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
# 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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As my husband and I are making the transition from our life here in the UAE to a new life in rural Portugal, I invite you to migrate with us to our new website, where I am already starting to focus most of my writing and energy by clicking on the following link and subscribing: A Taste of Freedom
This entry especially struck home in many ways.
As always I so enjoy reading your thoughtful writing.
Please do continue to take good care of each other❤️
We will. Thank you. I hope life is kind to you, Takami, despite all the uncertainties. Take good care of yourself.
Jolandi, I raced through reading your words … you are right, so much going on … the butterfly has flapped its wings and is changing the world … so pertinent.
Immediate first thoughts of your writing? We need to move back to a more sustainable way of life … that we care.
And your change in direction fits right into that …
Talking with friends, I hope this has taught us the value of timeliness … time to reconnect with clean air, clean water, earth that is being renourished.
I hope it has taught us the meaning of the word trust … that a handshake, a bow, a clasping of hands is a trustworthy greeting, acknowledgement, a sign that we can trust someone and their word.
I hope it has taught us respect … respect for the environment, respect for each other, respect for the plants and animals that share the Earth.
I think it was Martin Luther King Jr who said something to the effect of: Go forward with a pure heart … and everything else will fall into place.
Now, I will go back and read your words more thoroughly …
What beautiful thoughts! There are so many lessons for us to learn and choices to make. Let’s go forward and meet the future with a pure heart!
Well said. I wish you the best on the life you are building in Portugal.
Thank you, Christopher. I hope life is treating you well during these times of disruption and change.
Thank you. So far, things are going well.
So glad to hear that. I haven’t been on your blog for a while, so I will spend some time later to catch up with what is happening in your life.
Thank you. I started posting photos daily since the restrictions on activities. It’s not focused on COVID-19. They are just images to try to add to the beauty in the world.
Exactly what we need in these times.
So resonated with your article. I really hope we wake up as a species and tread a little gentler on our home. Love to you both.
I hope so, Bev. Hope you guys are doing well. A big hug to you.
Nice blog 🧚🏻♀️
Thank you, Saania. Hope you are keeping well.
So well said. I hope you and Michael are staying healthy and safe. We certainly are doing our part and staying home. So many projects to accomplish and they fill our days. It has given us a moment to pause, re-set and realize what is important. We are all connected and need to stop and think about each other, there is no time to be selfish today. Our hearts are broken for those suffering, so very sick and those that are losing loved ones. This has certainly changed the world and change isn’t always a bad thing as painful as it can be. Take care of yourselves.
Thanks, Terri. We are healthy and safe, but I must admit that being cooped up in an apartment is challenging my sanity on certain days. I agree with you about change. No matter how painful it is, it usually bring opportunities we can’t even start to imagine is possible. Take care of yourself, and enjoy all those projects you now have time for.
Well-reasoned but compassionate post, Jolandi. It’s a nice change from all the hysteria and political rhetoric that’s consumed US discourse these days.
A friend who tends to speak bluntly said he thought the pandemic was Nature’s way of saying, “Sit the f*** down and think about what you’re doing!” The quiet streets and cleaner air seem to attest to that. But whatever should happen after this, I can’t even guess. Hopefully it’s an economy based on humanity rather than efficiency and growing consumption. Take care!
Thanks, Hangaku. I like your friend’s words. It really is time for us to rethink the world we want to live in, and like you, I cannot even start to imagine what the bigger picture will look like after this. I do know what I want my life to look like though, so that is at least a good start. You will most probably find Charles Eisenstein’s book ‘Sacred Economics’ an interesting read. Stay sane and healthy!
It sounds like an interesting book. Thank you for the recommendation!
You may also find this article by Charles Eisenstein interesting, Hangaku:
“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.” This is actually my biggest concern. If most people only look for distractions to keep them feeling excited and to avoid boredom during lockdown/quarantine/social distancing measures imposed by governments all across the globe, I’m afraid nothing will really change when this pandemic has passed. I wish you a nice and relaxing new life in rural Portugal! I read that the country is doing relatively well to curb the spread of the virus.
I am completely with you on this one, Bama. Nothing will change if people just try to alleviate their boredom. It is one of the reasons I currently avoid social media as much as I can. I am grateful that my husband and I have started the process of reimagining our life two years ago, as it gives us constructive things to work towards during this time of lockdown and isolation. We still have to deal with official matters in Portugal before I can make the move, as I don’t yet have a residence visa. This pandemic has interrupted our timeline, but I trust that things will fall into place for us. I would much rather be on the land in Portugal than stuck in an apartment in Abu Dhabi, but financially we are better off for now to be in Abu Dhabi. So we count our blessings and practise patience. Hope you are well.
I wonder if you have read any of Charles Eisenstein’s books or essays, Bama. I suspect you may find it interesting.
Actually I haven’t. I did a quick search of his books just now and The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible sounds really interesting.
He is definitely someone worth reading, as he has a different way of looking at things, and I think it is good that our old ways of doing things and thinking are being challenged.
I just hope we learn something from all of this… and make changes for the better.
I hope we will.
I love learning new words … but these would not have been my top choice! 🙂
I feel some valuable mind shifting going on within myself these days, but one of my fears is that some of the attitude changes that may result from our governments’ asking us to stay home and protect others will be combative ones. We are starting to see that here in the U.S., with some people more worried about their individual freedoms than the welfare of others and our planet. It is so disheartening. I hope this is the minority and that more of the positive little changes will coalesce to create a real reordering in the world when we emerge.
