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  • Jan Flynn

Light in the Darkness


If I could, I’d make coronavirus disappear

Alas, I don’t have a magic wand or superpowers. Like everyone else on the planet (well, except for the Current Occupant of the White House), rational thought forces me to acknowledge that we are in the grip of a public health crisis the likes of which have not been seen in my lifetime. And I’m no spring chicken.

As I write this, conditions in the viral landscape are changing hourly. The experts know we’ve blown past the point where the virus could have been isolated to a specific area and that the best we can do now is to minimize its impact by slowing its transmission rate, “flattening the curve,” and protecting those most vulnerable. That means taking all the steps we’ve been reading about: widespread testing; social distancing; practicing careful health hygiene.

Like all crises, this one will resolve in time. But nobody knows how much time, nor how high will be the costs — in lives, in economic chaos, in damage to the social fabric. For the vast majority of us who have yet to be sickened, quarantined, or otherwise directly impacted by Covid-19, that uncertainty, combined with the upward-ratcheting anxiety of everyone around us, is perhaps the most distressing aspect of this whole experience.

While we can’t shove our heads in the sand and pretend nothing is wrong (again, unless we’re the putative Leader of the Free World), marinating in fear and stress is counterproductive at best and dangerous at worst. We are all going to experience moments of worry and doubt at a time like this. But what if we were to rise to the occasion and meet this threat with the kind of fortitude and resolve of which we just might be capable?

It’s often said that in crisis there is both danger and opportunity (and by opportunity, I don’t mean price-gouging on toilet paper). At the risk of sounding like Pollyanna, dark times serve to make the rays of light that do exist shine brighter.

Whatever happens in our external circumstances, our internal experience is to a certain degree up to us. So as we all make our way in these unsettling, uncertain days, how about if we look for the chances it gives us to develop some of our best qualities?


1. Acceptance

Normally, we hustle through our days assuming that we’re in the driver’s seat of our lives. Americans especially love to feel busy and in charge. Just look at the expressions so many of use to describe our lust for productivity: I’m killing it. I’m crushing it. I’ve got this.

I too relish feeling competent and accomplished. Yet the coronavirus reminds us of a stark and unavoidable fact: we are not in control.

Our egos, that so relish the illusion of being in charge, recoil at this thought. But once we wrap our heads around it, it’s both bracing and comforting. It’s refreshing to operate within the bounds of reality. And while it’s humbling to be shown that there are forces far, far more powerful than us — physically teensy though they may be, like a virus — it brings us some peace to recognize that we are part and parcel of Nature, which always seeks a balance.

Of course, we hope that we and our loved ones will remain close enough to the fulcrum to keep from falling off either end of the seesaw. In a time like this, hope and humility, along with acceptance, are far more useful than fear or denial or despair.


2. Courage

Once we’ve accepted that we’re in a tough spot, we have the opportunity to respond from strength rather than weakness. Fear lives within all of us, but so does courage, and that is a flame we can choose to feed.

It makes no sense to be reckless, of course: each of us has a responsibility to limit our exposure and thus protect not only our health but everyone else’s. But humanity has never faced a crisis that did not offer chances to step up on behalf of others, and in that regard, the Covid-19 crisis is no different.

Speaking for myself, I don’t know what or how or when such an opportunity may present itself to me. I hope I’ll both recognize it and have what it takes to meet it with courage when it does.


3. Unity

We’ve lived through years and years of a steadily splintering society. In the U.S. at least, the divisions that were already growing in our country have become chasms in the past four years. Much of this division and distrust of one another has been fueled by the craven but effective efforts of our political leaders to recruit us into their base while vilifying everyone outside the tribe, as well as the siloing effect of social media.

Coronavirus doesn’t care if we’re Democrat or Republican, gay or straight, religious or agnostic, rich or poor. Until enough of us have survived it and have developed antibodies to it, we are all vulnerable, all at risk.

Besides our survival, we are all worried about what the unprecedented halt in our economy means for us and for everyone we care about, and for our futures, and what life might look like once the immediate danger has passed.

That puts us all in the same boat. It’s as though we’re all caught up in a war against an unseen foe. As in any war, our best hope is to band together with our allies, which in this case is everyone. We all have a stake in one another’s welfare, one that transcends our differences over idealogy.


I suspect that you, like me, are tired of the divisiveness and the screaming heads on TV seeking to broaden the gulfs between us. I wish it didn’t take a dire situation to bring us together, but if it can, there is a bright silver lining to the viral cloud.

It may be that coronavirus, as terrible as it is, has gifts for us. That is, if we choose to make use of them.

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