It has been weeks since I’ve written anything of consequence. Since late fall I’ve been editing my third book, “The Dignity Doctrine: Rational Relations for an Irrational World,” which will be released June 9, 2020. The shear mental energy and constant creativity that goes into publishing a book can be exhausting. With the advent of the coronavirus (COVID19) however, my creative voice has been quiet and dormant.
Today my 12-year old son had a sneezing fit at 2:45am that woke me from sleep. Concerned, I got out of bed and checked in on him. He was fine. He used the bathroom, blew his nose, and asked me if he could have some water. “Of course, I said.” Together we walked downstairs to the kitchen in the dark. It was foggy outside, a metaphor I thought, for how my mind has felt for the past few weeks. I poured my son a glass of water. He gulped it down with a ferocity, taking a deep breath of air afterwards. He seemed refreshed. I asked him if needed more, he said no.
We walked back upstairs, and I tucked him back into bed. I said, “back to sleep,” he said “okay” and then added, “hey dad, you know robots?” I thought, oh no, where is this going at 3am? Reluctantly I said, “yeah, what about robots?” My son said, “well, you know how they feel better after getting some oil to loosen them up? well that’s how I feel after that water.” I smiled and said, “glad you feel better, now good night.” My son returned the gesture, “goodnight dad.”
I went back to bed with a smile and feeling of warmth covered over me. But in the deep silence of the night thoughts about COVID19 overwhelmed my mind and became deafening. The more I tried falling back asleep the louder my thoughts became. I chose to get up, make a tea and sit alone quietly in my living room. Within minutes my dormant creative voice had been awakened.
Published in 1962, Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring documented the severe ecologic impacts, particularly on birds and their habitats, that resulted from the unfettered use of pesticides in the environment. Carson’s Silent Spring also unveiled the intrinsic interconnections between the natural and human-built worlds, resulting in a wakeup call for greater responsibility and environmental protections. Carson is widely credited for giving rise to the modern environmental movement.
Today, nearly six decades later, it is estimated that half of the world’s 7.5 billion people are in lockdown, sequestered and confined to their homes from the noise and familiarity of daily society as we once new it. The airplanes are grounded, the transit systems sit empty and idle, and the roadways no longer are congested with the clang and honk of rush hour traffic.
For those of us who have the luxury of working from our homes, the once normalized sound of a daily commute feels as if it is a distant past. In the past three weeks our lives have been turned upside down, replaced by a surreal reality marked by an unsettling tone and the sobering death statistics announced during daily press briefings. The sounds of spring are often thought of as a time of renewal or rebirth of life. But this year our spring has truly fallen, silent.
It is as if the invisible hand of God has swept its way across the globe leaving no community or individual untouched by this harsh new existence. This invisible hand is simultaneously reminding all of us of our economic, ecologic, and mortal fragility, as it has, as far as I can see, instilled a newfound sense of humanity and humility within many of us. COVID19 has been described as a war, with an invisible enemy. The invisible hand of government in the U.S. and worldwide is being forced to become more transparent amid the economic pressures and social needs associated with responding to a national and global crisis.
While the spring has fallen silent, COVID19 had loudly revealed our vulnerabilities for local and global, urban and rural, resiliency and sustainability. While this was already widely known, it has now become more evident that we’ve shaped a global economy in a manner that does not optimize resources or equitably value people, rather, it pits human against human, government against government, and humans against nature. This behavior is unnatural and immoral, defying logic and the laws of nature. Deep down I believe we’ve inherently known this, but it has taken a global pandemic to wake us up out of our fog. Essentially, the war we wage is and has always been with ourselves. COVID19 is impacting everyone on earth. Although it is alarming and bringing about great sorrow, COVID19 also giving rise to a rebirth of humanity.
If we can, for a moment, stop the infighting and quiet ourselves and listen intently to the space within and between the silence, a faint and growing sound of unity can be heard. I hear this sound working from home in between the drips and beeps of coffee makers, tea kettles, dish-and-clothes washers, children’s toys and video calls. A burgeoning sound for change is growing louder each day. It’s expressed by local politicians, its flowing out of chief executives, its being pleaded for by the brave and selfless doctors, nurses and other frontline workers that put themselves in harms way each day.
Humans are determined social beings that seek purpose and direction. The global proliferation of COVID19 has shaken us to our core. But while we are shaken, our spirit and resolve are not yet broken. Our economy may be on the cusp of collapse, but that can, if we are unified, can be redefined and rebuilt, stronger and more sustainable.
Uncertainty and variety
Tony Robbins has wisely suggested that humans have six core needs including the need for certainty and comfort, uncertainty and variety, significance, love and connection, growth, and contribution. For now, COVID19 is providing us with a healthy dose of “uncertainty and variety.” However, across the other areas of human needs defined by Robbins, there is hope and promise of a new beginning. Together we can and will reimagine, capture, and create a better and brighter future beyond COVID19.
With determination and discipline, we will once attain certainty over our lives. We are already taking comfort in our families, friends, and the care that is delivered through the self-sacrificing contributions of frontline workers. Let’s use this unprecedented time to do our part by heeding to the expert advice of doctors and healthcare professionals. Let’s also value our time wisely and use it constructively to redefine what it means to be human and alive on this amazing place of abundance we call earth. We can drown the deafening sound of fear and uncertainty with the appreciation and gratitude that we have for each other, through love and connection, as the underlying force that can overcome any barrier or challenge.
I’m reminded by this each day, as I see and hear kids within our neighborhood practice social distancing, but still find unique ways to play, laugh, learn, and create. Imagine, it was only a short time ago when so many parents were pleading with their children to get off devices and go outside for fresh air. Our children are our future. As parents and caregivers, we need to look beyond our selfish needs during this difficult time and provide our children with undivided love and care, particularly as their lives get redefined. We need to provide them with support, guidance and quench their thirst to keep their minds sharp, aspirations high, and inspiration flowing. We must also demonstrate strength and be unafraid to show our hearts and vulnerabilities as we work through this difficult time.
Together, with love and through unity, we are resilient and resourceful. Now is our time to take shelter, but to also take refuge and be open to the silence that connects us all. For it is in this silence that we will not only grow, but also discover the common ground by which we rise together to live as one with peace, prosperity and purpose.
Our spring has fallen. But we will emerge from this crisis with our dignity and a clear direction. It’s 5:30am, I can now hear the birds chirping at the dawn of a new day. Spring has awakened, let’s take comfort in knowing that we will soon also rise again.