I am sure you will agree to say that the Covid-19 pandemic has thrown our lives into utter chaos is an understatement. Everything is upside down, left is right, outside is in, under is over. Not hugging is showing love, not sharing a meal is being considerate, not going to your place of work is thoughtful. We have come to recognize that the most important people in the world are not the rich and the famous, but those who clean the toilets, those who take care of the elderly in seniors’ homes and those who care for the very sick in hospitals. Indispensable people are not the politicians or CEO’s, but the health-care workers whose heroic acts are saving lives. Indispensable people are all those who are continuing to serve the rest of us, supplying the essentials of life such as food, medicine, transportation and health (physical and mental).
For many of us this invisible but deadly virus, or force of nature (as many people call it), has made it imperative to look at our fundamental nature as human beings, our divine side as well as our demonic side; our Herculean strength as well as our utter fragility and helplessness; our deep compassion for one another as well as unspoken mistrust of “the other”; our childlike nature as well as our sometime comic-tragic behaviour (such as demonstrators against “sheltering in place” carrying assault weapons in public, as if the virus will scurry off into the netherworld at the sight of the mighty assault weapons).
For many of us, the pandemic has made us reflect deeply on our Purpose in Life, and the Meaning of Life. Not in a general way, but in a deeply personal way.
What we uncover on such thoughtful reflection is very personal and unique. We all have not only acknowledged the sacrifice and selfless service that healthcare and essential services workers have done, but we have also collectively celebrated them. And deservedly so.
But we also need to recognize the contribution and sacrifice each one of us has made in bringing the pandemic under control. (OK, perhaps excluding the toilet paper hoarders and hand sanitizer hoarders… !!) Staying at home (“sheltering in place”) seemed relatively easy, but as the days turned into weeks, the weeks into months, this isolation is starting to take its toll on everyone. Social distancing is not natural for us, but with great effort, we have made it a part of our lives.
However, we also need to go even beyond the past few months. We would then recognize the many things we have done for others, however small or however significant. All of us would discover that there are a multitude of acts of help, support and kindness, of which we have been at the giving end. These acts have come to us naturally, because of our love for our family, friends, neighbours, our community, and beyond.
I am not at all trying to draw any comparison between our past good deeds, and the sacrifice as well as dedication that healthcare workers in retirement homes and hospitals have shown. The latter has required courage, determination and immense strength in the face of fear and anxiety about a dangerous virus.
All I am saying is that, just as baking bread or planting a vegetable garden, acknowledging our good thoughts and actions (big and small) for our fellow human beings can bring us genuine comfort (and satisfaction) in these trying times. And encourage our divine side to manifest itself (even if for brief moments).
Suresh Basrur practises the Hindu faith, participates in inter-faith activities in Victoria, and speaks to audiences about Hindu religion, philosophy and practices.
You can read more articles on our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE
This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, May 30th 2020
Photo: United Nations COVID-19 Response