Corona appeared as a dangerous virus creating a critical crisis in the ever-interacting human society, pushing it to self-distancing, and blocking physical social communication, so as to protect and safeguard individual existence, even in the intimate circle of family relations. Being a global crisis-creator, Corona has been understood as a villain in contemporary human society. It has undoubtedly led to mass human suffering across the globe, and unprecedented distress, despair and death.
Crisis management, therefore, has been the primary concern of humanity, using masks, sanitizing hands and the body, and distancing oneself in isolation to escape the virus attack. Things, however, could not stop at these precautions. People realized that it cannot just shun away the Corona factor — it has to live with it. So, from the stage of crisis management, creative thinkers began to explore positive ways of ‘self-development’ in the challenging context of Covid-19.
This ‘creative phase’ has fascinated human positive productivity dramatically, with a lot of self- corrections derived from the past and unprecedented perfections for the future. The dominant revelation is that this stage of crisis management also gave way to explosions of certain creative innovations for humanity.
The proliferation of the positive took a while to be expressed. Indeed, curious terms like, Tele-texts, video-instructions, teacher-less-class-rooms, Tele-schools, Tele-universities, Tele-medicine, etc. had been already introduced as fascinating future realities almost three to four decades back in the field of communication sciences. But, its realization has been pathetic, and the idea moved with the speed of a snail. Surprisingly, Covid-19 made it an everyday reality, something inconceivable even in the early phase of 2020.
This virtual knowledge system as a phenomenon has been realized as reality in the academic and professional circles within a year. If it were to be introduced as a ‘reform’ in the existing system of education, it might have faced the resistance of teachers, reluctance of the students, lethargy of the parents, opposition of the publishers, political opposition of teachers’ associations, organized resistance of the political parties, opportunistic games of government authorities etc. It would have taken a full decade, while keeping the controversies alive.
But, today, digital class rooms, on-line teaching, self-search learning, parents’ acquaintance and assistance, teachers’ commitment, the management’s efficiency, the government’s decisive leadership – they have all became a fulfilled reality within a year!.
Truly, how was this done so efficiently and as a routine and ritualistic training and learning practice? The silent agent behind this explosive ‘revolution’ is Covid-19?
This impossible break became plausible with what can be called the ‘Covid Pressure’. In normal circumstances, due to the typically panic-stricken and compulsive workaholic mentality, professionals did not even have a spare moment to sit back at home to share or bear the emotionally charged issues of the family members. The children cried about it, wives grumbled about it, parents complained about it, but a spare moment used to be impossibility. But, Covid-19 made it a realized reality with reasonably positive results!
The economic system of work and progress has tilted. The new circumstances changed the entire concept of daily work. Human beings realized that going to organized offices and spending prescribed hours need not be so important, but the amount of work one does either at home or during travel, that alone really counts.
The fact that people squander a lot of time, energy and money just to wander around was not very convincing until we happen to read the facts in media that more than 3 lakh travel pass applications were received by the police during the lockdown; the police could identify only about 30,000 of them as genuine. That means we travel spending disproportionate petrol, money and work time even when the petrol price was sky-rocketing. Besides, the lockdown brought down air pollution, and in many polluted urban locations, the birds returned, and the air became clearer and cleaner.
Only Covid-19 could correct the unnecessary expenses spent for marriages, birthdays and other social get-togethers when the maximum number of participants was restricted to 50 or 100, thus stopping the thousands who would join the extravagant pomp and pageantry. Again, social drinking has been changed as a family experience. These subtle changes thought as impossible in the pre-Covid times, has easily become possible now.
The social awareness about the plight of the poor and needy during the pandemic and the lockdown, who live around us, has changed the character of certain communities. They have become more generous and helpful, more charitable and supportive of one’s own neighbours in utter poverty and suffering, by running social kitchens, supplying free food and taking care of the marginalized people and their children. Its international version of free supply of medicines, food and health services to support the suffering nations became the visible mark of illustrious humanity in the ‘global society’. This was too a positive effect of Covid-19.
