The whole world is being taught of basic hygiene as if we were an Earth full of barefoot toddlers playing in the mud. Wash your hands is the official mantra of 2020. It seemed absurd at first. We have the world leaders and news programs telling every fully functioning adult in the world to wash their hands and stay at home like parents nagging their children. But somehow, in a way, it is also sort of wonderful.
News reporting has been so much about reporting everything that has been going wrong with the world. And certainly, there has been no shortage of things to report. Now we all have to face this pandemic together, and we clearly see what is wrong right in front of us and how big it is fast becoming, but then here follows a constant reminder in the end: wash your hands, or stay at home, or please take care—different sets of three words bringing down walls, connecting the speaker to the audience, humanizing world “news,” washing over all anxieties with a gentle reminder, adding a touch of… care. “Wash your hands” is a term of endearment now.
This virus has been showing us that however bad it may be getting, the decision is entirely in our hands to care and cooperate and the collective choice is ours to work together in turning everything around. As we follow the rules, it is becoming harder and harder to identify whether we are doing our part to save our individual selves or we are doing it for others. Because of this virus, the lines have blurred. Airports have closed down, travel has become prohibited, countries and cities are locked down, people are on self-quarantine, and yet we have all never been this connected, this collaborative, this concerned for everybody’s health.
Everyone’s lives have now come to depend on each other.
So I wash my hands not in the proverbial sense, which is to say that I am not responsible for any of this. On the contrary, I wash my hands because if I take care of myself best I can, I take care of everyone else, too. And I will remind you to take care of yourself, because only you can do it for yourself as well and because my life is literally dependent on you being alive and healthy. And only if we are both healthy can we commune and share our space with one another again.
I do not wish to romanticize the hard reality of what is happening right now—people are dying, the world is at a standstill, and the future is questionable. But as we watch everything unfold, there seems to be one big takeaway that should be the same for each and every one of us. My small life is never better or lesser than yours. Your actions are just as crucial as mine. We are all playing the same part in all of this. This is the most profound lesson we have ever gotten about equality yet.
We are all connected
Our modern world works with many cycles. We have our seasons, planting and harvest months, astrological predictions, special occasions that come around once every so on, our semesters, workweeks and planned vacations, the nightly news and the next big Netflix show. We keep track of things by looking at our calendars, by scribbling schedules, by following trends, by following the patterns and rhythms that have been observed and agreed upon—some of them long before we landed right in the middle of it all; some of them brand new and still in the process of working into the flow of things.
In the midst of juggling these different cycles that have kept us all too busy and locked into this physical and psychological grid, we easily forget the individual paths that we are on, how they are interconnected with others’, and how one cycle may end while many others continue or begin anew. Regardless of whether you are a tree in a forest, or an ant in a colony, or a star in the sky, or a human with strict office hours on the 22nd floor, or a fast-acting virus, randomness is a rule that applies to everyone.
We have manufactured all these systems and cycles that have apparently not worked for the good of all but we have persisted to ignore this. Not only have people been dying before this virus, entire species have been going extinct and entire forests have been burning down. They are part of the system. They are big players in the cycles of life. They are part of the decisions we make, whether we acknowledge and notice it or not. This large amount of key players have been bullied and disregarded quite enough. Life is simply amazing in that it has sent over an undetectable virus to finally speak up for everyone. Jeff Goldblum’s character said it in “Jurassic Park” and I will it say it here: “Life finds a way.”
The air we actually breathe from day to day has been clearing from pollution. The demand for oil has gone down. Because of quarantine, people are supporting small and neighborhood businesses, and helping each other. Traffic is instantly solved and people are home and have stopped overspending on things they do not need (except for those special hoarders we now have). We are now looking at the poor who are not getting proper supply of clean water so that they may clean themselves. We are now looking at the nurses, the scientists, the teachers. We are now seriously talking about health, about kindness, about others. We are now talking about everyone.
Hope for a new cycle
Now is the time that we build on our new choices and begin new cycles of awareness and co-creation. We have seen a number of sci-fi movies feature a horrific future wherein technology will take over and people would not know how to connect with one another in person anymore. But the present situation is proving to us that taking that direction is not in our most essential nature. Humans are social animals. Moving videos from Italy have come out showing streets of self-quarantined residents singing to and with one another from their separate balconies just to create that sense of connection that sustains our societies, our civilization, our very humanity. Following announcements of lockdowns and isolation immediately prompted talks on mental health and how people should cope with the possibly prolonged lack of social interaction.
After all the hate that has circulated the world repeatedly out of the cycles of judgment, overreaction, fear and arrogant anonymity, and social media taking all the heat for it, we are now discovering that communicating through our gadgets are far from enough and that, in reality, we all really do need one another to thrive and to survive. Yes, all the funny memes are helping ease our idle days and the accessible newsfeeds help us spread facts. But now that we are given the luxury of time slowing down, we are indulging most in spending more time with family, finding the things that we truly enjoy doing as we finally have the time to do it, having more quality conversations with loved ones even only online, cooking, crafting, reflecting on what matters most to us, taking care of our bodies and our health. The daily cycles are less busy and as we all return to center, what may ultimately come through should be our empathy, kindness, understanding, hope, sharing, gratitude, creativity, and all of what makes our world beautiful if we could always take our time in thinking of what are the things that we would truly want to go viral.
I saw a headline a week ago stating how the virus is forcing changes around the world. I started reading it thinking it was a commentary that suggests the good in the situation. It turns out that the changes it meant to address are all the bad economic ones. Silly me. Before this virus, we have already had all sorts of wars, prevalent famine, persistent anger, inequality, high suicide rates, environmental degradation, and just generally all out loss of communication and self-control between and amongst human beings all around the globe, and here I was thinking that enforced and major changes could possibly be a good thing.
In our regular daily lives, we breathe with these lungs, we wake up and we sleep, we got to work, we eat our meals. We fall in and out of relationships, we fall in love, we meet new people and let old friends go. We used to have a lot more distractions, a lot more other things we could do, but what was essential then and what is left to us now remain the same, only we now have more time in our hands and more thought goes into our actions as we repeat the things we do every day.
If we can repeat the washing of our hands for the benefit of one and all, maybe we can apply that cycle of sentiment to all our actions, big and small, from hereon in. Repeat kindness, repeat helping others, repeat the good words we wish to share, repeat the humor we find in dark days, repeat the thing we did yesterday that made us so happy that we could do it again today. What a difference it would make to always act with the knowing that the lives of others and our very own happiness are all equally dependent on the smallest things we do.