Are you tired of headlines about COVID-19?
I am. Every morning when I wake up, I’d ask myself, is this a nightmare? All of our dreams and goals are disrupted. Even a simple thing like sitting at the coffeeshop to enjoy my favourite meal is out of the question, for now. This is just a minuscule matter compared to people in other nations on perpetual lockdown.
While half of the world’s population is forced to stay home or to be quarantined, no one knows when this pandemic is going to end. But according to experts, the world will never be quite the same even when this is over.
History has a way of repeating itself
In 165 AD, Marcus Aurelius’ Roman Empire was hit with the Antonine Plague. Despite the distance of so many centuries, it is eerily similar to COVID-19. It caused widespread panic, but Marcus Aurelius was a beacon of sanity and stability during these times. The plague in Marcus’ time began with flu-like symptoms that escalated, had killed 10 to 18 million and the plague lasted for 15 years. History has a way of repeating itself as the Roman Emperor wrote in his diary at some point during the plague that “To bear in mind constantly that all of this has happened before, and will happen again.” But why does humanity make the same mistakes and succumb to the same fears?
“This is an invisible war,” echoed by the authorities around the world. Everyone is forced to adapt to the new normal, but I hope those who are reading this can find time to feel light-hearted and grateful even though a majority of your days will feel like the same in the time of quarantine.
Examine our lifestyle
Perhaps this crisis is a time for every one of us to count our blessings. Today, if you have a place for shelter, freed from illnesses and able to have your meals three times a day, you’re truly a fortunate human being. The novel coronavirus forces us to take a hard look at our lifestyle pursuits laying bare what truly matters. When stripped away from all the finer things in life, what are you truly left with? Memories, laughter, friendships, kindness, wisdom, love? But then again, what about those struggling with a lack of resources, trying to balance work, childcare and ageing parents at home? There are no flawless answers, but I’ve developed a newfound appreciation for our Singapore Government.
For the record, today is April 16, day 10 of circuit breaker, I have not had my favourite cup of coffee at my favourite cafe since day 1. My peace of mind continues to be threatened by a sense of ennui. The first quarter of the year has passed and before we know it, half a year has gone by.
Are we truly at the mercy of fate? Well, if you look at history, civilisations have been through enormous events beyond their control. It serves as a stark reminder of our human existence— thou art mortal.
I’ve picked up my favourite novel again – A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. The protagonist, once an aristocrat, was sentenced to a lifetime of confinement in a luxurious hotel in Moscow during the tumultuous political climate in Russia in 1922, and the conflict faced by the protagonist was very much internal.
The mind anxious about the future is unhappy
His circumstances have changed as a result of the country’s political turmoil and he demonstrated that it is human to be anxious about the future. What does the future holds when he can no longer be seen on the streets of Moscow or to travel across Europe, but to be confined in the four walls of the hotel. He referenced Seneca’s proverb that “The mind anxious about the future is unhappy.”
The protagonist was a student of philosophy, he embraced his misfortune and resolved to master his circumstances. He acknowledged that if a man does not master his circumstances then he is bound to be mastered by them. Like Robinson Crusoe stranded on the Isle of Despair, the protagonist would maintain his resolve by committing to the business of practicalities.
There’s no ‘normalcy’ in a global pandemic
Ah, wise words – the business of practicalities.
The physical isolation and sudden departure from familiar routines can be emotionally jarring. And when everything is beyond our control, the practicalities of life seem to be the antidote to despair.
It’s OK to re-order our priorities to stay sane, for now, it could be making sure you have enough groceries and masks and cleaning your house more often.
I’m slowly coming to terms that there’s no ‘normalcy’ during the global pandemic and I’m taking each day as it comes.
When the situation around the world looks bleak, put a hand over your heart to feel its beat. Know that you’re alive and you are making a difference by staying at home.
Last but not least, if you find yourself in a position to give back, you can show your support to the communities affected by COVID-19 here.