I nearly drowned. When I was six. I was playing near the river, my parents were there but a good distance away, and there were lots of people about so it was noisy.
I was leaning out over the water trying to grab at something, lost my balance and fell in.
I still have clear memories of this. The water swirling around me, my hands stretching out for something to grab hold of.
A man walking along the pathway saved me. I remember his curly grey hair, similar to Einstein. Not sure how I knew whom Einstein was. Perhaps my older mind added the detail later. But I do know he picked me out, walked me over to my dad and said “is this yours?”
That bit always makes me laugh.
Now, you might think that my early brush with drowning would have made me fearful of deep water. But no—I adore it! Beach holidays, I’m the first one in the sea. Usually last one out! I moved to a coastal University town, took up surfing whilst there, and generally have a strong draw to the ocean. I have even been known to dive in fully clothed when I return to the sea after time away!
Yet I am always careful. I have a healthy respect for water—its power and depth.
What is my point?
A traumatic event such as this could lead to some pretty heavy phobias and anxieties. We are hard-wired for fight or flight, and when faced with things that have caused us harm in the past, it can trigger our self-preservation responses.
But it needn’t be this way. My experience taught me respect for large bodies of water, but never impeded my enjoyment of it!
So, at this time of uncertainty and heartache, I am hopeful this is something we can all learn from.
The uncertainty of an invisible threat to our health and our loved-ones; in our ability to utilise our own freewill to do and go where we choose; the heartache of losing people, jobs, livelihoods…toilet roll.
Sorry, I had to!
But now is exactly the time when we should be looking outside of our fears, understanding and respecting our fragility, and finding gratitude where we can.
Fear is so pervasive in our media saturated world. In the current climate, News updates and Government sanctioned rules serve to inform. But they also strip down our basic normality. It becomes easy to operate from a mode of self-preservation. We don’t know what is going to happen in the coming days, weeks or months.
But projection of fear only serves to prolong it! So, as I have been looking into the future with hope for change that could bring more light and deeper connection to our world, I wanted to share them with you!
Fear of Death
This is a biggie off the top, but it’s insanely worth noting, so deserves to be front and center!
“To follow the path of wisdom has never been more urgent or more difficult… [But] the entire society in which we live seems to negate the very idea of sacredness or eternal meaning. So at the time of our most acute danger, when our very future is in doubt, we as human beings find ourselves at our most bewildered, and trapped in a nightmare of our own creation.”
– The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, by Sogyal Rinpoche.
The nightmare is our own ego. The thing that rails against what is and tries to make everything what we want it to be. Just for us. And within this lies the denial of death, because who could ever conceive of a world in which they don’t exist?
It is the core reason we act selfishly, and often spare little thought for future generations. When we start to think outside of our limited worldview, we can operate from a greater sense of wisdom, and start accepting the status quo. Acceptance is calming, reducing our screaming inner voice and making it more possible to hear others, and offer help.
Most people don’t like to think about their mortality, or that of their nearest and dearest. But in doing so, you find richer value in living. And it is not just in fearing death of life, but death of normality, and our previous life.
Yes, at the moment we cannot go out and, yes there is the very real threat of death as the toll increases due to Covid-19. But lets use this as a time to reflect on what makes our lives worth living.
Friends, family, hugs, nature, cultural pursuits. Whatever it is that brings a smile to your face, whatever it is you cannot do right now, hold it in your heart and be grateful that it is something you have had! Something you may well have again. Be grateful for the people, the life, you are afraid of losing!
I hope that in the future we will hold death closer to us, freeing ourselves from its presence as a spectre, enriching ourselves with the ability to value the simple things more ardently.
Acts of Kindness
The ways in which some have acted selfishly has been outshone by great acts of kindness. From greater community spirit on the ground, to footballers closing their hotels and offering free rooms to self-isolating NHS staff. People up and down the country donating food and provisions, offering to do shopping or cook meals for more vulnerable people, NHS staff and key workers are risking their health and lives every day to care for the sick. Even the very heart-warming story of the children who used their pocket money to buy toilet rolls, donating them to the older residents of their street!
