The skies, seas and streets are empty. As familiar sounds fade away, a new sound has appeared. The sound of silence.
On more than one occasion over the past week, my body tossed and turned in the middle of the night as my mind struggled to make sense of all the sudden change. The sound of silence is loud inside. Very loud. I am exhausted now. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically.
One week ago, I shared a reflection about my relationship with fear in the face of a global pandemic. I wrote about how action and inaction in the face of a global health crisis are both responses to fear, just different fears. That there are two types of fear in life; those that keep us living and those that keep us from living. And how awareness practices like meditation help me feel grounded and calm in the face of extreme uncertainty.
After one of the many restless nights this past week, I spent time the next morning in an extended meditation and observed how my state changed dramatically. Where for the previous day I had been filled with anxiety, I was now fueled with inspiration. While the gravity of reality had only continued to heighten, what had changed was my perspective. Thanks to a moment of insight, I understood that my stress experience is part of my process to come to a place of positivity. However unpleasant, allowing myself the space to feel these emotions had helped me digest them.
Only then could I let go of what was, to make space for what could be. Experiencing fear was part of my journey to hope.
What once felt extraordinary now feels ordinary in the face of an ocean filled with crisis.
The first wave in this ocean is the global health crisis. We are forever indebted to the front-line professionals, who have shown up fully to defend the well being of our species. They are in this moment putting themselves, and their families, at risk to protect us. The respect we have for war veterans and military service members extends to health care professionals. They are battling an invisible and foreign enemy who is rapidly attacking humans everywhere.
This has triggered a second wave. The global financial crisis that we got a preview of this past week. Given the extreme uncertainty, the financial markets have been volatile and will continue to feel violent. The rapid announcement of major economic stimulus packages by most governments and central banks this week did little in the face of this second wave.
The architecture of our existing economic structures depends on consumer spending, the ability for people to move effortlessly between borders and that humans stay alive. The global health crisis is an earthquake to these foundational pieces of our economy. This earthquake is increasing in magnitude, not decreasing, right now.
A third wave is beginning to surface. A global social crisis. While no one is immune to the impacts of the first wave and the second wave, there are segments of our society that are particularly vulnerable. They always have been, however we will become more acutely aware in the coming months of just how much more susceptible some are. The homeless population, those incarcerated, the aging and elderly, gig workers and the entire service industry are only a few of the segments that will experience more suffering than most. The disappointing truth is that these segments collectively make up the most. Furthermore, our health care system, our educational institutions, our earth’s climate and our ecological environment are all under extreme stress, which in turn places stress on every segment in society, rich or poor.
While this rapidly approaching social crisis will be surfaced due to the first and second waves, it is really a reflection of flawed choices in the evolution of our civilization over the past few centuries.
In the face of crisis, there is clarity. Choices that we previously feared are now easy.
There is a worldwide experiment currently underway for universal basic income. It is the same governments that were previously stuck in endless debate and discussion that are leading this experiment to support our structures.
At a time when humans are having trouble breathing, the earth is breathing just fine. It has been painful to watch our institutions try to take meaningful steps towards the climate crisis in the past ten years but in the past ten days, these same institutions have ordered everyone to stay indoors and limit mobility. Pollution levels have now decreased dramatically.
Rigid and regulated professions are showing they too can adapt in the face of a crisis. Italy fast-tracked 10,000 medical students through graduation so that they could serve those in need immediately and offload the pressure on more experienced doctors.
Consumer technology platforms often attacked (including by me) for disrupting, dividing and destabilizing our society are on the digital front lines educating the public about actions to take in the face of the global health crisis. Facebook has stepped up. Zoom has enabled classrooms for free. Spotify has also played its part, among many others. I was pleasantly surprised to see Uber encourage riders to not take rides. In the face of a crisis, it is not growth at all costs.
The previous trajectory for working professionals was more time in the office and on the commute, all at the expense of time at home. These same people now have the permission, that they did not know they needed, to spend quality time with their families.
The richness of our connections, in both physical and digital spaces, has skyrocketed overnight. A friend shared with me this morning that her friends are more accessible now via video calls than ever before and that she is having many more quality conversations with the people in her life.
When I listen to politicians speak, I can no longer tell who is a conservative and who is a liberal. They all sound the same to me. They are all on the same team. Team humanity.
I feel more hopeful for the future of humanity now than ever before.
We are experiencing a unique moment in the evolution of our species. A transition from B.C. (Before Coronavirus) to A.C. (After Coronavirus). This is year zero.
We have picked up all of the pieces of the puzzle. We have been forced to unexpectedly hit the pause button. We will soon have an incredibly rare opportunity to be intentional and deliberate about how we put the pieces of the puzzle back together. We have already started to build a different A.C. puzzle.
The waves of the crises have only just begun. The compassionate actions that our governments, institutions, corporations and more have taken in only the past week is encouragement for me to feel hopeful that we have the capacity and conviction to make different choices. A.C. can and will be different than B.C., for the benefit of humanity.
In this moment, focus married with faith is a powerful combination. Having faith in the future of humanity, guided by our collective consciousness to do better and supported by the universe, allows us to focus on the actions that we can take right now. While we may not have a grand plan for how humanity will evolve from B.C. to A.C., we can have focus and faith.
It is for these reasons and more that I will sleep a little more soundly at night and wake up each morning filled with hope for the future of humanity.
We are all in this together.
A few resources and reflections:
Year Zero: the paint is fresh on a new podcast from my friend Jay Vidyarthi and I. In our first conversation, appropriately titled The Beginning, we reflect out loud about the possibilities for humanity. In the second conversation, titled Our Existence, Tita Angangco and I discuss spirituality, meaning and the skills that we need for a better future.
Fear In The Face Of A Global Pandemic: my reflection on fear, shared last week.
Tracking Coronavirus: from John Hopkins University, a dashboard that I keep open on my laptop and look at daily to understand the gravity of the health crisis unfolding.