“Together, we form a necessary paradox; not a senseless contradiction.” ― Criss Jami
Reflecting on a year that’s gone by is something we typically do this time of year.
We think about all the things that happened to us: the wins, losses, and lessons. More importantly, we think of the ways we can make the next year better. But this year is different.
Coming to terms with all that’s happened in 2020 is going to be difficult for many. Even if you were not directly impacted, it can be hard to wrap your head around the changes in our world. The term “we’re all in this together,” has taken on a whole new meaning.
Going through the first global pandemic in the Information Age is something no one could have imagined earlier this year. It would have sounded like a bizarre plot out of a science fiction novel or a Hollywood movie. But it happened, and now we must come to terms with all the lives lost and all the lost time and opportunities.
As with all tragic occurrences, perspective is our saving grace. Thinking back to similar events in history can offer that, as well as an opportunity to connect with the shared human experience.
While the 2020 pandemic is undoubtedly exceptional, it’s not the first time humans have dealt with a major health crisis. Global pandemics like the Bubonic Plague (or the Black Death) in the 14th century that killed around 25 million people, and the 1918 Spanish Influenza that claimed at least 50 million lives worldwide, wreaked havoc in the lives of people.
There were no adequate healthcare facilities, medications, and treatments that could relieve and reduce disease symptoms in those former pandemics. Those who lived in pain and isolation had no access to the technology we enjoy today, meaning there were fewer opportunities to stay connected, entertained, and informed. Yet they still found ways to cope. Time after time, humans have shown resilience.
As a species, we’re gifted with adaptable and nimble minds. We’re curious creatures, willing to step outside our comfort zones. The ability and instinct to survive are encoded in our DNA, but it’s also imprinted in our human spirit. Science concocts the antidotes to immunize us from the virus, but it’s our spiritual beliefs that immunize us from hopelessness and allows us to keep moving.
Many spiritual gurus regard the challenging events of 2020 as a time for healing and a global spiritual reset. On the surface, this period looks like a time of disruption and despair, when it’s really a deeper call for each and every one of us to hit the pause button and recalibrate. It’s an invitation to slow down and appreciate the things we missed when we were busy and ego-driven.
Eckhart Tolle, author of “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose,” says that it is an opportunity for a radical shift for humanity. He writes:
“When the old way of being in the world, of interacting with each other and with the realm of nature doesn’t work anymore, an individual life-form or a species, will either die or become extinct, or rise above the limitations of its condition through an evolutionary leap.”
The evolutionary leap Tolle refers to is one towards love and compassion—the only form of consciousness that will help us address problems that plague our planet, such as social injustice and climate change, that could potentially destroy the planet if we don’t act.
We don’t have to be in a position of power to be a driving force for change. There are plenty of opportunities to be of service from our own backyards. Sometimes all it takes is one small act of kindness to create a ripple effect that will make all the difference.
It can be as simple as holding space for friends and family who need someone to listen to them. During these challenging times, supporting each other is more important than ever, and we can be pillars of strength to those who need it.
Over the course of this year, not only did we learn a lot about ourselves, but we witnessed new sides to people in general. Here are five things 2020 has taught us about humanity:
1. Everything on our planet is interconnected: Scientists suspect that COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease, a virus transmitted from animals to humans. Studies show that 75% of emerging diseases originate from wildlife. If we are to prevent another pandemic, we must change our relationship with nature. Within a few months of detection, the virus rapidly spread to almost every country. It saw no socio-political boundaries, and our differences and the distances that separated us didn’t matter. It was a wakeup call reminding us how interdependent we are when it comes to communication, technology, healthcare, trade, and travel.
2. Everyone has an important role to play: Traditionally, the lion’s share of public recognition goes to the rich and famous. But this year unveiled heroes who were mostly invisible to us in the past: front-line workers such as grocery store employees, transportation workers, janitors, delivery people, etc. It became undeniably clear how essential their roles were in providing necessities and meeting our basic needs, especially in times of crises. Their sacrifice, selflessness, and calm proved that it takes a team effort to keep humanity’s ship afloat.
3. We are built for social connections: As the adage goes, “you never realize the value of something until it’s gone.” We realized the importance of human contact and social interaction once we no longer had it. Efforts to reduce the spread of the virus such as quarantine, social distancing, and stay-at-home orders exacerbated feelings of isolation and loneliness. Gestures that warm our hearts, like a hug, a chat with your neighbor, coffee with a friend, and a handshake became out of bounds. As humans, we need relationships to feel safe, loved, and secure. This year really brought this home for many of us.
4. No one is better than anyone: A virus makes no exceptions when it comes to who it infects. The spread effect is indiscriminate. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you earn. It doesn’t matter what title or prestige you have, or what your race or ethnic background is. All those social hierarchies become meaningless – they can’t protect you from the vulnerability that comes with being mortal. The pandemic, and social movements like Black Lives Matter, leveled the playing field and made us see that we’re all on equal ground. We share the same basic anatomy, the same fears and hopes, and we all go through the same life cycle.
5. We’re more empathetic than we think: During times of disaster and crises, people have demonstrated a natural instinct to reach out and help those who need it most. 2020 was no exception. There were plenty of people who showed up for one another. Schools provided drive-through meals to students, people sent sanitary supplies and groceries to their neighbors, restaurants donated food to first responders, and hospital workers and education companies offered kids studying from home free subscriptions to their learning platforms, among many other examples. This year revealed our humanity through these acts of altruism and kindness.
As devastating and scary as the past few months have been, we can rise from the ashes of this shakeup feeling stronger and more grateful. We can find more meaning in our day-to-day lives and appreciate every moment because we realize how precious it is. Every breath we take is a gift—an invitation to bring more life into everything we do. That is what 2020 has taught us about humanity.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What are some of the biggest lessons 2020 has taught you about humanity? How has that changed your perspective?
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