Out of the cave and into the LIGHT, I survived Covid-19
Friday, May 29, 2020
I'm one of the blessed ones who survived the coronavirus attack. A few weeks ago, I was convalescing, confronted by the attack of this virus (which is dreadful). There were, of course, moments of tension and anxiety. And there should be moments of stress and anxiety because it's life itself, death itself at play, and the realisation that there are a million things out of our control every moment of every day. (If you want to know gory details, it all started with muscular pains which I can only compare with the pain I suffered years ago, after running the London Marathon, and fevers hovering around 40 degrees. I lost 5 kilos in the space of a week).
But what got me through this trance, to the extent that I am here now, blessed be the name of the Lord, enjoying this splendid afternoon in my beloved London, glorious sun pouring through my window while I record this conversation with you? My faith. My faith in God, my giant appetite for life, and the beautiful, constant support of my family and friends. I received hundreds of messages of support -many people were praying for me, asking God for me and my health all over the world because I have precious friends across the globe. And to once again attest their generosity of spirit was something beautiful.
I cannot go into more detail because it would take hours to do so. But with my calloused old sea-wolf hands, I want to pull out three or four pearls from this treasure chest of my experience with the virus, and I present them to you with my sincere affection now.
1. This is a time to come out of ourselves. Confinement locks us in but pushes us beyond our limits. What a paradox that locked in the silence (or mild insanity) of our homes and families we can travel much further, higher or lower than ever before. Which of the two options will we choose? Will we continue to climb to the top, aiming to reach the summit... or will we fall lower than ever, until we disappear into the blackness at the bottom of the cliff? Falling is the most natural thing, and we don't even need to plan for it: all we need to do to fall is... nothing! All we have to do is to allow ourselves to fall. Let go of the wheel. Surrender. Give up. Stop fighting. So, it's not worth wasting time even talking about it. Let's aim high! Our doors are shut, but our hearts don't need to be.
This is a time for us to think of others, and especially those who are in greater danger and need than we are. That will force us to see beyond our little world, our limited experiences, and allow us to go out into an inner space that is practically without limits (and look how we keep stumbling into paradoxes: that we have to "go out...into an inner space").
There are thousands upon thousands of innocent people like you and me dying in the world right now, at this very moment, at the hands of an invisible enemy. An enemy that no one is safe from that operates beyond all ideology, religion or gender, race, culture or language; that could kill us regardless of our financial success or academic achievements, or how many likes we have on Instagram. We are facing a relentless assassin of the human race.
If these unexpected circumstances don't give us the mental, emotional and spiritual latitude, the brain and the heart to think about humankind and not only of ourselves; to feel and discover ourselves to be part of something much higher, much more complex, much more sublime than ourselves... I don't know what is going to have to happen for us to open our eyes, our minds, our hearts! I hope that this is not the case: this is a moment to expand out of ourselves, thinking about those who are in greater danger and need than you and I, in poorer countries than ours, in situations much more desperate than ours; in violent and toxic families very different from ours. Yes, I said "toxic families". Imagine - we are all locked up at home... but what about all those children in violent, corrupt, drug-, alcohol- or sex abusing families? Children for whom their own family is their greatest calamity and their clear and present danger, when it should be their source of life, their oasis at the end of the day, their refuge! There are too many rotten, dysfunctional, toxic families that visit the ugliest crimes, abuse and violence on their own children, and on disabled and vulnerable people, older people, and of course women, and many men too, because there is also a lot of abuse of men by women. (After all, power corrupts women too). Now, thanks to this pandemic, all these victims are locked in with their abusers 24/7…what can they do? What can WE do? This is a time for us to think and pray for them every day, and to do whatever we can to protect and heal them.
2. Animation, inSPIRation... "anima" means "soul", "breath of life"... Let us infuse all those with whom we come into contact with the breath of life. This is a DIVINE gift; this is God's role in creation: to create and then breathe life into that creation. We are created in the "image and likeness" of God, and therefore we share, we possess, we embody the image and likeness of GOD HIMSELF. Amazing! God in His far-fetched, unbridled goodness has made us so like Him that we possess many of His attributes, such as breathing life into someone else. May those around us be inspired, excited, comforted when they talk to us. If not, we lost the game, we failed. We lost our chance to manifest our divine nature, to in-spirit, in-spire, to anim-ate, to give the breath of life to someone else. Our opportunity to be healers, not destroyers of others. May everyone we come into contact with return home with our precious gift of life in their hands.
