I wanted to comment briefly on COVID-19 and how it is affecting us. By this, I mean our new lifestyle: working remotely, living strictly at our own homes, and venturing into the outside world only every once in a great while. There is no doubt about it – it isn’t ideal. In fact, it honestly is terrible. I’m not going to sit here and lecture you about all of the positives you can take away from it, because really that would be downplaying the illness which has affected many of our friends and family, and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. What I would like to do, however, is remind you of some strategies to deal with these challenges we are all facing.
I am used to seeing friends several times a week, so it is weird transitioning to a phone-only communication stream as I’m sure it is for many of you. But really, this isn’t too big of a deal. We have the technology to video chat with high quality service basically anywhere we are, and texting is the easiest thing ever. I can survive for a few months like this, although I definitely won’t enjoy it. I think we all recognize that it is 10x better to be psychically present with someone you want to connect with. So instead, we have to find other ways to get by, even if we feel much less social than our usual selves.
One way to cope with this situation is through sharing. Sharing can be anything – exchanging ideas, actual things, or knowledge to someone else without any expectation of something in return. It is a sign of generosity and a way to think beyond yourself. We don’t think about this in normal times because we share with our friends all day – anything from memes to news articles. But now, this is as important as ever.
I’d like to think about this in the context of music and film for a moment. While it might seem trivial, both can be a great reminder of the amazing stuff we have to enjoy, even when things don’t seem so great. I’m not trying to endorse a complete escape from the world around us, but a brief escape is exactly what movies and music can provide. And honestly, it’s probably exactly what we need right now. It’s a chance to change your mood, experience something different, or reflect on your life. Remind yourself of the good – make a playlist of your favorite songs, watch you favorite movies, and take a minute to yourself to enjoy them fully (I’m listening to some Stone Temple Pilots right now – which ironically is not for everyone). Self-care is essential right now. Then text your favorites to a friend. Let them experience the happiness you also get out of something. It’s a small way any of us can help make one another feel better.
Indulge me a philosophy segment. Marcus Aurelius in his Meditations said many great things, particularly on what it means to be a virtuous person. If you don’t know what this is or haven’t read it, it is a book the emperor of Rome, Marcus Aurelius, wrote for himself in reflecting on his life as a leader and lives of others. One of these great ideas was along the lines of how one shouldn’t complain about things we do not have control over. It is not worth debating or toiling over things in which we cannot effect or change by debate or discussion, or even action, he said. Stoic thought, of which Aurelius partook, poses several things, one of which is the unpredictability of nature is one of the only truths in this world. The other being that all we can really control in the face of nature its ourselves. We are in control of our own actions, and it is our moral responsibility to do so. We should think about this when we approach this COVID situation. It is both our moral duty to accept the nature of this situation and its unpredictability, even if we can’t fully understand it. It is our duty to be responsible as a society, or better said as individuals, in keeping others and ourselves safe during this time. Because it’s all not just about you, but your individual actions can help others live safer and better lives. I think this is important to remember.
This situation isn’t permanent, even though it might feel like it now. Remember the hundreds of years of human ingenuity that has survived Smallpox, Polio, the Black Plague, etc. and come out the other side alive and well. Furthermore, we are fortunate to live in a time that most of these diseases have been completely eradicated, to the point where it is a shock to see an outbreak like this happening in modern times. Our ancestors didn’t have that luxury. This is one of many things we take for granted.
Remember, we are all in this together. We live in a shared society, a shared world where our actions have an equal and opposite reaction (I suppose that’s physics in general). That means everything you do now and always will have an effect felt elsewhere. Maybe it is something small, but nonetheless it is an effect. While you might not think something is an issue, it could be a tremendous issue to another person. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do what you want and only worry about what others think. But in a time of crisis, like this, take a moment in your agony to think about how others are feeling right now. We may have it bad, but there are many out there who have it much, much worse. Compassion is key, and if anything comes out of this crisis, it is possible this is the most important for us as a global community.
So if you know someone who is anxious or sad, sometimes the best thing you can do is to send them a song, share a movie – something that made you feel a certain way (it doesn’t matter what). Just share, be kind and be generous. Give others a little bit of something you have or enjoy. Accept the uncertainty as fact, and care for yourself. It’s all we’ve got as we get through this.