“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with nature.” – Joseph Campbell
The coronavirus led to the conclusion of life as we knew it. School, work, celebrations, eating at restaurants, going to movie theaters, and many more aspects of daily life came to a screeching halt. Parents didn’t have to go to work every day or run their kids to extracurricular activities. They didn’t have business meetings, social events, or personal appointments competing for space on the calendar. Everyone was stuck at home because everything was closed. Life had become so hectic and filled with seemingly necessary tasks that we easily forgot what really mattered. We were cosmically commanded to physically stop.
The coronavirus reintroduced quality time. Birthday parties, anniversaries, and weddings became extremely intimate, thoughtfully planned, and carried heightened meaning. A new trend with birthday parties started where people drove their cars around the neighborhood with celebratory signs hanging out car windows while they honked their horns. Weddings were conducted at a distance while attendees participated via video conferencing. These were very cost effective ways to celebrate life milestones.
During this distanced way of celebrating life, enormous smiles and lots of happiness was shared by everyone. The power of simplicity was on full display. No fancy meals or music, since large gatherings were prohibited. No extravagant honeymoons, since airlines offered severely limited flights. There were no theatrical productions, only intimate arrangements with close loved ones. Recreational vehicle sales experienced a spike. Travelers gained an appreciation for the beauty of the spaciousness in rural areas of America. We were all called to choose being, over having.
A lost culture was returned. In the age of technology and mass consumption, people’s social interactions had become quick and void of depth. People came to expect things to happen at the touch of a button. Patience was lost. We were idling by on autopilot. During the pandemic, people were forced to sit and have conscious, meaningful interactions again.
Most of the nonsense in life was stripped away. People gained a new conscious awareness of moments that were previously fleeting. Social constructs lost their meaning, while relationships gained new ones. The pandemic forced humanity to create beauty. Not by the usual means of addition, but rather by the unconventional means of subtraction. Our technology-induced slumber was transformed into natural aliveness.
Money lost its societal value. It didn’t matter much. Elites did have greater access to testing even while access to that testing was scarce for the average American. If you worked in the White House, were a rock star, or were an NBA player, tests were prioritized to you. But in some sense, the virus was a great equalizer of money. If anyone became severely ill from the virus, they could not buy their way back to health because there was no cure.
Everyone was locked in their dwellings, whether it was a palace, or a farm. Private jets, fancy cars, and large investments didn’t matter much. It became evident that attachment to the amount of money one had was of no value, but rather, the value was found in making the most of what someone already had. The pandemic was a call to be resourceful, not lavish.
The pandemic triggered a collective reexamination of what really mattered in life. How important was obtaining a college degree? Was the next promotion really necessary? How should we be spending our time? Do moments or things give us the most joy? Many people experienced a greater calmness in this less frantic way of life. After all, life isn’t about creating more suffering, it’s about engendering the greater good.
This reexamination triggered a sense of appreciation of how life used to be. Things that seemed common and insignificant gained beauty and became majestic. Humanity had been lured away from its primary purpose. The noisy, structural distraction of material wealth, mindless entertainment, and immediate gratification had dominated the collective human conscious. Humanity moved from being emotionally distant but physically close, to being physically distant but emotionally close. The pandemic quieted a lot of noise into a vast and hollow abyss.
With a pandemic comes much loss: loss of income, loss of material possessions, loss of certainty, loss of the status quo, and loss of life. The pandemic vividly illustrated that life is fleeting and possessions have little significance. Everything, everything is temporary. When everything is stripped away, what remains? What cannot be removed but remains useful in defending our exposed selves from the surrounding dangers that remain? The solid earth beneath us did not seem so solid anymore. Life is impermanent. It can all be gone in an instant.
Decomposition is a prerequisite for growth. Through a massive reduction of the existing attachments, we can begin to comprehend the infinite depths of the “I” that our mind has identified with. We can begin to enjoy thoughts, instead of identifying with them. We have the ability to reject things, material and immaterial, that do not fulfill us. That was a difficult reality to ascribe to when there was a strong psychological sense in America that one can truly never have enough. We must participate, unattached, in the present movement of life.
“The lesson is forcibly taught by these observations that our life might be much easier and simpler than we make it; that the world might be a happier place than it is; that there is no need of struggles, convulsions, and despairs” – Ralph Waldo Emerson