I wish I could unlearn these words, Lex. Or wake up and all of this is over.
It is definitely time for all of us to re-evaluate our values. If we can understand that our own well-being is closely linked to the well-being of our communities and planet, we will perhaps stop insisting so much on individual freedoms and rights that (may make us feel good or empower us in the moment) are harmful to our communities, and ultimately harmful to us. Fingers crossed that there are more people who will change for the good and that it will enhance all life on the planet.
So well written and so very meaningful! Thank you for this thoughtful post. So true that we all suddenly have a new vocabulary in addition to a new way of living. If only we could all hold onto the lessons that we are receiving right now from the earth ~ the earth and the wildlife which are healing and receiving time to restore. This, is the silver lining of Corona.
Rural Portugal is one of our favorite places in the world and we thought we may make a home there one day. Here we are though in Mexico. May you be safe and healthy in your newly adopted country! Best of luck with the transition.
Thank you, Peta. Yes, I do hope that we can hold onto this silver lining this pandemic is giving us. I hope you and Ben are happy where you are in Mexico and that those daily swims in the ocean is just what you need. The way you got to where you are now is such an amazing story of serendipity and grace.
Michael and I are glad that we decided to continue with our last trip to Portugal in March and that we managed to make it back to Abu Dhabi just before all the borders closed. I would much rather be on the land during this time, but we are grateful that he is still earning a salary during this time of global lockdown. I still have to go through a lot of official processes to get my residence visa in Portugal as I only have a South African passport, but I at least have a Schengen visa that is valid for a year, and we trust that we will be able to start my process this year still. You can guess where I will be heading the moment the borders are open again. 😉
Take good care of yourselves.
Times are tough and the tunnel is probably too long to see the light through. Your analogies are very interesting. Michael Crichton’s Jurassic park revolved on iterations and fractal theory. I remembered it when the situation starting unfolding in Wuhan. The uncertainty of it all is probably what makes it harder. On a positive note, I want to start reading your new blog. I’ve become an armchair traveller. 🙂
I think you are right in that it is the uncertainty that makes everything so much harder, Cheryl.
Armchair travelling could be fun. I’m glad you will join me on our new blog. It is a very different kind of journey, as we are grappling with how to live closer to the land. Perhaps it has something to do with growing older, but I definitely yearn for a simpler life in so many ways. I grew up on a farm, and although I couldn’t wait to move to the big city when I left school, the longing for a piece of land where I could grow my own food has always lingered.
Great thoughts, Jolandi.
I had a get-together with friends from Uni yesterday evening. Being all Science Po graduates we obviously had to talk about this in political-economical terms, and we all considered how things, especially in Italy, are changing. Less commuting to work, less emphasis on ‘traditional’ jobs… but will it actually happen?
I, for myself, have decided to eat less meat. Not becoming vegetarian, or vegan – I love cheese, I love making meatballs, adore fish – but eat meat once or less a week. Like my grandparents used to do, when an animal died or somebody ran over a cat (“hey! rabbit stew!”). At the end of the day this mess jumped out by somebody eating some sort of meat – be it a pangolin, a bat, whatever. And I don’t mean to say I eat pangolins, but it’s also true that a lot of antibiotic-resistant bugs are popping out of chicken farms, pig farms and so on…
Anyway, now following your other blog!
We can learn so much from how our grandparents used to live. Mine had to be frugal out of necessity, but I still think being frugal is a great value even if one doesn’t have to be, because it means one is not wasteful.
Seeing that I’m a vegetarian, I particularly love that you have decided to eat less meat. 😉 Nothing wrong with it per se, but I think part of the mess we’ve created is to not know where our food comes from anymore.
There is so much change we can create through the simple choices we make. We are not powerless, even if it sometimes feel like it.
Like you I wonder what the world will look like when we emerge from this. There are so many uncertainties.
At least I know what I want my life to look like when this nightmare is over, so I’m glad you will be following along as we attempt to build a new life living closer to the land.
Very well said, Jolandi. I am hoping we come out of this a different and better world. Our local villages and towns have all shown what fantastic communities we all are. There is help offered everywhere for all possible needs. I am very fortunate to live where I do. It would be wonderful if this sense of community continued post-covid-19.
Thank you, Clare. It is so wonderful to hear of communities standing together and helping one another. You are indeed fortunate. Like you, I hope it will continue after all this is over. I definitely wish for a kinder more compassionate world when this is done.
Hi how are you? let me know thru whatsapp your new news! Love to hear from you! Miss you my friend 🙂 always take care!
Hi Evelyn. I was wondering about you just the other day. Will send a WhatsApp.
Thank you for your hopeful thoughts, Jolandi. I hope all is well with you and Michael.
We are well, thank you, Tanja.
I’m glad to hear it, Jolandi. 🌼
Yes, we all need to take stock and determine what we value most. I was struck by this quote I read:
“In the rush to return to normal, use this time to work which parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”
Our lives will not be the same again.
So true! What a wise and wonderful quote.
a very beautiful photo!
have a nice w.e.
Ironic how such a small thing, a virus none of us can even see, has upended all. As you poignantly pointed out so much of our societal structures were not working in the first place, but so many of us thought they were. Perhaps the best and greatest lesson we have all learned from this pandemic is that we foolishly hold on to the illusion of being in control. What would life look like if we admitted we weren’t?
Indeed, Atreyee. It will be interesting to see how we move forward out of this upheaval – individually and collectively. I hope we can find the courage to embrace the changes we need to make to create a kinder world, and not fall into patterns of fear and distrust.