“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions,” wrote Haruki Murakami in Kafka on the Shore –
You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn’t something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn’t get in, and walk through it, step by step. There’s no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That’s the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.
It is no news that we are currently in the midst of a “storm” that has changed our lives beyond recognition.
Millions of people are fighting for their lives, struggling at home, in intensive care units, separated from their loved ones in their hours of need. Billions are in lockdown, unable to visit one another, or go to work, or attend school.
The virus has hit hard not just at our bodies and minds, but at our most instinctive desire of being close to our family and friends, to express and receive love and care in the face of this existential threat – for even that could bring illness and death. We have, as humanity, never been so vulnerable like we are now (I may be suffering from recency bias here, but that is the way it is).
The virus has done one more thing – make us confront the true uncertainty of our existence.
How often have we believed that we are masters of the world around us (well, the virus that has brought us down is just 60-140 nanometer in diameter)? How often have we ignored our vulnerability by pretending that we are in control of our destinies? How often have we wasted our lives in the never-ending battles for power, status, and wealth?
Despite the devastation it has brought with itself, Covid has also given us a great opportunity to re-learn and teach our kids that we, the supreme species that walks this planet, are highly vulnerable in the face of uncertainty. Also, we control much-much less than we think, and that calls for the need to be humbler and kinder towards others and to recognize the value in people around us – not just family and friends, but also complete strangers.
Carl Sagan advised in his Pale Blue Dot speech in 1994 –
Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.
Going back to Murakami, he said this about the storms we face –
And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.
And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.
Mark these words. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.
Along with you, as I face this storm trying to keep myself and my family protected against it, investing in stocks or watching my portfolio or counting my net worth are the last things on my mind.
Please be safe.
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