Like a Phoenix from the Ashes We Rise.

How the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us to rise to a new occasion.

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Empty streets in one of the most populated cities of Australia, evacuated business buildings, solitary people wandering rather aimlessly down the road, eyes down, lost in their own world, refraining from social interaction.

If we choose to look up instead we face a bright blue horizon, a sharp urban skyline, clear contrasts, and vivid colours. The smog and pollution (more common elsewhere than in the island nations included in Oceania) is no longer visible to the naked eye, nor do our ruminating thoughts have to compete with the incessant external noise.

Melbourne, a city comparatively safe away from the eye of the storm is calm and quiet as we now make our way into autumn, but the darkness and the turmoil from the world outside our borders seeps in via extensive media coverage, through protective screens that separate them from us, and into our living rooms. The calm outside our windows contrasts starkly with the living nightmare that has been unleashed on cities like New York, Madrid, in Italy nationwide, and in Wuhan ̶ as the much battered place where the news first broke out ̶ a megacity where the collective is finally cautiously optimistic, liberated from the virus at least for now and with that also from the total lockdown that held the country in a tight authoritarian grip for months while the whole world was watching.

While we symbolically extend our arms in sympathy with all our brothers and sisters suffering out there, those of us who feel we have made it to apparent safety must count our blessings and do our best to reach out to our fellow citizens in community spirit, offering solace and support and a listening ear in empathy and compassion. Suddenly it matters little if we have made it to a higher level in the social hierarchy. Rich or poor, status or none to speak of, is all irrelevant. All that matters is sympathy, kindness and compassion ̶ including our capacity for self-compassion. Only through accepting this new situation, keeping safe within our four walls and venturing close rather than far, ultimately allowing ourselves to slow down and disengaging from the rat-race to instead look within, can we also be there for others.

This largely unprecedented time calls for inter-connectedness, flexibility in the face of unexpected change and uncertainty, and a collective rejection of shadows and fears. Realising that we are all in this together enables us to see the light at the end of the tunnel, allowing hope to seep in. We must come together in community spirit irrespective of race, class, ethnicity, age or gender. What matters is the present and for us to stand united, against the enemy; ready to eventually welcome a Brand New Day.

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