“Whenever any kind of disaster strikes, or something goes seriously ‘wrong’—know that there is another side to it, that you are just one step away from something incredible: a complete alchemical transmutation of base metal of pain and suffering into gold.” – Ekhart Tolle, The Power of Now
Amid a pandemic, it may seem like the world is falling apart. But it is worth remembering that to the universe, everything is unfolding as it should. The universe is ultimately impartial; it is neither good nor bad. Events are only able to be “miracles” or “disasters” according to our own agenda; the agenda of the universe is simply to exist.
Maybe we can say, the universe herself is a stoic: she ascribes no inherent meaning to the happenings of the world. And so, we can choose to view things differently. We can take the view of the greater universe; the liberty of interpretation lies with us.
Maybe 2020 really is our year; maybe being forced to pause because of a pandemic will set the stage for a life beyond our current confines. Maybe we will grow as a community, as a species, and as individuals. Maybe there is luck buried beneath the appearance of misfortune. Maybe, just maybe, there is a positive side to this pandemic.
Here are three ways a pandemic can force us to create meaningful change in our lives.
1. Time to Align.
A pause allows us to reassess our path in life. When the frenzy of daily life comes to a grinding halt, we have a rare opportunity to take a birds-eye view of our lives. Our life suddenly reveals itself to us: are we chasing what we want? Are we filling our lives with a mirage of busyness, or with purpose? We are given time and space to breathe, to centre ourselves, to see where we are headed and if it’s where we want to go.
A pandemic unveils the finitude of our lives; and our panic is a collective confrontation with mortality. While the risk of mortality is incredibly low for the majority of the population, we have the chance to dance with the idea of death. For many of us, this will be the first time we are faced to confront our collective fragility.
“Only a critical limit-situation has the potential to crack the hard shell of the ego and force it into surrender and so into an awakened state. A limit-situation arises when through some disaster, drastic upheaval, or suffering, your whole world is shattered and doesn’t make sense anymore. It is an encounter with death, be it physical or psychological. Limit-situations have produced many miracles… [when] there is no where to run and nothing to escape it, [we] are forced into a complete acceptance of the unacceptable.” – Ekhart Tolle, The Power of Now
In the modern world, we do a fantastic job of masking our mortality: we never have to face threats to our survival. In the West, we have transcended our anxieties regarding basic needs. We never wonder whether we will have access to food, water or shelter, and even to healthcare. Modern life is far removed from base survival, and the result is that we never fear not surviving. Suddenly, a pandemic that the government cannot fully control sheds light on the fact that we are mortal. We could die, today, tomorrow, or anytime. Not because of COVID-19, but because we are mortal. It’s a rude awakening, but being awoken now is better than being left in a dream.
2. Time to Rectify our Relationships.
In a time of hyper cyber-connectedness, a crisis can reveal the true extent of our connection to our loved ones and to our community. When an emergency strikes, we are confronted with the fact that we instinctively reach for our phones to call a handful of people. We have are given the opportunity to reflect on how solid our relationships are; who can we actually rely on when we need emotional support, medication, a shared laugh, or God forbid—toilet paper?
We can also discover how our heart hurts to hear a certain voice; to feel connected to someone with whom we may have lost touch. We can sit in stillness and ask ourselves, when our phone rings, who are we hoping to hear on the other line? Who are we suddenly thinking of?
An emergency that threatens our health, our economy, and the very fabric of our existence brings to surface our stifled and sedated emotions, and revives our ties to relationships we had long forgotten about, or thought we’d left behind.
3. Time to Organize Our Tupperware (Inter Alia).
What a time to delve into spring cleaning! All of those nitty-gritty chores we kept putting off for some other day… here is the messenger, the herald to inform you that while it may feel like Doomsday, you may have neglected to realize that Tupperware Day has finally arrived. It is upon us. We can finally get to complete the chores we never had the time or mental capacity to do. Our bedding can suddenly be washed, crisp and fresh. Those dust mites lurking in the corner? About to be blasted away. All of those clothes you thought you would wear one day? You’ve just been Marie Kondo’d.
Of course, this extra time also allows us to dive deep into anything we have always wanted to learn. All those books we hoped to read can be dusted off the shelf; the movies we wanted to watch, can all have a rightful spot in our calendar. What a gift it is to have time outside of time, for the world to pause altogether.
I wish our time-out were not due to a pandemic; but in every tragedy lies a truth—and for us, right now, the truth is that the world needed to pause. Together, we can reflect; together, we can remedy the world; together, we can come out on top.