Most of the summaries of 2020 (the few who even attempted it) speak of 2020 as a tragedy, as if their lives have been stolen. In my view, this is an immature perspective. When a little boy plays outside with his friends and his mother calls him in to finish his homework, the boy thinks she is a terrible mother, but we grownups know better. We are like that boy, throwing a temper tantrum at Mother Nature’s insistence that we do what we must. Nature didn’t do anything bad to humanity; she only called us in to do our homework. And as we all know, if we don’t do our homework, we will fail the test. And when the test is about our lives, it is not one we want to fail.
While we were home, in the first lockdown that Mother Nature imposed on us, we should have started doing our homework. We should have realized that she had sent us the virus that sent us home only because we have been bad to one another, like brothers who cannot get along and fight so much that their mother has no choice but to send them to their separate rooms. She hopes that after some time alone, they will realize that they shouldn’t treat each other as they did and will resolve to find a way to get along.
After some time, the mother lets them out, since she is their mother, after all, and wants them to enjoy life. However, instead of making peace, they start fighting even worse than before. The poor mother has no choice but to punish them more severely, hoping that this time they will learn. The children know that when they are quiet, Mother is nice to them. But the brothers hate each other so fiercely that they forget what is best for them the minute they see each other, so they start bickering again.
This is where we are. Nature’s blows are like the mother’s admonition or punishment and we are the obstinate children. Instead of learning, we’re counting on the vaccines to enable us to take off our masks so we can swear at each other once again, eliminate the social distance so we can beat each other up, and hail this emotional carnage as “freedom” and “normalcy.”
Every time Nature sends another punishment, it’s like a wave that hits us and forces us to retreat. During the retreat, we are supposed to reflect on our behavior with each other. But we don’t. Finally, the water recedes and we come out of our shelters only to squabble, humiliate, and exploit each other even more than before. This makes the next wave more substantial, aiming to force us to reflect. If we don’t start reflecting soon, the waves will drown us. They might come in all sorts of ways; Nature is very creative when it comes to punishments, but there is no reason for us to experience them first hand. We can choose instead to discover her creativity in giving and in caring.
Look at the coronavirus. We haven’t even vaccinated everyone from the original strain, and we are already dealing with two new strains, from the UK and from South Africa, both of which are much more contagious, and to which we don’t know if the vaccine already approved will work. It is a sign that Nature will not let up. She will not stop until we learn.
Look at how we’re treating one another with the vaccine. Why do countries that cannot afford to buy it have to beg for it? Haven’t we learned that we are all in this together? Haven’t we seen that an infection anywhere is an infection everywhere? Dispensing the vaccine to all the countries, none excluded, is our first test in mutual responsibility. So far, we’re failing.
As I see things now, I think that we will live with the coronavirus and its mutations for many years to come. It’s come to teach us to live differently, with more care, consideration, and responsibility for one another. Until we learn, it won’t go away. The waves will come and go, but the more we stall in learning, the more poignant the waves will become. In the beginning, the virus didn’t affect children; now it does. In the beginning, it affected mainly our lungs; now it affects our brains and hearts. What more do we want it to do to us before we learn what it is trying to tell us?
Remember the mother allegory: If we don’t stop fighting, Mother Nature will send us to our separate rooms or find other ways to punish us, which will be more and more painful.