Will the pandemic turn out to be a good thing?

I look back on a life rich with learning, and one thing I’ve learned is that perspective can shift dramatically over time. What looks bad in the moment can turn out to be for the best.

A big shift is occurring on the planet right now, and it is devastating to see the losses. Yet, despite moments of fear, isolation, and uncertainty, I am trying to keep an open mind that allows for good to emerge. When I get locked into my “this is bad” mentality, I’ve been thinking about this folk tale of an old Chinese farmer who lived many years ago. He owned one horse that he used to plough his fields.

One day, the horse ran away into the hills. The neighbors said, “We are so sorry for your bad fortune.” The old man replied, “Who knows what’s good or bad?”

A week later, the horse returned with a herd of wild horses, which now belonged to the old man. The neighbors said, “We are so happy for your good fortune!” The old man replied, “Who knows what’s good or bad?”

While his only son was riding one of the wild horses, he was thrown off and broke his leg. The neighbors said, “What bad fortune!” The old man replied, “Who knows what’s good or bad?”

A few days later, the army came to the village and took all the strong young men away to be soldiers. The farmer’s son wasn’t conscripted because he could not fight with a broken leg. The neighbors said, “What good fortune!” The old man replied, “Who knows what’s good or bad?”

And so it goes. I’ve had many experiences I labeled bad when they happened, that turned out to bring forward something remarkably good. Life can have a way of doing that if we work with an experience as a point of reinvention, as the jumping off point to embrace the scary and unknown, as fertile ground for planting a new seed.

While many people simply want to “get back to normal” given the enormous challenges of our time, there are others who look at this as a unique opportunity for dramatic positive changes – changes that will ultimately be for the higher good of the planet. I heard someone say recently “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” and indeed, people are creating new opportunities every day in response to the radical changes we’re experiencing.

The question I’m asking myself is, “How do I want to be with this experience?” Can I accept it and ride the waves? Can I see it as an opportunity to create something new in my life? Can I become a better person – will it open my heart and increase my capacity for consideration of others? Caring about other people can be an abstract idea; this is an opportunity to demonstrate care toward others in a specific and concrete way. This shift may show me a new path of service; I’ve been presented with an enormous opportunity to get creative with how I’m living my life.

It is not too soon to start looking at pieces of what’s happening with a new perspective. Here’s one example of reframing something most of us are struggling with – staying home.

“Try this perspective shift. Instead of seeing ‘social distancing’ and travel bans as panic, try seeing them as acts of mass cooperation intended to protect the collective whole. This plan is not about individuals going into hiding. It’s a global deep breath…and agreement between humans around the planet to be still. Be still, in hopes that the biggest wave can pass without engulfing too many of the vulnerable amongst us.”  — Dr Lindsay Jernigan

I am open to imagining entering a new era of global cooperation; to believe we’ll come together from around the world to address issues of environment, inequality and injustice.


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