A healthy life is the birth right of every global citizen without any kind of discrimination. This factor was asserted when the central government finally decided to give the vaccine free to every citizen, even while the Supreme Court first endorsed it. Exploiting the troubled situation to misappropriate undue money from the victims had been a continued practice by some voracious agencies which could never be controlled effectively. This was widely exposed along with the utter helplessness of citizens during the second surge of death and despair.
As the government often stood hesitant to act in such contexts of injustice and corruption, the Supreme Court and high courts of the country deserve great appreciation; they proved their mettle, daring to make critical and crucial interventions in public interest to establish justice and universal health care for all Indian citizens across the caste and class spectrum, while checking and punishing the exploiters.
Religion and spirituality got corrected and converted positively due to the Corona grip. The highly institutionalized monopoly of traditional rituals, ‘mysteries’ and celebrations of the established religions, which often faced allegations of scandalous financial misappropriations and mismanagement, got a shock. This was corrected as nobody visited temples, churches and shrines any more.
Spirituality and holiness has been repeatedly hijacked by the polluting voices of certain preachers and self-made Godmen across the globe. Another phenomenon that flourished like prunes after thunder shower was the money-mongering retreat centers with their extravagant conventions, recurring retreat schemes, continuous mission tours and special social worship forms. Covid-19 has effectively liberated the ‘poor and faithful’ from the clutches of such self-proclaimed panic-preachers.
Spirituality has got established now as the encounter of the ‘Self’ with the ‘Divine’ within oneself in the silence and serenity enjoyed in the ‘self-picked’ holy moments. This has helped human beings to realize the divine dwelling within oneself and to eventually change oneself from evil to good, sacrifice selfishness, and sanctify oneself in serving others.
This has also helped humanity to save itself from crass exhibitionism to a humane form of existentialism, while enjoying the inner sense of ‘Divine Intimacy’. Now, the prayers, rituals and sacrifices have turned out to be more of personal choice and sincere communion, often with the support of audio-visual leads. Well, with all its negative impact, Corona became the ‘silent power’ that transformed spirituality into tangible, different and objective forms.
One of the predominant peculiarities of our modern media-mediated culture has been the uncontrolled celebration of the ‘accidents of reality’ at the risk of killing the ‘inner substance’ of humanity. The sole purpose of any established system was more driven by the disproportionate celebration of ‘accidental enjoyments’ even at the risk of losing the essentials. This has been the indomitable passion of the larger society and course correction was practically impossible. Indeed, now, this myth has been exploded and reworked in an indomitable style by the silent power of the Covid-19 crisis!
True, Covid-19 came as a villain inflicting calamity. There has been widespread dying and death, distress and despair; thousands have lost their loved ones, there has been unimaginable suffering, people are still mourning. Many more in tens of thousands have been rendered jobless, economically vulnerable and pushed to the wall. The poor have been reduced to abject hunger and helplessness. The isolation has driven many to anxiety and depression.
Indeed, these forms of infinite sadness should itself create the great human endeavour to change and reach out and help others; to be unselfish and magnanimous in sharing and giving. To create scaffoldings for those who are suffering. Indeed, this is a chance for humanity to redeem itself and bring healing and happiness back into a wounded and ravaged society.
Surely, the creative divine power can be worked out in pro-active terms to change the calamity into a covetous opportunity to bring bright progress for the benefit of humankind. It’s time to promote positive values even in the midst of a negative and deathly calamity, to restore hope in humanism and goodness, to resurrect kindness and sharing. To give to those who don’t have. This is the emerging face of human spirituality.
Rev. Dr.John Edappilly was Dean of Studies at the National Institute of Social Communications Research and Training (NISCORT), NCR, New Delhi, Adjunct Faculty at Immaculata University Pennsylvania, USA, Director of the Christian Centre forCulture and Communications at Amritsar, and is now the Director of Devamatha Cultural Centre, Thrissur, Kerala.