As distasteful as it may sound, I am finding the Covid-19 experience fascinating and borderline exciting. Forced indoors, I watch it within the privileged safety of my home; at once both more inter-connected and grounded with others than ever before, yet infused with a peaceful sense of floating beyond it — a witness to something immensely powerful and primordial. More and more people seem to be considering the creation of a reality, beyond the extant material, previously unimaginable. I soak it up.
I love that Nature has spoken out. There is almost a sense of poetic justice that Covid-19 is believed to have originated from an animal source, crossing the species barrier from non-humans to humans1, when so many of us have lost our inter-dependent connection with the animals and the earth we rely on. I watch through the window of my rural home as people, who have only ever gone beyond the local village in a vehicle, walk daily in the open-air; Nature the only place they have to go. I like to imagine the daily internal shifts that may be occurring and the new things they notice about themselves and the world. I feel excited by the positive shifts and new habits this may bring.
People I admire have described this as a time for paradigm change. But ‘paradigm’ is a big word — a specific worldview, a prescription for how to do things, a system of ideals, values and beliefs — and to say that the current one we all live by, particularly in the western world, is shifting is big. It’s a big ask. But it’s one that I am very open to and inwardly feel myself growing more aware of and more ready for.
The price for this awareness though is an increase in frustration as I look at the systems and structures that fearfully cling on to ‘business-as-usual’. My employer, for example, sends daily organisational updates aimed towards employee well-being and ‘keeping us connected’ but this is just superficial to the underlying message of ‘keep working’, ‘be productive’, ‘fulfil your objectives’, ‘carry-on as normal’. Their fear of relinquishing the control they had of us in the office made all the more apparent by, in an organisation where we can easily work from home, waiting until the government ordered it.
Yet, what I have begun to realise is that those of us who are open and aware that things are shifting and have changed, can alter our own daily paradigms – and that does not have to be in a big way. It is just awareness. We are the ones that can choose to be aware of the double-meanings of our employer. We are the ones that can choose to, perhaps for the first time, respond to our needs in a time schedule of our own, not that of others. We are the ones that can feel there is another truth here, that the reality needed now is not ‘business-as-usual’ or ‘keep-calm-and-carry-on’. It is ‘business-is-not-usual’ and ‘keep-calm-by-surrendering’. When I look beyond the illusion I am filled with a great sense of ease and contentment. To acknowledge that routine and reality is not the same as I once knew it, is immensely powerful. I now have more control to decide what it should be in the future and the barriers I once deemed were in the way have been shown to be weak and insignificant.
Once I come back down from this viewpoint, ‘floating above it’, and feel myself grounded again I am reminded that this is just another, entirely natural, pandemic in a string throughout human history. Even in Ireland, as far back as A.D. 1030, the Ulster Annals hold one of the first records of a zoonotic disease passing to and killing a human; “Maelduin Mac Ciarmaic….killed by the disease that killeth cattle, in Irish called Conach”2.
This experience shall pass and life will go on, as it has in the past. However, I for one would like to carry forward a new normal.
1. Yuen, K., Ye, Z.-., Fung, S. et al. SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: The most important research questions. Cell Biosci 10, 40 (2020). https://doi-org.ezproxy.is.ed.ac.uk/10.1186/s13578-020-00404-4
2. Fleming, G. Animal Plagues: Their History, Nature and Prevention. Volume 1. (1872). Chapman and Hall, London, UK. https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=WjMSAAAAYAAJ&dq=plagues+in+irish+history&lr=&source=gbs_navlinks_s