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A view from a distance

I accepted the virus as a correction of the system and not as an intruder! I understand that it's really difficult for some of you to subscribe to this kind of thought, but there are always many sides to a story.

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a different perspective of the pandemic

It happened once when I took a sabbatical and went off to the hills for four years. It was a long evening at work, and as I looked out of the window from my office in Mumbai, the setting sun seemed to laugh at me. As if it said, “look, I have done my part and my purpose for the day is over… I live my own life irrespective of you being there or not, and I will be back but only on my schedule.” Suddenly the depth of the statement hit me hard. A little introspection reflected that a significant part of our existence is focused away from us – we don’t live the life we would love to live – we live for others, always tuned on what the outside world has to say about me, how they define me, how much likes and follow my profile (not the real me) gets and so on…  

It was after a fortnight, 3000 miles away, and 3000 meters up in a remote Himalayan village, I realized for the first time what internal bliss was. I realized why solitude was so different from loneliness and how the silence was so engrossing after the noise faded – noise from the laptop, mobile, Tv, newspapers, radio, people, everything. I realized why our senses and understanding remain stuffed and crammed with nonsense most of the time and what it feels like to have them restored. How the silence of the mountains, the flowering of a bud, the moving stars has so many hidden words in them. It was a different feel. It’s something like looking at things from a distance. If you hold a ruler close to your eyes, you can see the mm’s only, move back further, and you can see cm’s then meter – the further you move, the scale increases, and it’s then you lose vision of the smaller things while the broader picture becomes clear. 

I traveled back to a different city after four years of a blissful life with simple down to earth tribal people and a few Buddhist monks. But the smile never left and which I carried back with me. I felt like a finger dipped in oil, which can go in any water without actually touching it. Success, as defined by the outside world, never bothered me as much as walking on grass. 

And then came the Pandemic – creating a social tsunami by enforcing isolation on the highest form of life on this planet. By turning every social norm upside down, erasing lives, jobs, stocks, and all things we consider important for existence. And once again, it was the setting sun which spoke to me. But this time, it was different. As if he said, “look at the sky around me – do you see color instead of the dull grey spread? Do you see the birds? Can you feel the fresh air around you? and finally, do you know why this is happening?” I remained speechless for a while and then started wondering. 

The one realization I experienced strongly in the hills was that nature does not like redundancy, and it corrects anything which causes harm to its balance. I can write more on the first one, but for now, I will reserve it for a future post. The second part is interesting too – if there’s a heatwave, there will be a storm. It might cause some damage, but in the end, it will cool things down. There are no sharp edges in nature – a simple wind can tame the sharpest rock over time. The other realization was the fact that we, as human beings, are not the sole owners of the only landlords of this planet. 

Irrespective of its origin, the virus creating this havoc is very much part of the system. We cannot ignore that. If man created it, man himself is a part of the system. So, the first thought which came to my mind was, is it the end of the species – homo sapiens as science defines us? The logic was simple – study shows that many years ago, the Neanderthals made way for us only due to Pandemic. They moved outside from the African continent without the immunity for diseases we carried and, after living side by side for 40K years or so, suddenly became extinct. 

So, is it the end for us as a species? Have we done enough to deserve this? Or was this long-overdue much after the first industrial revolution when we started burning millions of tons of coal and started spewing smoke and spitting chemicals in the rivers and oceans? Or maybe it’s a punishment for removing 46% of the forest and continuing with the process? Or is it for farming our co-habitants en masse just to slaughter them for food? 

As you can see from the trends of my thought, I accepted the virus as a correction of the system and not as an intruder! I understand that it’s really difficult for some of you to subscribe to this kind of thought, but there are always many sides to a story.

As each day passed by, I went more in the introspection mode and started moving away to a distance to see everything from a different perspective… to a distance from where I could see the world as a garden and have a small sit next to the gardener to share his views. On how he felt as he saw his lush green garden slowly turning barren with a concrete jungle spreading all across… on how he felt when black smoke started covering the air… when the oceans and rivers got choked with plastic… when the mountains had to let go of their white shining caps… on how he felt when he heard the cries of millions of birds, billions of farm animals dying just to feed the so-called most intelligent species to whom he leased his garden. 

To say the least, it was indeed disturbing. Had I been the gardener, I would have long canceled the lease and kicked out the occupants, but I realized that his system seems to be more tolerant, specific, and scientific. His scale of time is different … it spanned billions of years. A million years for us was just a blink for him … he has seen continents move, mountains grow, he has seen species come and go, and much more… 

So, what can we really do? Today everything has boiled down to survival. Though we still find businesses and competition existing, wars, violence, exploitation continuing – we must remember, this is only ‘one’ virus! What happens if there is a barrage of viruses? Nature has a system of warning – there is always a lull before a storm … maybe we still have time, or maybe we don’t… only the future holds the answer.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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