It is as if we have become participants in a Hollywood storyline and are following the development of events from the inside. Will we be able to understand the essence of what is happening and anticipate the upshot?
It’s already clear, the coronavirus has become one of those rare, unpredictable events with far-reaching consequences that Nassim Taleb dubbed “black swans.” Later, in hindsight, everything will become clear and logical, but something is already happening now. We all have a few weeks or months of reflections ahead of us and it would be unwise to miss this opportunity. After all, there are no accidents in nature and since the necessary conditions have already developed, we must use them purposefully and not just wait for the end to come.
In front of us, apparently, are several months of a very unusual lifestyle. Even after it is over, we will not return to the previous routine. Our everyday life will be different. How, precisely? It depends upon whether we want to answer the cardinal questions that are being posed to us by the virus today.
“When it’s all over, we’ll wonder why we should go to work in the office, go to school to study or train, or go shopping at the store,” writes Dr. Einat Wilf. Perhaps, this will be the moment when we will leave the structures of the industrial revolution behind.
Analysts, scientists, and heads of companies are already discussing the new digital paradigm, changing the approach to production and its efficiency, and decision-making and safety. The pandemic has highlighted the fact that our inert thinking is not keeping pace with modern technology.
This, however, is only part of the picture. After all, it is not so much about technology. The point is the very concept of success. If we do not miss this opportunity, humanity will cast away a lot of what is superfluous and live simpler and more practical lives externally, and also live internally fuller and more multifaceted lives. Not just our way of life will change, but the way we think and feel.
At this point, we want only one thing: for it all to end but let’s pull ourselves together and look the facts in the eye. What is the current situation telling us? What other diseases of the world is the coronavirus revealing?
The Ministry of Health is not going to tell us about them. Its directives only disconnect and tear us away from the life imposed on us by society with its current values, leisure, and pastimes. Suddenly, mutual responsibility has ceased to be an empty phrase. Priorities are changing dramatically. Entertainment is shifting into virtual space.
It is a rather gloomy prelude but not tragic. We are trying to acclimatize and build a new framework. We are even helping others, strangers, which yesterday was nonsense for many. On one hand, we are limited. On the other hand, we are discovering new and unusual things. It is similar to a growing child being directed by caregivers, isn’t it?
Following the routes of the sick, we see cafés, restaurants, shops, shopping centers, supermarkets, and banquet rooms. Actually, this dotted line from one institution to another makes up almost our entire lives. We travel abroad and it is the same everywhere: endless repetition. Although no, it is a finite one.
Now, looking at it from aside, we are becoming a little more mature and a little wiser. Imperceptibly and implicitly, a new feeling is arising in us. We have a new attitude toward leisure and entertainment, as well as others and our own lives. The old ways have faded a little as if the blinders are falling from our eyes and are exposing new bright colors.
What seems like a prison today is, in fact, providing us with an opportunity to start treating ourselves and the world in a deeper and more serious way. We are asking ourselves questions that, until now, were diligently obscured by the previous paradigm.
In fact, we have an unprecedented chance to reflect. The virus is leading us toward purification and a kind of disinfection of the mind and feelings. It is raising us to a new level of thinking, understanding, desiring, and connecting. Without even knowing, we are already in touch with a need for a sense that we were previously deprived of.
Let’s fast forward; the virus will not only be a threat, it will also become a breakthrough. It undermines not only the body, but also outdated concepts and dogmas, opening the door to a new state of humanity.
Our first impulse is to close this door, to calm the draft, and to eliminate the obstacle in the usual way. But wait, do not close the doors of consciousness. In nature—in this single, integral system—there is nothing bad, nothing wrong. All of nature’s responses are true and useful even if they are destructive in some way.
You can’t just fight the virus by discounting the system in which we live. The system will not go anywhere and will continue to defend its balance. From whom, you may ask? From us. It is we who shake the general balance by rocking the boat. We are consumer-oriented toward the world and toward each other for the sake of silly bragging, out of the desire to place ourselves in a higher and better position in comparison to others. Our entire lives are subjugated to this task, hidden behind many solid-looking but flat decorations.
As a result, at the environmental level, we consciously destroy the Earth. Greta Thunberg is accurate on this point. Most importantly, we ruin the social ecology and we fail precisely at the task assigned to us by the system.
Our relations and all our “progress” act in opposition to nature. We bring imbalance and disharmony in everything we touch. We try to conquer the system that gave birth to us. We demand that nature obey us for the sake of our infantile and meaningless games.
Of course, nature is against this. It is no coincidence that the virus forces us to build healthier lives and more responsible relationships, to abandon unnecessary production, and to take care of each other.
Perhaps, once a vaccine is created or when the majority of people get over the sickness, we will depart from the isolation, being more mature and living differently and better. Perhaps we will give meaning to this pandemic, which so far seems like a “black swan,” an unfortunate and unforeseen obstacle in our dotted line.
Later, a logical explanation will be found for all the “black swans.” But what explanation will we give? What prevents us from doing this now?
For decades, we have wandered in consumer illusions, destroying the lives of future generations. We have turned ourselves into cogs in a global overproduction and indifference machine that produces garbage and burns human and natural resources for the sake of egoism. Why would we come back to this?
Even if we begin to consume just two or three times less, we, our children, and our grandchildren will have healthier, calmer lives full of much more creative, enduring, and universal joy. A common misfortune can be a springboard to a common success.
The virus, in fact, gives us a chance to survive. Nature, unlike humanity, does not ruin or destroy anything; it only develops, fixes, and corrects. Our perception has not yet reached this picture but we are already able to extrapolate from our knowledge, run a little ahead, and look beyond the horizon depicted.
Then, we will see how hostile we are toward nature. Like a Mongol-Tatar cohort, we trample nature’s fields and arrogantly try to make it submit to our selfish demands.
We will suddenly see that each of us faces nature and behind each of us is all of humanity. Everyone is personally responsible for the balance of the system. The individual and the collective are equal, say the Kabbalists.
The virus is the result of the imbalance caused by humans in the general system. The human is the leading part in that system. All of the system’s impulses are tied up and focused on us. Within it, we learn to answer for one another and also answer for the system itself.
Let’s not forget to observe the prescribed distance, sit in quarantine, take care of our families, and help others as much as possible. To ignore these things would be like burying our heads in the sand and looking back to yesterday when tomorrow is already on the way. Humanity differs from animals in that we are endowed with imagination and we know how to anticipate the future and look ahead. Our “black swan” is much more than it seems to us right now.
This article is written by my student Oleg Itzeksen