I hope this finds you all self-isolating and in relative good health. We’ve been in self-isolation for about a month. We are taking every precaution — only venturing into public to go to the supermarket every ten days or so. I’m washing my hands like Lady Macbeth and wearing a mask and protective wrap around glasses just to remind myself not to touch my face.
Although we are living in scary times, we can also think of this year as transformative, and if we work at it, it can actually be a net positive for mankind. We can use this time at home for things like meditation, reading all those books we never seemed to have time for before, writing (keeping a journal for posterity is a great idea), learning new skills (cooking, crafting, perfecting your dance moves), taking up a yoga practice or other types of exercise (turn on the music and have a Zoom dance party with your friends). It’s a time to contemplate how fragile society is, and to appreciate what we have.
The day after Christmas in 2004, a massive earthquake off the coast of Sumatra, Indonesia triggered the deadliest tsunami in history. Two hundred thirty thousand (230.000) people died within hours of each other. The world was shocked and most people helped in whatever way they could — sending money, supplies, prayers. But soon, those of us in the west forgot the suffering of those in the east. More than a million people have been killed or seriously wounded in the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, etc) due to endless wars and strife since 9/11. Most people in the west barely think about those people, except perhaps in an abstract philosophical way.
We in the west have been very fortunate over the past 70 years or so to have lived in relative safety, comfort, and security. In general, we have become soft and spoiled and complacent and in large part, inured to the suffering of others. This is a wake up call for us.
I am not downplaying the tragedy of so many deaths (and the deaths that will inevitably come) but I also acknowledge that death is part of life. In a hundred years (a mere blip on the timeline of human existence) I and all of you will be gone and forgotten, nothing more than nameless, faceless statistics. Perhaps now is the time for us to consider that the world is one; that we are all in this together; that the string you pull here rings a bell over there. Let’s regard this enforced solitude as a gift. Please use it wisely so that when this is all over, we will emerge as a better, more caring, more loving society. Use it as an opportunity to repair relationships, especially with the people you live with (spouses, parents, children). Check in with all those old friends you haven’t spoken to in years. Apologize when necessary. Contemplate your mortality in a meaningful way, which is to say, not live in fear but consider the meaning of your life and your impact on others.