Our world is being stretched. The tightened skin becomes translucent. It’s like a magic trick, only the illusion is punctured instead of unfurled. What’s really there can no longer be hidden. The make-up is sloughing off. It’s challenging, but clearly it’s needed.
We have far to fall. But the ground is close. As close as we make it. That’s because the ground is us. We are the ones who will catch each other. Not the institutions we’ve made. Not the halls of justice, which fail us in our time of need. But people. People are shining. People are making the difference.
It is true we are falling. But we are falling from the limbs of unwholesome dreams. Dreams of empire. Of economic supremacy. Of earthly power and glory.
We invented toilet paper in 1857. If a generation is 25 years, then we’re in the seventh generation since this fantastic invention. That’s one of the brands we use here at home. There is such beautiful irony in this, I swear. I’m not trying to minimize the impact of this disease, but our capabilities today are unprecedented. We probably don’t know the true mortality rate of Covid-19, but let’s call it 3% or 4%. That’s a quarter of the quantity of the world’s population that doesn’t have enough to eat. According to the World Health Organization, there were 2.3 million new tuberculosis cases in 2018 that were attributable to malnutrition.
I comprehend and grieve with those who will face profound suffering in their lives and in their families because of this virus. At the same time, it is remarkable to me that not that long ago the Native Americans faced smallpox that ravaged whole populations, or political forces beyond their control that deceived, pillaged and killed them, or forced them to look on, powerless, as the bison were systematically exterminated. This isn’t like the days when Africans were shackled and dragged across the sea en masse to be beaten and worked to death and spit upon in service of the elite nation-states and economies of the world. These aren’t the days when immigrants to the United States worked themselves to death on docks, in factories and meat packing plants—laboring through disease and famine and drought.
It’s surely not fair to compare one age to the next. We are not those people, and these are not those times. But it’s wrong to think the disease was different in each of these ages. It’s incorrect to think the disease that kills most human beings in our day today is any different than the diseases of the past, because the disease was greed. The disease was specialness, elitism, the hunger for power, and the fear of falling into the misfortunes of the many. The fear of losing what we’ve gained. The fear of being like everyone else. The world hasn’t changed with the onset of Covid-19—it is only being revealed to us once again.
Hopefully we see it for what it is, and hopefully we realize the profound gift we all are to one another.
There is a line from A Course of Love that seems most apropos for this revelation, and that is the idea that in accordance with the Laws of Love, There is no loss, only gain. For what do we lose, but our specialness and our privilege? And what do we gain, but the humbling appreciation of our mutuality?
This quote is from the second Treatise in A Course of Love: An understanding of the mutuality of needs will aid you in being honest about your needs, thus allowing them to be met. Then the need to define or to identify them ceases. Your needs only continue to be brought to your awareness as needs until your trust in their immediate and ongoing fulfillment is complete. Once this trust is realized you will no longer think in terms of needs at all. Once you are no longer concerned with needs and the meeting of needs you will no longer be concerned with special relationships. You will realize that there is no loss but only gain involved in letting them go.
It is specialness that distorts the truth. The truth that all can be provided for.
These are hardly the worst of the worst times that we have faced. And again, with a full heart for those who suffer directly as a result of this disease, and for all those who suffer from all of the various diseases manifest in our world, I would like to say that Covid-19 is gentle as far as wake-up calls go. It is not a scourge, but a crack in the façade of a normalcy that isn’t working, and hasn’t been working, and which we don’t know how to fix without a nudge or two in the direction of our shared humanity.
I am humbled by those delivering groceries to the elderly, by those singing opera from the balconies, by those working from home while caring for their children. I had a conference call last week: five senior managers in track suits at their laptops. It was heartening. We are all the same. Not in our fear, but in our needs. In our humanity. And when we acknowledge this, when we no longer accept as status quo the specialness and power-mongering that divide us, the world will transform.
And it will be good.