At the moment, all of us are left with the terrifying sense that we are experiencing the most dangerous enemy we’ll ever know: invisible, all-pervasive, unpredictable and unvanquishable.
But there are real physical solutions to the pandemic: numerous, well-studied natural substances that are extraordinarily lethal virus killers. I’ve written about a number of them on these pages.
And this crisis will end – as every other pandemic before this has.
But what if we turned all of this on its head? What if we said that in some horribly weird way, this global pandemic was an opportunity that we cannot afford to miss?
What if this cataclysmic disruption to our lives was one that humanity drastically needed?
What if we required just this kind of extreme situation to force us to finally change direction?
Recently, I received a document written by my friend and colleague Ervin Laszlo, a futurist and founder and president of the Club of Budapest and author of Reconnecting to the Source (St Martin’s Press, 2020)
It was a paper entitled ‘Pandemic as Opportunity.’
Laszlo writes: ‘We are in the midst of a “bifurcation”—the process scientists call a sudden forking in the evolutionary trajectory of a complex dynamic system. . . . It is one-way, it cannot be reversed. But it is not predetermined—it allows choice.
‘In a bifurcation, we can choose the way we go. For the first time in history, we can consciously and purposefully choose our destiny. This could be a bright destiny; the dawn of a new era of sanity and flourishing. But whether it will be that is not determined. It is up to us.’
Laszlo reminds us that although bifurcation creates crisis, that crisis is ‘both danger and opportunity.’
He reminds us that our current way of life has created crises far more devastating and far-reaching than the coronavirus: millions dying of starvation, war or poverty; millions of displaced refugees; droughts and fire destroying fertile land; untold hurricanes, storms and floods from rising sea levels killing thousands and destroying millions of homes; conflict between nations escalating into near nuclear threats; our seas, mountains and arctic polluted and warmed to the point of danger.
‘Returning to business as usual, to the norms and practices and the values and assumptions of the past, would be suicidal,’ writes Laszlo.
‘Another way is now open for us. The social, economic, political, and cultural systems that have been framing our life have been shaken to their roots.
‘Disruptive change happened, and it is a prelude to fundamental change, whether constructive or destructive.’
The point, which I wrote in my book The Bond nearly a decade ago, is simply this:
‘For hundreds of years we have acted against nature by ignoring our essential connectedness and defining ourselves as separate from our world. We’ve reached the point where we can no longer live according to this false view of who we really are.
‘What’s ending the story we’ve been told up until now about who we are and how we’re supposed to live — and in this ending lies the only path to a better future.’
Although in the past decade, many teachers have argued that humanity is ‘evolving automatically,’ I have seen almost no evidence of that.
Even after the financial meltdown 12 years ago, when Wall Street traders announced, ‘The world as we know it is going down,’ the world in fact got back up on its feet, dusted itself off and essentially carried on with business as usual.
And all of us went back to sleep.
We have been slapped awake by a microbe and realized that humanity as a whole is facing this crisis – that we are part of an interdependent living system and must recognize that in order to survive.
Laszlo gives the nod to Franklin Roosevelt who in his first inaugural address in March 1933, in the midst of the Great Depression, said the famous lines: ‘The only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.’
But Roosevelt went on to remind us that we can do things in a better way: ‘The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.’
In the midst of our pandemic, the ‘I win, you lose’ mentality by which we have run our lives suddenly no longer applies. We can only save ourselves by adopting better goals and higher values.
Here is our opportunity to start over, to do it all far better, to build over the scorched ground of social and economic meltdown. This is our chance to dare to hope and dream big, to live the way you and I were supposed to live.
As I discovered when researching the Bond, all our societal creations, invested as they are in competition and individuality, run counter to our most fundamental being — that a drive for cooperation and partnership, not dominance, is fundamental to the physics of life and the biological makeup of all living things.
The coronavirus crisis is exposing in every way that most of us in the developed world are not living in harmony with our true nature.
This crisis and the resulting pause in our lives is giving us an unprecedented opportunity. We have the time and space to begin to create some new rules to live by, another way to “be.”
Don’t squander this gift. Use this hiatus to dream, dream big and start to act.