These last few weeks have been challenging for many of us in many different ways. Watching the news, keeping up with local mandates, making difficult decisions with regards to our families and our places of work can be extremely overwhelming. All the worry and anxiety surrounding the spread of coronavirus has left many of us shaken and filled with fear.
Understandably so, the spread of a virus is a scary thought and everyone of us is responsible to do our due diligence to prevent the further escalation of a disease.
If you own a smartphone, a laptop or a TV, you already know the steps you can take to help minimize the spread, I’m not here to talk about that.
Instead, I’m reaching out to talk about our reaction to this crisis.
How are we as individuals and as a society handling these turbulent times?
Can we be a little calmer, a little kinder and maybe a little wiser?
How is this stress reflecting on our loved ones?
Are we still acting from a place of love or are we letting fear dictate our actions?
Are we allowing this topic to create a divide between us and the people we care about?
And are we truly living in this present moment or are we obsessing and fearing of things to come?
Things that may or may not come…
These are just a few questions to ponder on while we’re social distancing ourselves.
There is another, underlying but very real threat in our current situation, that threat is panic. Surely you’ve seen photos of bare shelves in supermarkets or videos of people arguing over a pack of toilet paper, all these instances are a colorful display of panic at its finest.
The literal definition of panic is: sudden, uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior. And if you think about it, there has been a whole lot of wildly unthinking behavior in our communities lately.
Why do we act the way we do when things get a little rough?
Why are we so easily influenced by the media?
Why do so many seem to loose their sense of reason when times get tough?
The answer is fear.
Fear is an intense motivator and since we live in a modern world where we are sheltered from most of nature’s dangers, we’ve created a reality where most people expect total protection from any threat. Whether this protection comes from the government, the military or some other relief group, we expect to be protected. And if these agencies suddenly come short of our expectation, what happens to us? Fear. Followed by panic.
Modern day comforts and inventions have provided us the luxury to become gentle and naive. For many generations, our ancestors have passed on imperative survival skills which took them thousands of years to develop. Skills like hunting, gathering, growing food, cooking, building shelter, understanding nature’s medicine, etc. All these skills were vital in the survival of a tribe.
But with the invention of the assembly line and various other technological innovations, we’ve little by little outsourced these critical skills. Striping down our skill sets to the very bare bones. Which in turn allowed us more time for entertainment and enjoyment of life. That’s well and good when things are well. But what happens when tragedy strikes?
These days we don’t know how to grow our own food. We don’t know how to fix things. We don’t know how to wash our clothes by hands. We don’t know how to walk for an extended period of time to get to a market and return home carrying groceries by foot. Many even don’t know how to cook. So what happens when tragedy strikes and we are left to our own devices? What do we do?
Most of us feel fear. Then panic. Panic can bring out the ugliest colors in people’s behavior, because after all panic is a sudden, uncontrollable fear often causing wildly unthinking behavior. Therefore, when a threat comes knocking on our door, fear kicks in and panic reacts.
The hard truth is panic has never ever helped anyone survive. Survival instinct does that, but it is often overshadowed by panic.
So what can we do to stop the panic and instead jump into rational action?
The answer is, education. How can we use education to help us persevere during difficult times?
Perhaps we can learn from our mistakes. Maybe we need to learn to be more self sufficient and therefore more resilient to threats. Or many we need to practice mindfulness and our critical thinking a bit more, so that we can stop panic in its track. Maybe we need to watch the news a little bit less so that we allow space for our own ideas to emerge. Or maybe, we need to bring some of our ancestors crafts and skills back in to our children’s education and into our homes.
For example do you know how to make soap? That could be a fun project for the family. (and if we know how to make soap, we don’t really need to stress running out of toilet paper, just saying…)
Have you ever tried pickling veggies as our relatives used to do before food was readily available on the shelves of stores? Even if emergencies never come, this project is a fun food to have anytime of year!
Learning how to tend to our own garden is a tremendously useful and relaxing skill.
Let’s face it, we can’t know it all but if each one of us knows some specific useful skill, then together as a community we can share our craftsmanship, exchange ideas, barter if things get tough and ensure we see to our own survival.
Education is an incredibly powerful tool that can help us stand tall in times of stress. It can help us read between the lines and allow us to tell truth from fiction. It can separate us from the herd. It can help us emerge as leaders when people are in desperate need of leadership.
Let’s use this at home time wisely. Learn a new skill or perfect an existing one. Spend time in creation. Read. Write. Exercise the mind. Exercise the body. Stretch the confines of our knowledge and come out as a wiser and stronger individuals on the other side of this crisis.
In the words of Mr. Einstein “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.”
Are you seizing yours?