The world has been ground to a halt by a virus approximately one ten-thousandth of a millimeter in diameter. Something that is invisible to the naked eye is nonetheless making a dramatic impact. Irrespective of COVID-19's actual size, the existential feeling of uncertainty that it packs is a powerful one.
My 99-year-old grandmother told me that she's never experienced anything even remotely like this, as she fortuitously "missed" the Spanish flu by a couple of years. These are unprecedented times indeed. When someone with 99 years of wisdom is as experienced as handling this as my 1-year-old nephew, we're officially in unchartered waters.
I've had a number of introverted friends reach out to me and secret concede that they're loving this monastic experience. For those of you who enjoy long, unstructured blocks of time alone (or almost alone), the coronavirus could be like manna from Heaven. One friend wrote to me that"there's a kid inside me that's kinda reveling in this extended snow day."
On some days that philosophy definitely resonates, and I feel like I can drop into a real flow state and get a lot accomplished.
On other days, though, I'm pathetically unproductive, and I attribute 95.8% of that to desperately craving more human connection. A person I admire told me that for the last month he has been practicing"aggressive friendship."I like the cut of his jib. Desperate times call for amplified measures.
I recently started carving out time slots in which I'll randomly scroll through the contacts on my smartphone and call people who I haven't spoken to or seen in a very long time. It's a real cold call. No pre-call warning ping via text or email. That method has been alarming to some people. The initial responses of these people is usually some sort of variation of, "Hey man, is everything ok?" I also got a"Yo, bro...did you contract the coronavirus?"
What better time than now to reach back out? Sometimes I have an inner bean counter that condemns certain contacts and declares, "Well, the ball is definitely in their court to reach back to me, and if they don't want to do that, that's on them." If there's a prolonged relationship in which the other side offers zero reciprocity, that friendship isn't a sustainable one.
On the other hand, why not give the inner judge a vacation and be the bigger man and give them a call to really see how they're doing? Lately, I've been quixotically pointing my lance at that windmill, and it's been extremely rewarding and highly enjoyable.
Quite a few people suggest that a lot of in-person meetings are unnecessary and that our future will involve much more Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts. With certain interactions, I can see that being true.
At the same time, I find a lot of those replacements as just that: wannabe replacements. Sure, they're better than nothing, but they're a far inferior surrogate to the real thing. Humans are social animals, and there isn't a digital alternative that can remotely compare to human connection and physical contact. I suspect a lot of people are so craving those meaningful and irreplaceable in-person interactions and community.
I reached out to the most positive person I've ever met (the #2 person on my list of the most optimistic people I know is light years behind this individual) and asked him for some advice to traverse through the COVID-19 landscape. Namely, I wanted to know that in light of the loss of human life on a mass scale, an undeniable amount of suffering, people's livelihoods and passions being ripped from them...how could he reconcile all of that and be upbeat?
He didn't pretend to ignore the destructive side of what we're enduring. Buried in the middle of the forest, he told me, it's easy to have tunnel vision and lack the requisite perspective. It's only when you zoom out that you can see the forest for the trees. He firmly believes that there will be more positives than negatives that come from this, and if that's the case, he contends that it's impossible not to have a profound sense of gratitude. We can adopt a victim mentality or warrior up, and he is choosing the latter.
Steve Jobs had a similar viewpoint. In Jobs' commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, he explained that,"You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path; and that will make all the difference.”
We’re all connected. If you were to hurl some huge object into the middle of a body of water, the waves - no matter how big or how small - will eventually reach all sides. The human race is like some kind of giant super organism that works together, and as a whole, we are undeniably sick.
Character as a verb means to inscribe or engrave, and it’s a gradual process of carving and cultivating dispositions into a deeper part of yourself. Character is forged in the fires of these trying times all the more. We're all on our own path of learning, and this present reality provides a gift for growth. We're all being awarded ample time to shine our spotlight more fully on ourselves and work on ourselves. Doing that kind of inner work has always been my best teacher.
I too am convinced that this will be something that, on the whole, greatly benefits us. It is happening for our collective evolution and healing. I refuse to subscribe to any other paradigm.
I think a lot about Don Howard and what he might say if we were chatting outside the dining maloca right now. He wasn't immune in his life from resistance, betrayals, and heartbreaks. You can't merely type in a cheat code and avoid experiencing the human components in all of those challenges. Don Howard personally faced a lot of those setbacks, and I reckon that integrating each and every one of them was how he developed such impeccable character. Don Howard once informed me that he would always have faith in Spirit to be his lodestar to direct him in whatever direction he needed to go, regardless if that meant pivoting, walking the plank, aborting ship, going under, or losing everything. He told me that having faith in Spirit was an approach that never failed him.
I'm reminded of the character Cheese from The Wire, who lamented how"there ain't no back in the day" and that"there ain't no nostalgia to this."It's not possible to go back to the world we once knew. Be nostalgic all you want for the world pre-coronavirus, but that world has vanished. You may disagree, but I'm choosing to be grateful for all of this because the path we were on was not sustainable.
If you think we're going to quickly return to the way things were, or that a return to normalcy is right around the corner, you haven't been paying close enough attention. The world that is emerging now will either be a more connected and better one, or a more isolated and worse one.
To my knowledge, the caterpillar doesn't undergo an existential crisis of wanting to immediately transform with the snap of the fingers or the waiving of a magic wand. It certainly doesn't instantaneously grow wings. Rather, the caterpillar stays clinically in command, comprehensively, systematically, and gradually going about its tasks of avoiding predators and eating leaves. Once in the cocoon, that caterpillar becomes dissolved in its own enzymes and turns into caterpillar soup before the beautiful metamorphosis takes place. As George Carlin saliently observed,"the caterpillar does all of the hard work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity."
Hopefully spring has sprung or is springing in your neck of the woods. There's a bird's nest in a tree outside my home. A couple of days ago, I spotted several eggs in the nest. A few of you messaged me that you and your partner have had a baby these last few weeks, and seeing those little bundles of joy when otherwise the only news focuses on the incredibly sanguine topic of an up-to-the-minute global COVID-19 death count is a most welcome and glorious sight.
All in all, there are going to be a whole host of things birthed from this era. And a better world is one of them that all of us can make our new reality.