3. We must simplify our lives. Here's the third idea: now is the time to simplify our lives to make them more productive. Just as we need to prune our plants, so they give us more and better flowers, we need to frequently prune our life, our habits, our diet, our readings, our distractions, our relationships so that we too give more and better flowers. Let's discard all those things that are stunting and dwarfing our growth, everything that may be a parasite to our souls, from our diet and distractions to our possessions and relationships. If it's not healthy and healing, it has to go. Let's be very brave and ask ourselves, "If I died today, what would survive of me?" And then, "What is it about me that I would be ashamed for others to discover when I'm gone?"
These are not rhetorical questions, nor are they idle ones. These are the very questions that I had to ask myself very recently, and with vital urgency. I was on the threshold – with my nose pressed to the door of this dilemma at the end of March 2020, thanks to that loud wake-up call that is the virus. The million-dollar question - which if answered correctly will yield us much more than a million dollars - is "what if I died today? What is left of me - what is left of me - if I die today? And that brings other questions- what am I dragging, what has stopped me from what I need to do in life; what is my mission as I journey through this world? What is it that pushes me to waste my talent and energy, my already limited time on this planet? Gossiping on social media? Catching up on Netflix? Losing myself in pornography? Fooling myself into thinking that I look very cool by supporting rotten political ideologies on the left or the right, hatred and resentment of others on the left or the right? Now is the time to clean up! Let's simplify our lives; let's cleanse our minds, our hearts, our physical spaces and our bodies of what is unhealthy and unprofitable. We have received a beautiful reminder to do this today – memento mori. The proximity of death is that beautiful reminder— memento mori, remember death. So -- Carpe diem! Like sailors caught in a big storm, we are throwing all the ballast overboard because otherwise, we sink! Now is the time to go through every room, shelf & drawer in the house and think: "this, I don't care for anymore"; "this never really worked for me, why have I kept it all these years?"; "this doesn't work for me anymore, although it was handy at the time"; "this is something I always thought I might need one day, but not anymore!"...Now it goes out of my life! This is the time to do all this cleansing and decluttering! And finally...
4. Let's get out of the cave and into the light! Remember Plato's Myth (or Allegory) of the Cave? There is a group of men who have been chained all their lives and forced to look at the back of a cave. All they see and recognise are the shadows reflected on the back of the cave. But one day one of them turns and looks towards the entrance, and he's dazzled -almost blinded- by the light! That same light that was always there, just outside the entrance to the cave, casting those shadows that are all the members of his little group, his tribe, his reduced & puny world, have been able to see. The shadows that the cave dwellers take to be all that is real. Covid-19 has forced us to take refuge in those familiar caves that are our own homes. At this moment we have to be thinking: "When I come out of this cave - from this confinement in my own house - I'm going to be a more mature person; a much more harmonious individual; a much deeper soul than I have been until today!" "When I get out of this cave, I'm going to be a different person! I'm not coming out of here the same person I was when I came in! What have I been wasting my time on -my life, my talent, my energy- until today? This is a precious historical opportunity to change, to create and to transform ourselves and our environment!
We probably thought we were free until Covid-19 came and forced us into confinement. Mm... but what if it were precisely the opposite? What if this "confinement" or "captivity" was our liberation, our greatest opportunity to bloom & flourish right now, where we are, and once we go back into the open air? What if this was a big window, rather than a brick wall? And when things get challenging and exasperating, -and they will- let's imagine that we are Robinson Crusoe and we're going to leave this island transformed by all we learned as we adapted to these new circumstances.
Newton took advantage of a moment when the bubonic plague struck England back in the 17th century, and he was no longer able to continue his studies at Cambridge University. He had to isolate himself at home, just as we all have. And THAT was the time Newton finished rounding off some ideas he had been mulling over for months, maybe, until he gave us the Law of Universal Gravitation, the fruit of his reflections amid the plague. Newton formulated the critical principles that have sustained modern physics precisely at a time when he was forced to return to the farm he came from... and there, far from the prestigious Cambridge University, bored and probably much annoyed by the cows and sheep, the father of modern science allowed his prodigious mind to ponder on that legendary apple falling until he understood the mechanics of the universe better than ever before… in the silence of his forced isolation in the countryside. Imagine how beauty-ful it would be for us to come out of this confinement, out of this cave with such a contribution to humanity? And why not?
I say this with a grin in my lips. Still, I mean it with all my love and with a very healthy expectation: what if we came out of this confinement with that symphony, that novel, that theory, that business plan, that dream that we haven't finished until today, "because we didn't have the time to finish"?
Let us believe that God willing we are going to come out of these extraordinary and challenging days as perfected men, transformed women, fired up families and individuals, catapulted to heights that we had never suspected before. Because just as the world we know, we will never go back to being what we are now even if we wanted to. Ah, but each of us could become someone much, much more radiant instead.