Living with COVID-19: Lessons learnt – Please don’t go back to normal

Friday, 8 May 2020 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

God has called a ‘time out’ for humans and asked us to get off the field until they purify it again. But will we be allowed back again? If so when and under what terms and conditions? – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara


I had just come out to the balcony, to light the lamp in the shrine room before going to bed. The smell of the jasmine flowers from the bush nearby was intoxicating, I picked a few to keep in front of the Buddha statue in gratitude, did my prayers and was about to close the door, when the thick dark night caught my eye. It was so quiet, so dark, it was almost eerie. I live in the middle of Colombo city, and it had never been like this as far as I could remember in my life. 

At the time of writing, it is 1 May. It is the 40th day of 24-hour curfew in the city, the 45th day of ‘Working from Home’ or ‘WFH’ as it is popularly known now. Another new word to the ‘Corona Dictionary’. We just heard that the curfew has been extended by another 10 days.

I was talking to a friend today; he was talking about how the world and everyone in it are going to change after this. He said most people will give up their Porsches and BMW and start driving Toyotas, they will stop their selfish luxury lives and share more with the less privileged. I challenged him and said it won’t change, we will be back to the same old ways in three months max! He disagreed with me, I invited him to take a bet with me. 

Someday in the future, people will be reading about this pandemic, like we are now reading about the Spanish Flu that occurred in 1920. You will never be able to imagine what it’s like until you live through one.

Anyway, regardless, I do hope that at least some of us will take the lessons learnt from this experience, and make this world a better place for all of us. I am herewith penning down my wish for my fellow human beings, post-COVID-19.

We are small and insignificant

By now, the number of people infected by the new coronavirus is over 3.3 million and the number dead is approximately 233,000. Someone has calculated that the total weight of all the viruses on all these 3.3 million bodies will weigh less than one gram. Isn’t it amazing that the entire mankind has been brought to its knees with a total of one gram of virus?

This experience, if not anything else, has shown us how small, how insignificant and how powerless we are in the face of nature and God. We have seen the fiery ways of Mother Nature before through natural disasters and even seen a few epidemics, but they were short-lived and most have forgotten them after two to three weeks. But this is so different, it is a silent killer, prolonged and seems gentle and yet fatal. It is so sad and shocking to see how people are dying, some very rich, some very poor, gasping for oxygen which is free, or so we thought. And this is despite all the advances in medicine.

If God or our karma had to send us a message in the form of a disease, it could have affected the stomach, the heart or even the brain. No, but this disease attacks our ‘breathing’ which is the most obvious thing that proves us that we are alive. The virus is suffocating us, we can’t breathe, we are gasping for air. For me, this is a retribution to what we have done to the air we breathe. We have polluted it beyond recognition, to make it almost poison to inhale. Further, while those affected are getting suffocated, others have to wear masks, once again a reminder that you don’t have the right to take this air we breathe for granted, and what is even more ironic is that while we have to walk around in masks, the air outside has actually purified itself, because the pollution has stopped at least for the last two months. 

All the air and ground travel has stopped and the factories have stopped, the skies are clear, no smog and, it’s supposed to be so beautiful. But we the humans can’t even go out for a walk or, enjoy the scenery, or the fresh air. Not only that, we are unkind to animals, we kill them to feed us, use them for testing cosmetics, destroy their habitats and leave them no place to live. And now the animals are out, and we are caged in our houses. Lesson number 1. 

Time-out for humans

God has called a ‘time out’ for humans and asked us to get off the field until they purify it again. But will we be allowed back again? If so when and under what terms and conditions? We thought we are the all-mighty most powerful species, that if we don’t like how certain things given by the Mother Nature are, then we will change it to the way we want. 

We don’t care about all the other species that are living on this planet. Our wants and greed have become unlimited. By now, we have broken all the terms and conditions we had with Mother Earth when we came to live here. We have abused and raped her. So how bad is the punishment going to be? We are yet to see.

