Reporters covering the coronavirus keep referring to this as a war. So too do health-care personnel, politicians, and commentators. Certainly there are enough aspects of this pandemic to warrant the war analogy. We hear about the president’s War Powers Act, wartime production, field hospitals, heroes on the front battle lines, protective armor, supply lines, maps showing casualties, and body counts. But there is another way to view this which I’m sure has occurred to many of you. Rather than see the virus solely as an enemy out to kill us, we could consider the virus an important teacher who could save us.
My own perspective on the virus-as-teacher is rooted in the belief that the earth and entire universe is one Divine Field of Consciousness. There are no dualistic separations even though there often appear to be. If so, this virus—and every disease, epidemic, and plague throughout history—has a purpose for being here, a purpose for being part of what we are. And although it might not be clear to us, every plague is part of the intelligence of the earth, part of the Power that determines things and keeps the universe in order.
So we might consider that this virus’s purpose is to teach important lessons.
My suggestion, which many of you have probably already undertaken, is to ask the spirit of the virus what it has to teach us at this time in history. I’ve been given three teachings.
First, slow down and live more lightly on the earth. Social distancing and staying home have radically reduced our frenetic pace of living. We are missing our usual patterns of work and play, our needs for consumerism and various distractions, the overly scheduled hours of our days and nights. We have time on our hands and are learning how to use it, perhaps in softer, gentler, more creative ways.
The second flows from the first. We are being taught to re-evaluate our values, to discover which are really important and which are not. What do we really value most in life and are grateful for? What are our priorities and what should they be? When we in the affluent West encounter empty shelves in supermarkets, we experience the food shortages that other people know and have known, and may find renewed gratitude for the abundance we are privileged to enjoy. When we come through this, we may have a very changed way of looking at our lives, and living them. And this may be for our own good and the good of the planet.
Third, the virus is giving us an opportunity to learn how to heal the polarization in our own country, government, society, and around the world. It is not clear whether we will take this opportunity or not. We might blow it. But right now we know we have to work together, pull together, make efforts to engage and cooperate with those with whom we disagree. Recently there was even talk at the United Nations about declaring a worldwide ceasefire of all armed conflicts (war, again!) so that everyone can focus on defeating the common global enemy, the virus. But nothing may come of this. And, I hate to say it, this might be the lesson we don’t learn.
The virus is undoubtedly here to teach us many things besides these three. It may play more roles than just teacher or enemy. As our enemy we hope to destroy it. As our teacher we can learn from it. Of course the virus is both teacher and enemy. As the Dalai Lama wisely said: “Our enemy is our greatest teacher.”