There are wonderful people on Facebook posting videos and live-streaming fun, creative projects to help ease boredom and loneliness. Fitness influencers like Joe Wicks’ morning fitness classes help maintain routine for families with children, and others like Noel Fielding’s online art classes to young and old! Theatres are streaming live performances for free, comedians are doing online shows—the creative collective is trying to bring sparkle back into our lives and give us something to smile about…
Around the world, people are doing lovely things in the spirit of community values. And that is just fucking magical!
These inspiring tales should motivate us all to do what we can. Not everyone is in the position to help others, but even just reaching out to have a chat with an isolated neighbour can be a source of great comfort at such an unnerving time.
I hope that this will inform greater community action, as we remember just how delicate our position in this world can be. It is worth it just to be reminded of how much we really need each other.
Redressing of Societal Function
Many reports pointed to a massive financial crisis coming our way this year. The outbreak of this pandemic—with its resultant closure of many businesses, slowing of the economy, and Government handouts—is likely set to seal our fate in this matter.
This is going to be a difficult time on the global financial stage, but a time where we start taking a hard look at our financial and capitalist systems. Namely, focusing on whether these are working for the vast majority of populations.
With the advent of Bitcoin and other decentralised (meaning controlled by Government or Banking industry, nor any third party) Alt-coins, there is the potential to start looking outside of our fragile fiat currencies, toward something that may be more stable, and less susceptible to inflation.
I am not the most financially savvy person in the world, and I am not suggesting that everyone pour money into Cryptocurrency. I am simply saying it is something to look, an the timing has never been more prudent. The coming financial upheavals could certainly change the way we deal with money in the future, as it has been slowly since the inception of Bitcoin.
Added to this, the ways in which the Freelance and Self-employed workers have been treated is a call to arms that cannot be ignored. Those who have encouraged industry, created their own work, paid their taxes, working diligently on their own terms, are now facing the same issues as employed people but without the same support.
I mentioned our creative industries earlier, how they are offering free entertainment at a time like this. These are just some of the people who will not be getting any Government handouts, and it breaks my heart.
This needs to change. Not everyone can amass savings, especially those living in the most expensive cities in the world. There needs to be more support for creatives, entrepreneurs and other self-employed people in times of crisis. Granted, the current situation is unprecedented in our lifetime, and the Governments are rolling with the punches. I even feel sorry for Boris!
At any rate, I hope there will be demand for change in policy moving forward.
Put simply, at this time we can start looking at how society works for us. Whether change needs to come. We can all do this. Take this time of isolation to learn more socially, politically and economically. Ask questions. Move out of your comfort zone. Then perhaps we can collectively start asking for the changes we need.
Nature Catching a Break
With fewer cars, planes and boats, or more importantly fewer people moving around, Mother Nature certainly is getting a well-earned rest. Venice’s waterways are reportedly the clearest they have been in years. Images of China’s reduced air pollution (a reduction in levels of Nitrogen dioxide from cars and power plants shut down during the crisis) are staggering. This is the chemical said to cause respiratory problems.
This is lovely stuff, but will it last once normal service resumes?
I hope it will make people see that even the smallest amount of time can make a difference to natural habitats, our air and our water. I hope that the impending economic situation will make us think more carefully about what we buy and throw away, how we spend our time, even about taking holidays closer to home.
As someone who travels a lot, I know I certainly need to!
As we are able to venture from our homes once more, I look forward to perhaps seeing new facets within the eco-system around us. How it may have changed in such a short time. I hope this will give us pause, and help to generate greater interest in keeping our green spaces and blue waters just that.
There is much more that I could say, but I will leave it here. I—like many—have been fearful of the current situation and enforced isolation. I have worried about loved ones and how this will affect my own life.
Yet in stepping outside this thought pattern and counting my blessings—looking to the wonderful people helping others and thinking about positive changes we could bring about if only we aim to learn from this situation—I started to hope for great things.
I believe it can happen, if we are mindful and respectful. If we swap fear for gratitude, aiming for positive changes in reaction to adversity.