That’s not all. This retribution is an overall package. It’s not only about what we have done to the environment, it’s about what we have done to human values, caring for others, being kind and sharing, about being spiritually developed. Oh, we have degraded our values so much, God must be ashamed of us. 

Fake lives and fake relationships

Our lives have become so fake. Relationships are not genuine. People will post their anniversary wishes or birthday wishes to husbands and wives on Facebook, but in reality, they can’t stand each other. What do you gain by wishing your wife happy birthday on Facebook, wouldn’t it be much nicer if you just gave her a warm hug in private? So, here’s another lesson, since you never hugged your own people when you could have, now you are forced to keep the distance, three feet apart from each other, that’s the new norm, it’s called ‘social distancing’, we have become poisonous to each other! Lesson number 2.

We are so glued to our electronic gadgets, families, even girlfriends and boyfriends are sitting together in body, but in different worlds in their mind, because they are all looking at their phones, some are taking selfies to show that they are at this place, with these people and sending it to others, but they don’t have the time to enjoy that moment, looking at everyone and everything right in front of their eyes at that very moment rather than through the eyes of your phone. 

So, it has become a fashion of people going out or going on holiday and posting it on social media to show off to others; another part of the fake world. So, lesson number 3, we can’t meet with our friends anymore, since when we could meet them, we were too busy or we faked the feelings and we were on our phones.

The other aspect was that we were so busy with our work, never had time to stay at home, not even on weekends, and if we were ever to take any time off from work, we will go somewhere else, home sweet home was just taken for granted. And guess what, we have been ordered by the Government to stay at home for over six weeks, we have now been to every nook and corner of our houses and gardens which we never knew even existed before and found so many new places to enjoy our humble abodes. Lesson number 4.

Spiritual degeneration

I believe the biggest cause for this time out is due to the degrading of human values, the spiritual degeneration. With all that was happening in our lives, there was absolutely no time for spiritual development. And now, with no work to go to, nothing more to figure out in the house, tired of watching TV, we were given so much time to reflect and think about who you really are and to realise the real meaning of life. However, only the ones with good karma would have seen this lesson, the others would have said they are getting depressed. Lesson number 5.

We loaded ourselves with indulgence and waste; whether it was how and what we consumed as food, how much of entertainment, clothing, housing, vehicles, basically you name it, if we could find one more way to indulge our senses, we would do it. Our greed for money and power was growing like a cancer and there was no limit to it. 

Company CEOs would earn so much of money where as the bottom level staff could not even properly feed the family. The disparity of income distribution has become so bad, the top 28 billionaires have more wealth than 50% of the people at the bottom of the pyramid. When some could spend $ 1,000 on a plate, others could not afford three meals a day. During the corona, we were under lockdown for weeks and months, and we had to just manage with basic essentials and enjoy the simple things in life. Lesson number 6.

Health sacrificed

That’s not all, finally all the work and the fake life gave us hardly any time to look after our health, so there came a virus to put the fear of death right in our faces. Despite all the developments in modern medicine, we are unable to save more lives and traditional natural medicines seem to work better. The biggest lesson here was that the only way to survive is to strengthen your immune system, which we have weakened through consuming poison through food and through an overload of chemicals in the form of medicines. Lesson number 7.

If all of these lessons are not enough for the human species to realise that we have gone terribly wrong in many areas, then I guess another corona will come, because it is definitely not in our hands. Or we can be grateful and humble and change back to be the better species we were originally meant to be. It’s all up to us. 

The new normal

Lesson 1: Pollute less, look after Mother Earth

Lesson 2: Value humans and relationships, be compassionate

Lesson 3: Enjoy the moment and take time off to do nothing

Lesson 4: Be spiritually developed: otherwise the next lesson will be worse 

Lesson 5: Consume less: the planet is full and exploding

Lesson 6: Control your greed and share with others: there’s already overproduction 

Lesson 7: Eat more natural/medicate more natural: we have become poisonous to ourselves 

Go back to being actual human beings – the original version! 

(Dr. Janaki Kuruppu is Chairperson – Mother Sri Lanka Trust.)

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