As we enter our small room to self-isolate, we enter the big hall of silence. Silence speaks, but we must want to listen. Life as we have been used to, have come to a halt. Our schedules have decluttered. Workplace targets are suddenly no longer important. We have entered a waiting zone. We can bring the outside in and shatter the silence with fear, or we can bring our inside out to embrace this silence and find out who we truly are. Precious time is now in our hands. Contemplate life by listening to the sound of silence.
People of every difference have never been more united in focus and fight, this “enemy against humanity”. There are a few things this virus does not know. It does not know the differences that seem to separate people, our religion or beliefs, the color of our skin, nationalities or borders, our status, rich or poor, our gender or age. It does not know what discrimination is. What it seems wise to is that all humans are equal, and all humanity is one. This virus has so far treated us as such.
Fear. Underlying this fear is our fight to live. Behind the silence, this gift of life. We are cherishing life as never before. Fear is the barometric value we place on the pricelessness of life. Fear is the natural, human response when life is threatened. It is our first response. Fear expresses itself in extreme behavior. Behind the person who hoard, or stockpile is still a person much capable of compassion. Because it is for compassion and from compassion that you and I were created. Who am I? Who have I become? Who do I want to be? But who should I be when this life is returned to me?
Who have we become?
For a generation or more, we have unknowingly been in the process of self-isolation. Our view of this life, which today we are fighting for, our attitudes and behavior had gradually evolved into one of self-interest, self above others, as we took part in the march towards ‘personal rights’. We have widened the chasm in life, between rich and poor, the powerful and the weak, discriminating between cultures along racial lines. On the banks of this chasm, we rule that we must first take care of ‘self’.
Governments and cultures had different first responses to fight the virus. The East was largely branded as authoritarian states imposing draconian lockdown measures on an obedient population who did not feel individually infringed. People just went inside their homes; few were shouting for “personal rights”. In the silence, the “obedient” understood a little bit more about the order of life.
Humanity, regardless from East or West, is evolving along this chosen path of life. Government authority has shrunk into individual and personal authority as humanity embrace the right to “personal rights”. Where large borders were once drawn to take care of the country, borders are now re-drawn to take care of self. This new ‘personal authority’ blind-siding us to see things for the greater good of all. This quest for self-authority leads to the individual to being self-isolated from the community of life, asymptomatic of a virus that attacks our spiritual health.
We are trying desperately to catch up on lessons from life as this virus rapidly move to lockdown countries, shutting the world down. We learn that humanity is one and every human need one other. No man survives self-isolation for being self-centered. Yet self-centeredness is a spiritual virus that has been with humanity a long time. In this silence, we must come to this awareness.
The vaccine for this spiritual virus is humility and self-denial, to recognize that we must put the common good ahead of self. It is not so complex if we find a way to unconditionally love the other person. It starts from our inside, to bring to the outside who we truly are. Our created image was made in the likeness of good, as a vessel of love. We see that proven in the innocence of a child. But the paths we chose for ourselves in life had corrupted that innocence. In this silence, vice-gripped by the virus, we have no where to go but to go inside our self and contemplate on who we truly are.
To self-deny is to concede an opinion which is simple and tough at the same time. Wearing, or not wearing a mask can create an argument. The immediate suffering does not come from the virus but from not winning the argument. Self-denial is to wear a mask if not wearing one causes a scandal. To be obedient is also to self-deny.
Humility and self-denial close the wide chasm in humanity. It starts with every human regardless of power and status. People in high positions of leadership playing the blame game, calling names and politicizing the virus cause an embarrassment to our true inner self that make even quarrelling little children on a playground blush. But this is a human weakness, we all suffer this in varying degrees.
Humanity has come a long way, moving and progressing in many directions. We attempted to control nature, to control Creation. The virus is not nature hitting back, nor the Creator punishing. It has come about as a result of a series on consequences of the paths we have chosen in life. And it will get worse if we do not come together as one, urgently. When we were created, we were told that the only path we choose through life is the path that says, “Love God, love others”. Humility allows us to concede that yes, there is a God after all.
Self-denial is to give away all my anxieties and fear. It is to deny myself to worry and put trust in God for this outcome. It is time to make the journey deep into our hidden self to discover who we truly are. In that self-isolation we might just be unmasked of who we have become. And to know that we are not alone.
Who do I want to be when this virus returns my life back to me?
A contemplative passage through a very difficult Lent.
Grateful thanks to Fr John Murray for pointing the way, “Contemplate!”