It seems every commercial says it: "We are all in this together." That same insight is a central claim of the enduring religions and spiritual traditions.
There is an underlying unity embracing the planet and humanity. We are connected with each other, with the air and water and plants and animals; indeed this underlying unity connects us with the whole universe. In this viral moment of shared challenge, we feel that interconnection.
So, what shall we do? Right now we are loving our neighbor through continued social distancing and through generosity toward those most affected by the virus. As we make plans to re-engage socially, I hope we will listen to virologists and epidemiologists more than to politicians and businessmen. You may not fear the virus for yourself, but do you want to risk unknowingly infecting another person, maybe fatally?
The covid-19 crisis is reminding us how important health is. This virus can motivate us to make future social choices that will benefit all of us. We need to rebuild our crumbled public health network. Nations with strong public health services did better than other nations in this outbreak. Contagion doesn't observe political boundaries. We can use our resources to help other nations as well as our own strengthen our health care networks.
We can ensure access to quality, affordable health care and health insurance for everyone in the U.S. This virus reveals harsh realities in our divided nation. People living in poverty and people of color are suffering disproportionately. For over 30 years wealth has become more concentrated in fewer hands. Tax and fiscal policies have favored those who make big contributions to influence public policies. These policies are life and death issues, moral and ethical issues. We can choose to reverse those policies. What if we spent the next decade making decisions that benefit "the least of these?" Certainly the richest nation in the world can afford to do so.
This virus has also inspired so much goodness, compassion and creativity. We are honoring the bravery of those we depend upon for essential services. People are organizing to care for those whose lives have been upended. I've seen so many signs of creative generosity. People are reaching out to care for those whose lives have been impacted.
Many of us have slowed down enough to reconnect with our families and with ourselves. It is good to stop, to embrace the opportunity for solitude, to move at a slower, more mindful pace. More people are walking their dogs, enjoying the blooms of spring, preparing meals thoughtfully. If more people nourish within themselves a grateful, abiding way of being, this illness may bring us great healing.
Our planet and environment seem to be benefiting from a slow-down of human activity. Our air and water is cleaner. Can we build on this time of environmental reconstruction?
Christianity and the other enduring spiritual traditions all teach that suffering has meaning and that new life comes out of suffering and death. When embraced with hope and compassion, suffering has the capacity to change life in positive, transformational ways.
Suffering can be merely destructive, however. When we choose to exaggerate fear, create divisions, act selfishly and find scapegoats, we simply amplify suffering and expand the damage. It takes courage and intention to chose love over fear, communion over division, compassion over self-centeredness. These are life and death choices.
These issues are especially important for Americans. Our president tends to bring out the worst in us -- creating chaos, division and fear energized by self-centeredness and the abuse of power.
I've been reading again from the diary of Etty Hillesum. She and her Dutch-Jewish family were caught up in the Nazi death camps of the 1940s. Quarantined behind bars, surrounded by death, this young woman searched her soul and found inspiration in a threatening time.
"I know that a new and kinder day will come. I would so much like to live on, if only to express all of the love I carry within me. And there is only one way of preparing the new age, by living it even now in our hearts.
"True peace will come when every individual finds peace within himself; when we have all vanquished and transformed our hatred for our fellow human beings of whatever race -- even into love one day. It is the only solution."
We are all in this together. Love is the great social and political solution. How can we nurture love and plant seeds for a new and kinder day?
Commentary on 04/28/2020
Print Headline: Will 'togetherness' last?