By Jo Mooy
The coronavirus pandemic presents a chance to slow down and determine what’s really important in our lives.
Despair and sadness and anger hang like a pall over everything. It’s fed by the national election cycle, conspiracy theories that have gone mainstream, misinformation on voting, record heat waves, and riots in the cities. All of this contributes to feelings of hopelessness. Even worse, there’s no prediction nor consensus on if or when the coronavirus will be under control—a fact also contributing to much of the anxiety. Is it any wonder mental health practitioners report there’s been a 33 percent increase in depression, or that drug and alcohol use is at epidemic levels?
Humans are social animals. We require frequent social interaction. This virus has left us sitting in our homes alone and out of contact with family or friends. We’re not biologically built for seclusion. It affects our physiology and numbs the brain. Our behavior and moods become argumentative. Back in 1972, French scientist Michael Siffre showed this when he shut himself in a Texas cave for more than six months. His research ranks as one of the longest self-isolation experiments in history. He documented the effects on his mind over the 205 days.
His sleep-wake cycle lengthened and how he measured time became distorted. He wrote that he could “barely string thoughts together” after a couple months. By the fifth month he was so desperate for company he tried to befriend a mouse.
Some can adapt to isolation. They learn a new language, write a blog, or take up a new hobby. Others are silently fraying at the seams in confinement. In the days before the pandemic, when things were “normal,” the closing of a favorite restaurant might cause disappointment among friends who frequent it. But after months of solitude the closing of that same restaurant triggers endless bouts of weeping that’s way out of proportion to the closing. It’s not that the restaurant closed. It’s more the effect of continued losses that mount up and distort the fabric of what used to be normal.
With all that as a backdrop, does the current psychic angst indicate that 2020 “Is The Worse of Times?”
Judging by all the drama expressed on social media it would appear so. But in truth, it’s not the worst of times! The 2020 pandemic isolation being experienced is nothing like Michael Siffre endured in his remote cave. By the standards of the rest of the world, Americans are dealing with coronavirus in relative physical comfort. Most of us are isolated with many modern conveniences intact, like air conditioning, wifi, smartphones, fresh food and water, soft beds, and a roof overhead. The big crisis in America is one of individual rights (not wearing a mask) or behaving for the collective good (wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.) It’s brought out the worst behavior imaginable, resulting in beatings, spitting and killings. That behavior demonstrates the worst of times!
I researched how other major catastrophes affected people and countries to determine if the 2020 pandemic qualifies as the worst of times. The historical reports of pandemics like the Black Death of 1347 and the Spanish Flu of 1918 paint much grimmer portraits. When the Black Death raced across Europe it was swift and deadly. Rich or poor, young or old, ladies, knights, merchants and servants all died within half a day to four days of infection. Citizens picked up a few belongings and fled to the country, leaving family members to die alone in empty houses. City streets were filled with bodies. Quarantines and closed borders did keep some remote cities safe. But within three years, the Plague had claimed the lives of 100 to 200 million people—70 percent of Europe’s population died.
The Spanish Flu of 1918 came on the heels of World War 1 and brought the world to a halt. 500 million people (33 percent of the world’s population) became infected with this virus. The skin turned blue, the lungs filled up, and death occurred within hours of infection. 50 million died from this flu, more than all the military and civilian deaths in World War 1. The same issues about wearing masks, political divisiveness, and ignoring the medical findings were as pervasive during the Spanish Flu as they are today with covid.
Measured by deaths alone those two pandemics were much worse than this one. In our “entitled cocoons” we have the luxury of complaining about wearing masks, social distancing and whether a favorite bar is open or not. We can get in our cars and drive somewhere for a change of scenery without worrying about being bombed or shot, like people were in World War 1. Our biggest obstacle in a grocery store is following the painted arrows on the floor indicating what aisle to walk up. Meanwhile, in both World Wars people went hungry, looking for scraps of food anywhere they could it, while trying to avoid Nazi soldiers and death squads. That research sobered me.
Yes, many are dealing with depression, isolation and loneliness. And yes, families do get torn apart by the death of a loved one. The loss of jobs and businesses is staggering in our globally interconnected marketplace. But this pandemic pales in comparison to what others endured. In the 21st century, we have extraordinary tools to help us cope—like the internet, reaching out on social media, and educational and fitness activities to keep us busy while in isolation.
This pandemic presents a chance to slow down and determine what’s really important in our lives. Is the job you hold satisfying your creativity? Or is it just a placeholder? That “thing” you wanted to do or be when you were 25 still beckons. Each person has this miraculous moment in history to reinvent themselves or revision the things that will make them happy. The rules have changed. With so many industries and jobs disappearing, the slate is clean and wide open to write a new start. It takes work, and real reflection. More, it takes will and passionate determination. Many are already proving it’s possible. And, during this pandemic, there’s plenty of time to reflect, research and make it happen. It may ultimately be known as the BEST of times.
Jo Mooy has studied with many spiritual traditions over the past 40 years. The wide diversity of this training allows her to develop spiritual seminars and retreats that explore inspirational concepts, give purpose and guidance to students, and present esoteric teachings in an understandable manner. Along with Patricia Cockerill, she has guided the Women’s Meditation Circle since January 2006 where it has been honored for five years in a row as the “Favorite Meditation” group in Sarasota, FL, by Natural Awakenings Magazine. Teaching and using Sound as a retreat healing practice, Jo was certified as a Sound Healer through Jonathan Goldman’s Sound Healing Association. She writes and publishes a monthly internationally distributed e-newsletter called Spiritual Connections and is a staff writer for Spirit of Maat magazine in Sedona. For more information go to http://www.starsoundings.com or email email@example.com.