I haven’t been sleeping well lately. I wake up in the middle of the night (this is quite normal) – but then I have trouble getting back to sleep. Instead, I toss and turn in a half sleep state with strange thoughts in my mind – thoughts related to this pandemic. Last night, as I tossed and turned, I felt the pressure and stress of having to write my university work. But, along with this, there was the pressure to write something about casual workers. The fact that casual workers don’t qualify for the JobKeeper allowance. It seems so random. So unfair. And how many others are going to be left out. How many to suffer. These are the financial ramifications in my own country. A country that seems to be flattening the curve.
Two nights ago, when I watched the news, they went into an intensive care unit in London. And I imagined what it would be like to be a patient. To be alone and terrified. I would hate to get this virus. I would hate to get sick. And the thought of my husband getting sick and dying is unbearable.
The world changed so quickly for us. And it was so unexpected – which seems ridiculous considering we were watching this crisis unfold in China, then Italy. But, for some reason, we felt ourselves immune. Too safe to come to our shores. Here, in Australia, we don’t know of these things. At least that was how it felt.
But then the shelves of the stores started to empty out. And we could no longer see our friends. And the zoom meetings started to happen. And then it all went quiet.
Each night I watch the news. And I’m terrified of what will happen in India. In Africa. And I’m horrified of the images that come out of New York. But we are safe. We are lucky. If we continue to flatten the curve.
It has changed the shape of our society. People work from home. Children learn from home. The environment breathes a sigh of relief. There are no more planes. At least, not many. Why do we need to do all this travel? Why do we need all the cars on the road? And why don’t we have a universal basic income? Could we shape our society differently? Will we learn lessons from this? Our environment is crying out for humans to change their way – as we hurtle headfirst into a climate catastrophe. And then this. This pandemic which forces us to change our ways overnight. See! It is possible! We can change! But will we learn? Or, in a few months (perhaps longer) will we go back to the way things were? Will it be business as usual?
I want a different world. But can we find our way to utopia through this pandemic? I wish it were the case. I would fall to my knees if I believed it were possible. But I’m just not sure.
I think of my friends, and the many others unknown to me, who struggle with their rents. And I think of those workers who, on a pittance, must be out there on the frontline each day. And I think of these poor countries, continents, that will be devastated by this virus. There are so many thoughts. So mixed up, such a mess. I cannot think clearly. I cannot do my work. I am overtired and burnt out. As I ring my friends, as I have zoom meetings, as I stay in touch with my world and check that it is all running smoothly. When really, what I need right now is to find the quiet. To find the calm. And to find peace.
This is the lesson I think we need to learn from COVID-19. We need to find the stillness. Just for a while. Just find that stillness inside yourself. And then think of the others. The others in the world affected by this. Think of your friends and your family. And think of all the strangers you will never know. Those mourning the loss of ones dear to them. Those fighting on the frontlines. And think of our planet. And think of the future of our species, and all the species of this planet. And take time to catch your breath and question what really has value. Because we should be practicing this reflection each day and yet so often and for so long, we forget. It is a practice to be close to the world. To be close to reality. It takes time. The time when we stop. And we pray.
And that is what we must do now. Not to my God or to your God or the God of any one faith. We must simply pray to the Truth. And believe in our hearts that there is Truth. That deep within all beings are unified. Our fast lives make us forget. Our ambitions make us forget. Our material desires make us forget. But let us not forget in this time of COVID-19. Let us sit quietly and pray.