Today for circumstances like many in the world, I am working from home. I have been an English teacher for the last ten years and continue to do so as I build my therapy practice. Yet in all my years of teaching, today was one of the most memorable days. From the comfort of my living room I saw people from all over the globe living and experiencing the same: the Corona Virus.
Hu in Beijing told me the streets were empty; Birgit in Germany was working from home; Xang in northern China wore a mask during class as he is required to do so at work, and Paula in Rome was watching her kids. None of them are free from the consequences of the virus and all have been forced one way or another to change their daily routine because of the potential threat.
By the time this collective madness calms down, each of us is going to have our own story with the Corona Virus, whether we got the illness or not. Facing danger, each of us is being challenged on what is the right thing to do. Perhaps our first thoughts were and are on protecting ourselves, as cultures of the west tend to do. Then thoughts come like “But wait, what if I infect someone else?” That’s a progression of thought. With something of this scale, there must be a progression beyond “I” to “we.”
We are living in an extreme time where personal and political interests as well as leaders are making the separation between people more and more prominent. It is not the first time in history it has happened. Goals of separation are masked in the form of racial, political, gender or linguistic differences, to name a few, and sadly, the list of excuses for separation could go on and on.
Today as students shared how they have been impacted and what is happening in their cities, I was very moved when one said, “The virus doesn’t know race.” I teared up on the camera in fact realizing this simple truth and saw a gift the virus could reveal if we have the eyes to see it.
I live in Europe which is evidently the new epicenter for the virus, and countries are replicating one another in their efforts to control it. I think it will be a steady flow of each country closing schools, limiting activity, etc. Without a doubt there is collective chaos and madness going on, yet at the same time an organized “order” is being established on how to contain this. This is Chaos Theory – finding order in the chaos. Also known as “Deterministic Chaos” or “the Butterfly Effect,” it is the idea that chaotic systems (like nature) magnify changes of the components of a system, even the tiniest of components.
In a world with more than 7 billion people, each person is a component of the bigger system. Each person is a member of the system we call humanity. As Systems Theory teaches, the strength of a system is based on the sum of its parts. Each person is a part. It then presents a question for us: how can we as individuals contribute to the whole and if we desire a better world, how can we be beneficial for the whole?
We can do that by being responsible for our actions now, staying home, washing our hands often, limiting travel, and maybe leaving some toilet paper for the next customer. More than anything this is an opportunity to awaken to the bigger picture of what is happening: a false sense of separation is being exposed by means of the virus.
This is is about consciousness and what Einstein defined as “optical delusion of consciousness” - the illusion of the separate self.
Behind the masks of separation, this epidemic is giving us a tremendous opportunity to look at ourselves and any separation we have believed to be true. If Corona Virus started with one person and is now a global epidemic in 130 countries, how could we then be so different and separate? I think it clearly reveals the opposite in fact: we are one, because we are human.