities and inhabiting those stories as they contained “The Truth.” The frontier between fiction and faith is remarkably permeable. Covid-19 is not, however, an imagined reality.
Covid-19 is a genuine reality originating in the animating forces of life. It is not concerned with our stories. It does not care about our allegiance to supernatural forces. And it has no concern about our beliefs. In a spiritual sense, it is a summons to question the fiction and imagined realities we have burdened ourselves with.
Now is the time to expose the virulence within our species. The horror of Covid-19 is, in one sense, an opportunity to examine our own pathological tendencies and ways of life. To understand the difficulties we have created through the lens of pathology provides an opportunity to save ourselves from ourselves before it is too late. If not now, when?
It is helpful to remember that the earth does not need human beings. Nature can thrive with or without a species. Homo sapiens have no special status, other than the imagined realities and fictional stories we hide within. Like the animal and plant species we destroy, we are not exempt from extinction.
Strange transfigurations surround us. We feel the angst and ambiguity of standing on liminal ground. An aura of uncertainty surrounds basic social interaction. There is the unwanted exile of self-isolation. And the heart-felt pain of not being able to embrace loved ones. Even simple errands conjure anxiety.
My hope is that Covid-19 pandemic becomes a means to clarify the things we have taken fro granted. It is also a metaphor for the pathological drive of humankind at the heart of the Anthropocene age. Of course, I long for a therapeutic intervention or vaccine that can relieve us of the burden of Covid-19. But I do not desire a return to “normal” because normal is the source and origin of our present condition. A return to normal would be devastating for future generations.
Now is the time to embrace individual and collective transformation. Perhaps, the heart-wrenching devastation that is Covid-19 can become a faculty for understanding, insight, and wisdom. But we need to stop asking questions and begin living them. What is it we are striving toward, not just for ourselves but for future generations? What are the lessons in our history that we are not attending to? How can we eliminate the toxicity and virulence of greed, racism, and inequity? How can we live in harmony with nature and honor the earth as our home?
Moreover, how can we save ourselves from ourselves?