My nine-year-old son was in tears last week after having been told that his hockey season would be suspended indefinitely as a result of southeastern Quebec falling back into “red alert.” Just another pandemic dagger plunged deeply into his young and sensitive heart.
I wanted to reach out to a friend to connect and to share. It then dawned on me that I haven’t spoken to many of my closest friends in months. Nor have I seen many beloved cousins, aunts, and uncles in almost a year. Most of us have withdrawn back into our immediate family shells to deal with the fallout of our kids and teens who have become the greatest victims of emotional collateral damage due to government-imposed societal restrictions.
As we move into the ninth month of this covid-19 crisis, it has become painstakingly and unavoidably clear to me that covid-19 itself is not the actual challenge facing humanity at the moment. The monumental challenge we now face is how we deal with and treat each other. Our collective human fate will be determined by how we respond and care for one another. If we cannot find a way to achieve common ground around covid-19, if we can’t set aside our differences and beliefs and allow people the freedom to live and decide for themselves, I fear we may be lost indeed.
Whether you believe covid-19 is a lethal killer or not, whether you think masks work or not, or whether or not you believe we all need vaccinations is not the issue. We absolutely must find a way to transcend the rampant division plaguing our world and come together despite what we may believe. We need to unite for the common good of all and develop compassion for all human needs and beliefs. Our leaders and governments need to take everyone’s concerns into account.
Moreover, we will need to come to terms with our fear of death (for ourselves or others). Is dying by depression, suicide, loneliness, cardiovascular disease, or cancer somehow less terrible than dying with covid-19? We must find a way to transcend our fear of sickness and death so that we can embrace each other no matter what. If we are going to survive as a species on this planet, we’ll have to accept everyone as they are, respect their beliefs (even if we think they are ‘crazy’), and live and let live. It’s natural to have different opinions, but how can we listen to each other’s views and get closer to one another without making the other side feel scared or hurt? Can we reach a place where we respect each and every one?
Is life worth living when all the things that make it so special have the spirit sucked out of them? Things like laughing in the presence of your friends, hugging everyone you love, tickling your grandchildren, attending a family wedding, or being thrilled at a live show or sporting event. Or even the simple pleasure of seeing a smile from a stranger out in public.
What it all comes down to is belief. Can we allow ourselves to believe that life is much more than we think it is? Can we admit that it is impossible to control sickness and death, whether through masks, distancing, or vaccines? Can we have faith in the infinite wisdom of the universe, of Life itself, to guide us through this process? Can we allow others to live their lives as they see fit, even if we disagree with them? Can we make space for everyone’s needs, beliefs, and ways of life?
Humanity has been grappling with this for the past 5,000 years. For millennia we have sought to control, manipulate, and dominate one another. It has led to needless strife, bloodshed, loss of life, and suffering. Can we not learn from our mistakes? We are on the cusp of creating a new reality on this planet, one of equality, freedom, and brother and sisterhood. It is within our grasp. We are at the edge of the diving board, ready to jump. However, it seems that one final fear is holding us back. Can we overcome the fear and take the leap into a new way of living and interacting with each other? To truly live and let live. To have faith that Life will guide us to our most sacred and bright future. A future where we take responsibility for each other’s happiness. A future where no single person gets left out in the cold.
If you want to wear a mask, please wear one, but please respect my humanity and human dignity if I refuse. If you plan on getting vaccinated, please do, but please respect my choice when I decline. We never know when we will breathe our last breath nor how it will come to pass. At the end of the day, we can’t control whether or not we get sick, no matter how many times we wash our hands, how far apart we stand from each other, or how long we stay locked down in our homes. Human health hinges just as much on emotional balance, touch, a happy heart, and living stress-free as it does on keeping the bad germs away.
The current crises on earth stem from unsustainable and destructive systems (economic, environmental, medical, agricultural, and social) that have themselves been perpetuated by mechanisms of greed and control. We cannot continue on our current path; we must change course.
How we choose to handle the covid-19 crisis will be a watershed moment that future generations will look back on say, “Yes, that was the time when the people of the earth chose a different path.” Or they may say, “The people failed to recognize and correct the errors and their ways of the past, and so continued down the slope to destruction.”
Native traditions the world over have been warning us of our dis-harmonious and disjointed ways of looking at the world, including how we perceive disease and death.
Will we heed their call to create a brighter future for humanity and the world?