(Mathew C. Ninan, Director, Little Rock Institute of Educational Leadership, Udupi)
The fragility of human existence once again stares us in our face. The outbreak of the Corona-virus (Covid-19) has unleashed a reign of paranoia across the world. The world is in the grip of a fear psychosis at this moment when I write this. This scenario will change eventually, but the lessons to be learnt will still be relevant.
The WHO has named this a ‘pandemic’ which means it is an epidemic that is spreading alarmingly all over. It can be more devastating than a war. It can wipe out millions from the face of the earth if it is not arrested effectively. That is to say, we cannot take this lightly. Nobody should assume to be safe in their cocoons. I wish they were right, though it’s an irrational assumption.
The rich and the poor are equally shaken. All regions of the world are affected. This virus seems to be an equalizer. It has swept across continents to touch more than a hundred countries already. How long this scourge will continue is anybody’s guess.
This fear of the virus could slowly disappear, and life would limp back to normal gradually. All the same, there are some lessons for us to learn from this experience and then teach our children.
Human vanity is a big bubble that can burst any time. We need to teach our children how to be humble, simple and practical. That snobbery is not just vulgar exhibition of our wealth, but the open display of our shallowness and emptiness. That our bravado is all a sham. We are nothing, in fact less than nothing.
Human selfishness and greed for making money are all pointless in the face of the reality that is certain death. We need to teach our children how noble it is to help others, share our plenty with those who are impoverished. All the paraphernalia of prosperity are short-lived and meaningless.
Human inter-dependence comes to the fore on occasions of such calamity. Most of the time, when the going is smooth, we gloat over our invincibility. We claim that we do not need anybody’s help. That we are absolutely independent and self-reliant. But when tragedy strikes and calamity knocks at our door, we suddenly clamber for our neighbours. We realize that we need others when we are in deep trouble. That others are really important, and not easily dispensable.
Human indifference to basic norms of cleanliness, courtesy and civility are seen clearly in the way the virus spreads, making the society around sick and on the throes of death. We are, justifiably, reluctant to shake hands with others. We are bringing back our ‘Namaste’ with folded hands, which is one silver lining in this dark horizon. Our humble gesture of folded hands which is the most beautiful form of greeting in the whole world has got a new lease of life. There is no physical contact but it’s really a soulful greeting, from heart to heart. If Namaste gains currency, we can reckon it as a great blessing in disguise, thanks to Covid-19.
Human tendency to challenge God and nature and rule over the universe has also taken a severe beating this time. The virus has shown us yet again that nature’s fury will be upon us if we continue to ignore our basic obligation to God and nature. This is the time we remember that God’s faithfulness is a shield and bulwark. The Lord is faithful, and He alone can guard us from evil and destruction. However, there is a condition for us to fulfill. We need to be steadfast in our faithfulness to God, in good times and bad, to qualify for His benign care and protection.
In times such as this crisis, the best and the worst instincts in the human come to the surface. When we look around, we see people taking advantage of the situation in different ways. We also see some trying to save others even risking their own life. The best and the worst manifestations of people are in full view now more than ever.
The time has come to look within us and see if there is still some good we can do to ourselves and others. Time is running out. Let’s wake up from our self-imposed and self-centered stupor.
At the end of the day, what remains are not the material possessions we have accumulated like our wealth or our bank balance, which can be counted, but actually some of those inconsequential sweet nothings we have done, which cannot be counted, though they will only ultimately count. Nobody can possibly improve upon Albert Einstein’s description of this existential truth as succinctly as he did in his inimitable style.
Not everything that counts can be counted,
And not everything that can be counted counts.
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