Some countries are gradually lifting COVID-19 restrictions, and soon, we hope, life will get back to normal – but what will that new “normal” look like?
As painful and challenging as the pandemic is, it has brought many issues to the forefront for humanity to ponder and resolve. We obviously haven’t adequately dealt with those issues in the past. But as people speak about going back to “business as usual” when we can fully stop fearing COVID-19, I worry that the lessons the pandemic brought will be soon forgotten.
Human Fragility — and Our Spiritual Resilience
The COVID crisis has shown us that we are not invincible. No matter how many inventions and discoveries we make or how many gadgets we create to make life more convenient, we cannot protect ourselves from future pandemics that will kill millions of people if we do not come together and overcome our differences. A tiny virus, we now know, could jeopardize the survival of humanity. That stark fact has created a rude awakening for many.
However, the pandemic also proved the ingenuity and resilience of the human spirit gifted to us by God, as we rushed to heal the sick, create and distribute vaccines, and support each other through a global economic crisis.
This resilience has helped humanity progress since the very beginning of our species, when we faced fierce animals, survived famines, and endured wars. The human spirit can solve problems no matter how difficult and complex they are. Abdu’l-Baha, the son and successor of the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah, wrote:
Do ye not look upon the beginning of the affairs; attach your hearts to the ends and results. The present period is like unto the sowing time. Undoubtedly it is impregnated with perils and difficulties, but in the future many a harvest shall be gathered and benefits and results will become apparent. When one considers the issue and the end, exhaustless joy and happiness will dawn.
The Beauty and Tenderness of Humanity
We took many things for granted until the pandemic reminded us how vital they are for our emotional and physiological well-being.
For me, the biggest loss was the smiles. I love smiling, and I joked about how my smiles were wasted since nobody saw them under my mask. It was such a tragedy to not touch or hug our loved ones, and I hope that we never forget how essential that is for our happiness.
As we realized that there are other things in life, money became less important. We became less concerned with physical appearances. It was interesting for me to see so many singers that I admired sing in virtual concerts without all the tools to enhance the quality of their voices. I could listen to their natural voices and appreciate them more than the professionally produced versions. Hopefully, this time has helped us accept ourselves and others as we are.
The Importance of Nature
This lesson was an interesting one for two reasons: one, it affirmed the benefits of nature’s healing powers for humans’ psyche and happiness; two, it reminded us of the power of nature to heal itself. During the pandemic, nature made a remarkable recovery, proving that we can solve our environmental crisis if we take steps to reduce our carbon footprint.
I hope that seeing these changes has made us more sensitive to nature’s needs and motivated us to try to protect our environment before it is too late. The Baha’i writings say:
The elements and lower organisms are synchronized in the great plan of life. Shall man, infinitely above them in degree, be antagonistic and a destroyer of that perfection?
“We’re In This Together”
Ordinary people and politicians repeated this phrase time and again. Some used it as a slogan without fully understanding its implications.
The pandemic exposed to a greater degree the disparities in opportunity, healthcare, and financial security between communities of different races and genders in the workforce. People of color suffered a greater infection rate and the greatest economic devastation, on top of a new wave of racially-motivated violence in the United States, while women were forced to abandon the workforce at a greater rate than men. While we should have all been in this together, many found themselves at a disadvantage. Supporters of change convey that the time of talking has passed, and we need to take action to correct past errors.
We also learned that we cannot depend on national boundaries to solve the problem of the pandemic. Although we put in place restrictions to movement, they exist because we all know that as long as the whole world isn’t vaccinated, the problem will not be solved.
We have lost so much during this pandemic. Millions of lives were cut short. Billions of dollars have been spent, and more will be spent for economic recovery. There are emotional scars to heal. It would be even more tragic if all the suffering goes for nought, and the lessons are forgotten.
The Importance of Prayer and Meditation
During the toughest moments of the pandemic, many of us found solace in prayer and reconnected with our meditation routines. Many adopted meditation into their daily lives or strongly felt the need for prayers for their spiritual health — even those who had not considered prayer as an option for their spiritual health before.
For me, meditation and prayer became an essential part of my daily routine. These words by Abdu’l-Baha reassured me and helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel as I strived to function with a positive attitude:
The darkness of this gloomy night shall pass away. Again the Sun of Reality will dawn from the horizon of the hearts. Have patience, wait but do not sit idle; work while you are waiting; smile when you are wearied with monotony; be firm while everything around you is being shaken; be joyous while the ugly face of despair grins at you; speak aloud while the malevolent forces of the nether world try to crush your mind; be valiant and courageous while men all around you are cringing with fear and cowardice … Continue your journey to the end. The bright day is coming.
The suddenness of the pandemic and the speed with which it spread made us realize how uncertain life is and how, in no time, our world can drastically change. It has given us a hint of the problems that could develop if countries do not work together to solve problems, leaving behind political and financial greed, and showed us how we might prepare for such events in the future.
I hope that, even if we fully return to “normal” soon, we can carry these lessons with us so that tragedy may be averted and we can create a more peaceful, unified world.