barcelona health Reflections

Reflections in times of coronavirus

Since Saturday March 14th, when the State of Alarm was announced in Spain, we have been confined to our houses for the double purpose of not becoming infected with COVID-19 ourselves and not collapsing our health care system, which since the 2008 crisis has been operating at minimum levels.

This is our sixth week living in absolute confinement and a certain degree of austerity. We in Spain are not alone in this; a third of the population of the globe is similarly confined. This gives us a lot to talk about as it reveals who we are, individually and collectively, and uncovers the gaps that exist in our societies and the socio-economic and environmental horrors of this system of excesses we live in. To quote a friend, the situation has revealed all the tangles in our hair.

In this post I would like to share four reflections I have come to in these weeks of confinement:

Human beings are astonishingly adaptable.  We complain, we kick and scream, we get anxious every time anyone requests or imposes changes upon our lives, but the fact is that we do adapt, and with astonishing rapidity. Special mention goes to children’s adaptability.  Admirable.

From one day to another something has happened to us that, if we had been told a few months before, we would not have believed. We have gone from being out and about 24/7 (the noise, the conventions and appearances, social and professional bustle, consumerism) to being confined in our homes, only able to go out for strict necessities: in our case, two outings of approximately 30 minutes each per week to do shopping and two outings of 10 minutes each to walk our dog, which we use to also take out the trash.  From one day to the next, we have been forced to reinvent ourselves in the interior of our homes. To reconnect with our children, our partners, our families, with the planet and with ourselves. To establish new routines, new ways of entertaining ourselves, of exercising, of socializing. We have been forced to think rationally — and no compulsively— about what we buy and from whom we buy it. To get bored. To listen to the silence of the streets and watch through our windows how the birds recover habitat that had been invaded and polluted.

In this whole new reality we have been forced to adapt from one day to the next, and in these last few weeks it has become clear to me how quickly and how easily human beings really can adapt: an excellent survival skill.

Collaboration is “the new black.” Our need to form part of a community and feel connected to others (friends or strangers) with mentalities similar to our own is clearer now than ever. The gestures, initiatives and possibilities for collaboration, connection and solidarity have been overwhelming. Isolation and fear have forced us to look at each other without taking into account nationality, sex, race or religion, and to value each other. The hashtags #weareinthistogether and #thankyouhealthcareworkers have been the most used in these weeks. We have danced, cooked, meditated, done yoga, drawn pictures, sung and cried with people from all around the world. We have felt, as never before, a solidarity and brotherhood without borders. Never before had we experienced so intimately what it means to live in a global world, in all its good and its bad senses. These weeks of confinement have affirmed my conviction that the future is not only female (an arduous personal battle) but also plural. Individualism is out of date.

I would like to call out to you all: when we come out of this crisis, let us make a constant and conscious effort to nurture and maintain the social generosity we have experienced in these months. Let us find new ways to collaborate and approach each other, understanding the Earth as one great macro-system of which we all form part. COVID19 has taught us that the wellbeing of the planet, and of each and every one of us depends upon and is the responsibility of all of us.

Gaia, Mother Earth, is powerful. For some time now we have been receiving SOS messages from the Earth: from last year’s wildfires in California to those in Australia at the beginning of this year, from the floods in Indonesia to the recent third bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef… And while in some circles there has been a response to this with mobilizations and awareness-raising (Extinction RebellionFridays for FutureSunrise Movement), at a macro-level we have ignored them. We have imagined ourselves to be all-powerful. We have behaved arrogantly.

From the beginning, Jorge and I have understood the global pandemia (with its apparent zootropic origin) as a resounding message from Mother Earth: the path we are on leads to the extinction of our own species. The message has also given us the key to what we can do to avoid this extinction:

  • Look inside. Cultivate our interiors (through practices like yoga, meditation, dance, painting, reading, music, etc.). Be silent. Encounter ourselves, our essence, in order to restructure our lives and make decisions based on the pursuit of real wellbeing and not superficial or imaginary expectations.
  • Stop.  Lower the intensity, the consumerism, the production. These weeks have shown, in parallel to the health-care crisis, the impact of our lifestyle on the environment: as soon as there is less activity emissions drop, pollution is reduced, the oceans and seas are cleaner.

Virginia Shepley, Finding Inside, 2020

We now know it is possible. If some months ago we might have doubted, we now know it really is possible. We know it is possible to halt massive consumption, excessive production and the global economy. We know we have an extraordinary capacity to adapt, and that our children are heroes capable of pushing forward with resistance and courage. We know it is possible to spend time at home without ‘freaking out’, and to live more simply. We know what Mother Earth needs, and what our future depends upon. We know that we are all in this together, and that together we can do it. We know that normalcy was the problem, and we have already begun a process of change. Let us not forget what we have learned.

As I write these reflections I am fully aware that the experience of confinement is very different for different people, depending upon their contexts, where they live, their economic or work situations. I am aware that I form part of a privileged group that has experienced this confinement in a safe and respectful environment, with all my needs fully covered, and without suffering the direct impact or loss of COVID19.


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