As if someone switched off the lights, country by country shut off its gates. Incoming flights were revoked, ships were denied docking, and tourists were told to leave. Everyone went home and was told to shelter in place.
Then the animals appeared. Fish appeared in the canals of Venice, Italy; wallabies hopped in Adelaide, Australia; alligators strolled in South Carolina, USA; elephants marched in Chachoengsao, Thailand; sea lions barked at dogs in Mar Del Plata, Argentina, and sheep ran on the carousel in Raglan, UK. The list of animal sightings in places normally reserved to humans is endless but the trend is clear. Nature whipped us into our homes using the novel coronavirus, then conquered civilization and told us who’s boss.
But we don’t listen. All we want is to go back to our same ole same ole, the very same ole that got us locked down in the first place. Since we aren’t getting the message, we’re coming out of the COVID-19 crisis with the same spirit we had when we went into it—the spirit of unabashed entitlement and alienation from each other. So the next time nature strikes, it will have to lock us down more decisively and painfully until we say, “Enough! We’re willing to change.”
Nature is an encompassing network of forces that is guided by a single principle: balance. These forces act like a stern teacher: When we are stubborn and insist on pulling the wrong way, it forcibly pulls us back. The more obstinate we are, the more that pull hurts. When it hurts enough, we listen and learn, balance is restored, and joy sets in.
Regrettably, today we have become so self-centered and obstinate that we’ve stopped listening altogether, not only to nature, but to anyone or anything. As a society, we are narcissistic, immersed in self-entitlement to the point where we simply cannot see when we are harming others. In fact, even if we did, we would not care enough to stop.
This approach is so opposite from nature’s principle of balance that it is bound to pull it out of us by force. And the more we resist, the harder it will pull.
To change our attitude to nature, we have to start with one another. If we cannot be compassionate to our own species, we will not be compassionate to any species, plant, or land. We will simply not know what compassion means.
Luckily, we have each other to “practice” on; we can “exercise” compassion in our families, communities, and with our friends. We do not need to look far if we want to make a real change; we only need to look at one another.
There is nothing selfish or ill-meaning in the whole of reality; every animal acts according to its nature. The only exception is mankind. So let’s practice with each other how to become considerate, compassionate, perhaps even caring.
The change will not come from governments. In an egoistic society, policy makers are the top of the heap, the “crème de la crème” of egoism. We will not find refuge from self-centeredness if we wait for them to act. The shift must come from regular people who want to change themselves, who feel that human nature needs to be better, and who say, “The change begins with me!”
Then, when we have changed ourselves, we will change how we relate to everything—to all of nature and to one another. Only then will we be cured.