The global response to the Coronavirus can be viewed as possibly humanity’s finest hour. An article The Times today said; “There are two ways that the world comes out of lockdown. The first is to let the virus sweep through the population, scything down the old and weak. The second is to find the science that will prevent that.” However, the fact is that the countries of the world did respond and they chose to forego – to varying degrees, to be sure – a ‘business comes first’ approach as they shut down huge swathes of their economies in favour of protecting the vulnerable within their populations.
During the lockdown, you will have been inundated with a torrent of commentaries, opinions & humour, which have dissected the situation in which we find ourselves from any number of angles. As I said in my last post, most of us now realise that the virus will not just ‘disrupt’ our lives, it will change them. The question is to what degree we will collectively and individually change. Or to put it another way, which of our credos & agendas of certainty that constituted our pre-virus world will we be prepared to abandon?
Of all the plethora of opinions offered, over the last weeks, two stand out for me – those of Bill Gates & Max Hastings. What spoke to me with each is that they were not extreme opinions but that each journeyed from different starting points of the heart & the mind.
Bill Gates, Microsoft founder, who has also achieved global recognition for his 2015 TED talk foreseeing the pandemic (here), has followed this up with this personal manifesto, which he titled A Spiritual Purpose:
I’m a strong believer that there is a spiritual purpose behind everything that happens, whether that is what we perceive as being good or being bad. As I meditate upon this, I want to share with you what I feel the Corona/ Covid-19 virus is really doing to us.
1) It is reminding us that we are all equal, regardless of our culture, religion, occupation, financial situation or how famous we are. This disease treats us all equally, perhaps we should too.
2) It is reminding us that we are all connected and something that affects one person has an effect on another. It is reminding us that the false borders that we have put up have little value as this virus does not need a passport. It is reminding us, by oppressing us for a short time, of those in this world whose whole life is spent in oppression.
3) It is reminding us of how precious our health is and how we have moved to neglect it through eating nutrient-poor manufactured food and drinking water that is contaminated with chemicals upon chemicals.
4) It is reminding us of the shortness of life and of what is most important for us to do, which is to help each other, especially those who are old or sick.
5) It is reminding us of how materialistic our society has become and how, when in times of difficulty, we remember that it’s the essentials that we need (food, water, medicine) as opposed to the luxuries that we sometimes unnecessarily give value to.
6) It is reminding us of how important our family and home life is and how much we have neglected this. It is forcing us back into our houses so we can rebuild them into our home and strengthen our family unit.
7) It is reminding us that our true work is not our job, that is what we do, not what we were created to do. Our true work is to look after each other, to protect each other and to be of benefit to one another.
8) It is reminding us to keep our egos in check. It is reminding us that no matter how great we think we are or how great others think we are, a virus can bring our world to a standstill.
9) It is reminding us that the power of free will is in our hands. We can choose to cooperate and help each other, to share, to give, to help and to support each other or we can choose to be selfish, to hoard, to look after only our self. Indeed, it is difficulties that bring out our true colours.
10) It is reminding us that we can be patient, or we can panic. We can either understand that this type of situation has happened many times before in history and will pass, or we can panic and see it as the end of the world and, consequently, cause ourselves more harm than good.
11) It is reminding us that this can either be an end or a new beginning. This can be a time of reflection and understanding, where we learn from our mistakes, or it can be the start of a cycle which will continue until we finally learn the lesson we are meant to.
12) It is reminding us that this Earth is sick. It is reminding us that we need to look at the rate of deforestation just as urgently as we look at the speed at which toilet rolls are disappearing off of shelves. We are sick because our home is sick.
13) It is reminding us that after every difficulty, there is always ease. Life is cyclical, and this is just a phase in this great cycle. We do not need to panic; this too shall pass.
14) Whereas many see the Corona/ Covid-19 virus as a great disaster, I prefer to see it as a ‘great corrector‘ It is sent to remind us of the important lessons that we seem to have forgotten and it is up to us if we will learn them or not.
At the other end of the spectrum comes a piece from author & journalist Max Hastings, sometime correspondent of The Times, who is often to be found reporting from the frontlines of conflict. His perspective is still the human one, but his perspective is overwhelming practical:
Gates & Hastings, even though one is proscribing values and the other practicalities, are I believe on the same page. Both are expressions of humanity. If the post-virus world moves via a synthesis of their suggested directions, there are some grounds for optimism for our future. Inshallah.