Learning to Live with the Meaning of New Words

“It used to be thought that the events that changed the world were things like big bombs, maniac politicians, huge earthquakes, or vast population movements, but it has now been realized that this is a very old-fashioned view held by people totally out of touch with modern thought. The things that change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe.”

— from Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

A mere three months ago words and phrases like pandemic, lockdown, herd immunity, social distancing, flatten the curve, and self-quarantine were either entries in a dictonary without any real life relevance or not yet invented. Now their multiple meanings don’t just reverberate through our days, but shape our lives. As governments grapple with ways to lessen the impact of COVID-19 and survive the crisis, scientists scramble to develop a vaccine, and the rest of us wrestle with our fears and frustrations. If we hadn’t known before, we now know exactly how hyper-connected our lives are no matter where we live in the world. Millions of people have almost overnight lost their income, while others had to take salary cuts or unpaid leave. The ones with their salaries and work still intact are the lucky ones. But life as we knew it before the pandemic, with its economic and social structures that had shaped our minds and values until now, has come to a screeching halt. For all of us.

According to Fransciscan priest Richard Rohr all human growth is steered by a cycle of order – disorder – reorder.

In this unprecedented disorder of the moment we are all battling with whatever inner demons we carry with us. Perhaps it is the uncertainty that weighs heaviest for some. The loss of a loved one or income for others. Or perhaps the loss of control and freedom that is the most unsettling. No matter how much we try to avoid these demons by the myriad of distractions that technology offers us, at some point we will have to pause and reflect both individually and communally on the values we’ve built our lives and societies on.

The world of tomorrow cannot look the same as the one of yesterday. Across the globe nature is celebrating the abscence of human intrusion, and I wonder how many of us are paying attention. Perhaps the time has come for us to realise that the choices we make do not just impact our lives, but all life on the planet.

According to Chaos Theory even the smallest of changes can produce huge results. So imagine what the world could look like if every single individual, of the seven odd billion people on the planet today, implements just one small change in his/her life for the betterment of life on earth. We have been given a massive global opportunity for change, and I am praying that we will all be able to see the grace in this difficult moment and let go of all those outdated values and dreams that are harmful and reorder our lives to create a world that is supportive of all life on earth.

Our personal transitions from the present disorder to a reorder of our lives will demand from us to pay attention and make conscious choices. I suspect this transition will be uncomfortable and even painful at times, but unless we want to live in a world that looks different from the one we lived in before COVID-19, we have no choice but to re-evaluate, re-dream, and re-make our lives.

 

“. . . . . . . Trashed
oceans don’t speak English or Farsi or French;

would that we could wake up   to what we were
— when we were ocean    and before that
to when sky was earth, and animal was energy, and rock was
liquid and stars were space and space was not

at all — nothing

before we came to believe humans were so important
before this awful loneliness.”

from the poem Singularity by Marie Howe

 

NOTES:

# Chaos Theory can be described as the science of surprises, the nonlinear and the unpredictable. If you are curious about it, click on this link to an article that is a great introduction to it.

# One of the principles of Chaos Theory is The Butterfly Effect. Read more about that in this interesting article. Here is a teaser from it:

The bombing of Nagasaki. The US initially intended to bomb the Japanese city of Kuroko, with the munitions factory as a target. On the day the US planned to attack, cloudy weather conditions prevented the factory from being seen by military personnel as they flew overhead. The airplane passed over the city three times before the pilots gave up. Locals huddled in shelters heard the hum of the airplane preparing to drop the nuclear bomb and prepared for their destruction. Except Kuroko was never bombed. Military personnel decided on Nagasaki as the target due to improved visibility. The implications of that split-second decision were monumental. We cannot even begin to comprehend how different history might have been if that day had not been cloudy. Kuroko is sometimes referred to as the luckiest city in Japan, and those who lived there during the war are still shaken by the near-miss.”

 

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