Op-eds

Be still as the universe resets

  • Howard Feldman 2018
Whereas I’m no coronavirus expert, I have been a hypochondriac for some years. I’m also a radio talk-show host, author, and social commentator, which perhaps qualifies me in some way to speak about the social impact of this illness.
by HOWARD FELDMAN | Mar 19, 2020

There have been some pivotal moments in my lifetime: the falling of the Berlin Wall, 9/11, and now Covid-19.

All of these events changed the world. In each case, the world looked different afterwards.

Prior to coronavirus, our lives and planet had begun to spin faster and faster.

Smartphones, social media, and social-base businesses such as Uber and Tinder meant that everything had become instantaneous. International travel was as common as getting on a bus. Hook-ups had become the norm, and climate activists screamed about the end of time.

The Yeats poem, The Second Coming, perfectly captured our state of being. “Turning and turning in the widening gyre; The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”

Indeed, things have fallen apart.

On Friday on my morning show, I spoke to a friend who lives in Venice. She and her family live in a small apartment. They are in isolation. Each day is a challenge, and she takes quarantine day by day by day. The essence of her advice was profound. She repeated it numerous times, “Just be still.”

It’s difficult advice for us to adhere to in 2020.

It’s counter to everything we have come to know. Our need is “to do”. That’s the reason we rush out to buy toilet paper. It’s why we run to fill our homes with the things we don’t need, and why we obsessively gather and share information.

In many ways, the world is being reset. It’s like G-d has hit the reboot button, and we need to be patient while we come back online. In the meantime, travel has paused, and factories have stopped. And families have to retreat into their homes and units.

It means not going to bars, clubs, movies, restaurants and schools and functions. It means not rushing anywhere. It means not shaking hands but rather turning inwards and focusing on who we are, not what others are.

Remember the time when we would write a letter to a friend. We would do this by hand, and then go and mail the letter. The recipient would wait until the postman trudged up the road slowly and delivered mail from house to house.

We aren’t going back to that. We don’t need to, but we need to learn some lessons from that time. We need to be still.

I’m not, of course, speaking of the incredibly brave souls who are at the frontlines of fighting the disease, researching it, or supporting the rest with medical care, food, and essentials.

If we aren’t one of them, then we need to do what’s expected of us.

We need to be still for long enough so that we can experience joy in the small things again, the things we have stopped noticing around us. The sound of birds in the garden, the pets in our homes, our spouses, children, and time itself.

The universe has slowed us down. And we need to slow down with it.

There is G-d in the pause. There is G-d in the space. And there is space for us in it as well.

The message of the virus is clear and uncomplicated: the only way to deal with it is to retreat, isolate, and wait. There is nothing to be achieved by fighting it. The answer is more simple than we imagine. It’s just to “be still”.

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