The roads are emptied, the courtyards are silent, except for some pigeons fluttering in and out, cooing in search of a mate. Very busy public spaces are so devoid of people, you’d never run into anyone. The skies are full of mainly empty “ghost” planes. Cafes and restaurants barely opening, shyly receiving one couple, then a wait followed by another couple. Cinemas and movie theatres are completely empty of customers. But the supermarkets, the grocery stores, that’s where all the people are: crowded marketplaces filled with panic buyers fighting over toilet paper. So sad for those towing their rolls towards the checkout line, but secretly amusing for those watching them on the news.
The tragic irony about the situation is that it shows our insignificance as a species — the inconsequential human being. Millions of people in fragile bodies who know more than ever, and yet nothing at the same time. An untimely loss of life does not make any sense.
Our mother earth has suffered much at the hands of humans. Governments have made increasingly bad decisions, creating negative trends, and adversely affecting our lives from bad to worse. One study after another explains how bad it’s become in just the last decade: social media addiction, drug overdosing, global warming, air pollution, work-related stress; depression rates are up, people feel even more divided than they did a decade ago, and there’s been a sharp increase in the number of hate crimes against others.
What if Coronavirus was sent to awaken us? Let’s be positive and consider, for a moment, this global pandemic a reminder and not a freak occurrence, conspiracy, or divine punishment. Maybe the earth is tired of us, tired of our ignorance. Perhaps earth is sick of giving us its treasures and receiving nothing in return, not even simple gratitude. Our earth needs a break, a much deserved break.
“In the same way I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born,” says the Lord. “If I cause you the pain, I will not stop you from giving birth to your new nation,” says your God.(Isaiah 66:9)
One morning this week, we woke up to breaking news on social media: “Air pollution drops dramatically in China and Italy after Covid-19 quarantine.” The darkest hour of the night comes just before dawn! The earth has already begun to show improved conditions absent human pollution, if only for a moment. Since the lockdown, swans have appeared in the sudden crystal clear waters of Venice canals, dolphins have returned to Italy’s coast, and Japan has seen deer roaming the streets!
What if the earth is in labor? What if we’re just experiencing the pain of labor? A labor that will end in the “rebirth” of a world that we’d thrive in.
What if this virus is a real blessing? Look at us: everyone is staying at home, spending quality time with their families, slowing down and recharging like they always speak of doing. People are reading more books, listening to music, exercising, playing games, meditating, praying, and even “self-reflecting”.
A crisis can be an opportunity of clarity where we can set on a new path if needed. Al-Fadl ibn Sahl said: “There is a blessing in calamity that the wise man should not ignore, for it erases sins, gives one the opportunity to attain the reward for patience, dispels negligence, reminds one of blessings at the time of health, calls one to repent and encourages one to give charity.”
This world presents us with challenging tests, trials in which all humans are bound to face hardships and suffering, to be met with patience and steadfastness.
Moreover, the Coronavirus seems to have united more people, together even across borders and seas. Finally, the world seems to be acting as one, even if only witnessed by a childish spirit. Covid-19 is threatening everyone equally, paying no attention to race, ethnicity, religion, color, gender — or so it seems. God does not favor any skin color or nationality like humans have done — we are all the same to Him. I’d like to think we are all in this together — frightened by the same virus, and working so hard to defeat it.
And amid this chaos, we should not forget the struggles we face can be our best spiritual teachers. From this ordeal, we can have a greater consideration for mother nature, and realize that it requires our greater care. In reality, the whole world is one big family, and we are only as strong as the bonds that unite every one of us. What seem to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.
As Kitty O’meara said: “And when then danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”