The topic of the what the future will bring with COVID has been on everyone's minds, particularly when will the return to 'normal' come? As Roy points out, 'normal' is not a desirable state to return to, as this forced quarantine gives a chance for a depth of reflection not usually possible with the pace of everyday life pre-pandemic. It becomes apparent that we have much less control over our fate than we would like to believe. Nothing is for certain and everything is always changing. We have control over how we choose to approach life; in keeping a hopeful attitude, making ethical decisions and treating people with respect and dignity.
How can you remain peaceful amongst the ups and downs? You must learn to find inner stillness despite the ever changing landscape of life. Are you only happy when you are experiencing a good phase of life? Or can you remain at peace when you are in the midst of several challenges? What happens if you lose the identities you define yourself by through a career loss, change of relationship or health status or loss of an important title or business? There can be sadness if you judge yourself based on what your external life looks like, and what you have, rather than who you are as a person.
We observe that people treat others differently as a result of their status at a given point of time. Nevertheless, it is a harsh reality to accept when you personally experience a status reversal and are treated differently for setbacks that you had little control over, that may have been unfair. At the same time, people are conditioned by media and society to treat people differentially according to factors that define material success. Much of this happens at an unconscious level, similar to discrimination based on sex, race, class, sexual orientation, age and disability. Inequities have become much sharper, with the gap growing rapidly between the haves and the have nots. Many people who never thought they could be have nots, suddenly find themselves in the vulnerable position of having to struggle for security in ways they could not have imagined possible. These experiences can build empathy or harden the heart. I would hope that for most people, that it creates an experiential understanding of the unpredictability of life, in that roles can always change. Therefore, to build an identity around something that can be taken away, is a recipe for anxiety and disillusionment.
I believe the pandemic presents an opportunity to think about how we define success and how we relate to other people. First, are you judging your success and happiness on the degree to which you have mastered yourself as opposed to what your life looks like on the outside? Second, think about how we can bridge the barriers between us; to see how we can judge people not by external identities but by personality traits and the ways in which they approach the world with compassion. If we looked at ourselves and others in this way on a micro level, the world will change on a macro level, as we develop self-compassion and form relationships with a broader range of people. Demographics are not under our control and there needs to be a stronger effort to move beyond the ways in which our appearance and outer success influences who we spend time with. By expanding our minds and our hearts, more authentic friendships can blossom. In this way, we can imagine a new world, one that values inclusivity, diversity and equality. This is well worth fighting for.