To honour our radical co-dependence

In the previous section, I concluded that if I was learning one thing from this pandemic it was our radical interdependence. Co-dependence, really: others depend on me; I depend on others. The society I live in is not a stage on which I simply unfold my personal life in terms of my values, my wants, my ambitions. I have a responsibility for its well-being just as it looks after me and allows me to pursue my goals without too much restrictions.

From my current situation, in physical distancing, I can think of a number of ways I can contribute to the on-going well-being on my community, my city, my province, my country, the world. Here are some ways that have come to mind. You will certainly have many more. Care to share them here?

      • Thanking society members who risk their lives to bring this pandemic under control

Let’s call this “random acts of gratitude.” So many people are risking their own health, working long hours, facing their own anxieties, to keep me safe and well. I think of the health care professionals; I think of the personal support workers; I think of police and fire fighters; I think of truck drivers and bus and train conductors, of grocery store workers, of journalists; I think of border security personnel; I think of researchers and scientists struggling to identify ways to control this virus; I think of the politicians at every level of government, setting aside their often petty ideological differences to do what is right for their constituents. Do they know how much I appreciate them and their efforts?

I think of family and friends who phone to see if I am still well, if we need anything, if they can help in any small way.

I can write them notes to let them know how much I appreciate their efforts. I can write letters to the editor of my local paper to praise officials when they have enabled legislation required by the gravity of the situation.

      • Finding ways to offer support or assistance – even virtually – to those less fortunate

I can go even further than expressing gratitude from a position of physical distancing. I can offer help. I suppose in the first instance, I can fund organizations – local and international – which are engaged in fighting the spread of the virus, which are caring for the elderly and the vulnerable, which are concerned about the marginalized, disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

I can join on-line organizations known for their advocacy for social causes I believe in. I name some of those I am most aware of: avaaz, sum-of-us,, leadnow. Each of these has mounted pressure campaigns against unfair or unjust social policies, irresponsible industrial practices. With more time on my hands, I can acquaint myself with their current causes, and offer what virtual help I can.

Closer to home, I can take part in – or even create – telephone check-in services to keep contact with vulnerable members of my community. I can organize conference calls to replace committee meetings. I can check with community agencies to determine if there are ways I can provide support from my home.

      • Rethinking our political views in light of realities, rather than ideology

It is no great revelation to state that our societies have become far more politicized, often at extremes of the ideological spectrum. We are already witnessing, at least in this country – Canada – a growing collaboration among political parties, a tacit agreement to avoid partisan sniping, and perhaps even a decision to join forces for the common good. Perhaps this is the key to all this – the “common good.” Perhaps, just perhaps, politicians remember why they were elected: to look after the common good, the good of their communities. And perhaps what we are witnessing is people of all stripes coming together to fight a common enemy – an invisible virus.

What would happen if we all used this time to rethink what we truly believe in, and how we might work together to improve life for all. It almost seems as if the seriousness of our current situation is helping people of varying political convictions to ask themselves the really important questions: how do we use all our talent, all our wisdom, all our expertise to conquer this common enemy?

      • Transcending our typical small-mindedness to encompass the far bigger picture

Yes, we have seen the stories of people hoarding vast quantities of previous commodities in order to resell them at huge profit. In an earlier time, some might actually have congratulated them on their foresight and their ability to turn a tidy profit so quickly and easily. At this time, there seems to be more outrage and a shaming – to the point where one young man is donating the vast quantities of hand sanitizer he had hoarded.

What an opportunity we have to get beyond our typical small-mindedness, where we are simply preoccupied with our well-being, our welfare, our success! Perhaps we can start asking ourselves what really matters. Instead of simply a short-term view of things, maybe we can start taking a much longer view of what really matters. And given such radical co-dependence, maybe we can start taking a broader view of concerns, ensuring that no one suffers as a result of our actions.

      • Living out of “abundance” rather than “scarcity”

The long lines at grocery stores, the empty shelves, the fight over the few remaining items on the shelves, are all signs of living under the sign of scarcity. We need to fight our tendency to panic, and give in to our biologically-driven ego which wants to preserve us at the expense of everything else and everyone else.

What can I do to transform any tendency I might have to live out of a mindset of scarcity in order to adopt one of abundance? Is it reasonable, even, to think in terms of abundance? All our Biblical stories speak of abundance – the feeding of the five thousand, turning water into wine, living water that quenches all thirst, etc. Even eschatological imagery all point to abundance in the end-times: healing waters flowing freely in the mythical New Jerusalem. Much earlier, Isaiah created images that spoke of abundance and lack of fear as the lamb lies down with the lion, because animals become herbivores rather than carnivores. Touching images, no doubt, but do they have anything to teach me at this point?

I recall my teen aged daughter returning from a trip to Central America to visit poor communities. She repeatedly commented on their happiness despite their poverty. They were all close communities who shared the little they had with any with greater need. Certainly, she was experiencing scarcity in these communities. And yet they lived out of a philosophy of abundance, and could share willingly. What lessons can I learn from this?

      • Developing a practice of gratitude for the ordinary

Perhaps a first step is to reassess what I already have. With mindfulness and awareness, I can increase my ability to appreciate the simple things of life. I can notice the ray of sun on the potted hyacinth by the window. I can watch the robin hop across my front lawn. I can savour the aroma of fresh brewed coffee, or the fragrance of a freshly cut orange. You get the point! Draw up your own list of things you notice today with gratitude.