Almost all of us now know about the global threat that COVID19 is bringing to humanity. Illness and sometimes even death, mental distress and huge losses across so many different aspects of our lives could have a lasting impact for many of us. Amidst the horror of what is happening to all of us on the planet, there is another perspective that is sliding into view. I glimpsed it today whilst walking in this place of great natural beauty that I go to when I need clarity.
This is the same place that gave me hope and perspective 25 years ago when I faced a different kind of crisis. The place is still here all these years later and I am still here too, older and much wiser. What became clear to me in this place of natural beauty today is that along with the dread and fear, the illness, trauma and death, the massive adjustments and the suffering that so many people have already been through and will go through still, there may be some hidden miracles.
This world has been needing a realignment for a long time.
Values, attitudes, priorities and focus have needed readjustment. Although pockets of humanity have always put their energy into caring for others and living their lives with honesty and integrity, this isn’t really true for everyone. I’m not sure that anything other than an alien invasion could have brought humanity together in the way that the coronavirus has. All of a sudden, I’m not hearing people clashing about strongly felt and expressed ideologies – either demonising or blindly defending politicians or ranting about which country, population group or sub-culture is more evil than the next. Until now I have never heard South African politicians saying the same thing and sending the same message to all of their people – each one of us. What touches me the most is that these leaders who just recently seemed so adversarial and focussed on self-interest are now beseeching all of us to listen to our president’s guidance and help curb the spread of the coronavirus. They are saying this for the greater good. Most of us are listening and the vast majority of us are on the same page. The media reflects less right now about the threat of annihilation from one country to another, and more about how each person on the planet needs to wash their hands and keep a few feet away from each other to protect ourselves and each other from harm.
I noticed birds, flowers, clouds and mountains today for the first time in a while. They were always there, I just hadn’t been looking. Children are off school and spending time with their families. They are playing with what they have at home and sometimes – in between the grumpy, irritable moments – they are being creative and resourceful. Many people are slowing down and adjusting to a different pace as their businesses are forced into a lower gear. Along with the real fear of what this means financially comes a necessary review of financial priorities. Money and the urgent, mindless pursuit of it has – for a long time for some people – darkened the lens of how much a human being really needs in order to live a meaningful life.
Social distancing and quarantine may be isolating us physically and to some extent there is conflict, mistrust, aggravation and interpersonal conflict in our reactions to the coronavirus. But there is a global determination to bring people together online, not only to preserve and protect ourselves but also to manage the spread, heal the sick and look for possible cures. In addition to that, the internet platforms are also helping us to connect with each other just because most of us know in our hearts that we really do need each other – just because we are human.
Alongside the harsh reality of the pandemic, the lens through which I’m seeing things now reveals hope for humanity in a way that I couldn’t see before this pandemic started. I know I am being a bit ‘Pollyanna’ in this perspective and it won’t be the first time I’ve been labelled as that. But a shift in perspective can and does change the way you experience things. The coronavirus – for all its badness – might actually be what the world has needed to make us stop, look, think and change direction.