Five months ago, almost to the day, my mother and I began the long, arduous process of sheltering in place. Yes, we have loosened up our restrictions a little bit, but not really all that much. We go out only when necessary (e.g. grocery, pharmacy, doctor appointments) and have minimally socialized outdoors from a distance with a mask. And yes, five months feels like a lifetime and my patience and hopefulness are waning. What do I miss most? Hugging. I miss hugging my mom, my family, and my friends. But is close contact, even with a mask, worth risking my life or theirs? Personally, I think not.
In March, the US had 213 total confirmed cases, 0 new cases the day the statistics were recorded, 11 deaths, and transmission was labeled local. Fast forward to July and the US had 2,973,695 total confirmed cases, 50,263 new cases the day the statistics were recorded, 130,893 deaths, and transmission was labeled community wide. Those numbers are not only staggering, they are unfathomable. And because of this, states that opened up have since closed back up as the numbers continue to rise.
To exacerbate the situation, the news is filled with relentless doom and gloom. Not only are we dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, a new strain of swine flu is sweeping China and has the potential to quickly become another world-wide deadly pandemic. Europe has closed its borders to the United States to protect against the spread of the virus, Canada’s border remains closed, and COVID cases and deaths continue to spike. Yet, many people are not practicing social distancing, wearing masks, or taking precautions because they still do not believe this is real or can happen to them. Violence, hatred, bigotry, and social injustice have flared to new heights. And politics have reached a depth of low that I have never seen in my lifetime. With all the chaos it bodes the question, “Is the world coming to an end?”
While binge watching the television shows on my DVR that normally would have been discarded in favor of summer activities, I noticed that in several series beloved characters were killed off at the end of the season. And as they dramatically slowly slipped away, they took stock of their lives and relationships. I found that interesting because I ask ‘why’ all the time; why are we – human beings – here on this planet. I regularly do a mental checklist of sorts in the hopes of ensuring I live a meaningful life as I continually seek my purpose. Do you? I’m curious.
Now that we are, in essence, living our lives as silos instead of the social creatures we are, how do we find meaning in the everyday? What is our purpose if we cannot be ‘out there’ achieving it? And the really big question is, what is the point of humankind’s existence if a virus is going to prohibit the entire world’s population from living versus simply existing?
Although I have no answers to my above random thoughts, I do know one thing. I want to live! I am not ready to throw in the towel and say, “done.” This is why I take precautions even though our government and health officials cannot seem to agree on what specific safety measures actually work. I do not want to suffer, and I don’t want others to suffer. However, if you stop and think about it, perhaps it is suffering that will push us to grow. And maybe, just maybe, the spiritual powers that be felt we were getting too complacent in a world that simply was not working and we needed a shove into the unknown, forcing us to face our fears and grow up.
My book, Be Your Own Superhero, is loosely based on The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell. In both, an average person living a normal life suddenly experiences an event that causes a seismic shift in their life thrusting them into the unknown. This phase is known as the “call to adventure.” As they crossover into the unknown, experiencing trials and tribulations they learn new skills and are sort of reborn as their old self dies. With their newfound revelations they begin the journey out of the unknown, making permanent positive changes while taking their learned lessons with them as they venture back into the known world. They return to the known world with the gift of their knowledge and share it with the world, making everyone and everything better than before.
Perhaps our mission during this pandemic is to each undertake our own Hero’s Journey and discover our own unique gift to share with the world. Perhaps this is our time to look the possibility of the world coming to an end in the face and say, “not today!” and work toward a collaborative effort with our fellow human beings to improve our world for the better. Each of us must take precautions so as not to contract nor spread the virus. And each of us has a moral responsibility to rise as heroes in the fight against social injustice, hate, and violence. What you do matters and creates a profound ripple effect. There is much doom and gloom with few rays of light shining through…but there are those few rays of light. Eventually they will become more numerous and larger. Eventually, this will be history instead of our here and now. And, yes, the world is coming to an end…just not today.
I invite you to share your thoughts as we continue this dialogue.