By Dr Farah M Shroff
Public Health Researcher and Educator
It’s scary. Panic is everywhere. Those who don’t usually experience anxiety are fraught with worry. We are in unimaginable times. Life as we know it has stopped. All that we know– movement within our cities, between cities, from nation to nation, commerce as we know it. It’s done. We have no freedom during these times. We are all at home. At least those of us who have homes are being forced to be at home. And even those who don’t have homes are suddenly getting long awaited temporary homes.
Only some of us are out and life is somewhat frightening and treacherous. Will those of us driving, delivering, serving, providing care, doing only what is essential, make it through these days of contagion? Touching surfaces, people, and that which is forbidden for the rest of society, we are not certain we’d like to take the risk. There isn’t enough protective equipment for everyone. Is the ultimate sacrifice worth it?
Fear is in the air. We are all breathing it. Our lungs are inhaling small particles, nay! water droplets of fear. Our imaginations are playing pranks on us. Every news broadcast. Every new ‘case’. All those numbers are terrifying. It feels like life is hanging on a thread. Can we flatten this curve?
Just as the caterpillars thought that they were about to die,
they started to break out of the cocoon
They were butterflies
Inside this field of contagion lies the truth about stopping business as usual. The air is also cleaner. In only a few weeks! The birds are singing louder than before. The sun has appeared in places that it was not visible before. Dolphins are delighting in waters with playfulness that shows us that the Earth is loving this. How come we couldn’t do this before? We marched; we did research; we elected politicians and beseeched corporations to do their part to stop this disaster. The only thing powerful enough was a tiny virus. Imagine. Not teeming masses of people, not even the youngest amongst us. Just one virus, with the ability to do what most of us are not doing now—moving around the world really quickly. Almost every one of the 195 nations on earth has now stopped business as usual. The death toll rises. And the caterpillars become butterflies.
This transformation for the ecosystem was just what we wanted. We didn’t want to pay this heavy a price. Why do we have to weigh all these deaths and suffering against planetary survival? This virus will come and go. The earth, though, doesn’t have to be so ephemeral. Can we, like the caterpillar, emerge from this cocoon and learn to fly from flower to flower with beauty and grace?
“Cut a chrysalis open, and you will find a rotting caterpillar. What you will never find is that mythical creature, half caterpillar, half butterfly, a fit emblem of the human soul, for those whose cast of mind leads them to seek such emblems. No, the process of transformation consists almost entirely of decay.”
-Pat Barker in “Regeneration”
Can we harvest the lessons from this disaster to create more harmonious, sustainable societies? Will we move quickly towards green technologies, kindness and caring, helping each other all the time? We are now in the chrysalis.