When I posted my previous article on solitude earlier this year, who would have thought we would soon find ourselves using new verbs like social distancing, and old ones like quarantining and isolating, in everyday speech? This is what COVID-19 has presented to humanity: a new reality, a shift from what we knew as normal. As I was writing that piece, the Coronavirus was already starting to wreak its havoc in China and was getting ready to break out to the rest of the world.
Now the full reality of its impact is upon us and we find ourselves, like it or not, in forced opportunities to spend less time in the outside world and more time in our inner worlds. I recently listened to a psychologist on NPR talking about how people’s nighttime dreams are becoming more intense and vivid during this time of heightened anxiety and uncertainty, indicating the activation of our unconscious psyche as it tries to regain its equilibrium.
Podcasts, online discussions, and social media posts are busier than ever, discussing meditation and inner reflection, gratitude and acceptance, webinars and Zoom meetings (what’s the proper lighting and background for online meetings? Must we wear pants?) And who would have imagined that election fever would suddenly become a lukewarm headline of a forgotten era?
I do several weekly webinars, teach classes, have teletherapy sessions, attend online group meditations, and show up to work meetings all from home. I Skype, WhatsApp, and FaceTime with friends and family, I take the dog for long walks. While stuck at home, we are learning to cook, learning new languages, learning to homeschool, recalibrating our priorities. We are falling to pieces or coming together. It is a blessing and a curse.
Jungian analyst James Hollis gave a fascinating talk a couple of years ago at the Jung Society of Atlanta about how quickly our world is changing, how the terrain we traverse now as a human species is so different from what we have been familiar with in the past. The personal and collective imperative to make conscious choices has never been greater. He described how we find ourselves in a singularity, a place where our reality has already shifted so much that we cannot possibly get by with our old maps, and yet we still use them because we are unconscious of this shift and are still holding on to old realities.
His point was that we need to awaken, discard our old maps, and create new maps to navigate and thrive in this new terrain. That we must be flexible and above all, conscious. Only then can we be active participants in the transformation that is already occurring. Such prophetic words for our current times.
Certainly, everybody now is feeling this shift. Whether in terms of COVID-19, politics, climate change, racial justice, LGBTQ+ activism, technological advances, everything is changing so quickly. And nobody knows how it will all play out in the end. Do we emerge in paradise or in hell? Only time will tell. Yet this question can best be answered by how conscious we are as we proceed, how we handle this opportunity to evolve.
A couple of days ago, I attended, yes, a webinar! by Rick Tarnas, cultural historian and author of Cosmos and Psyche, in which he described some of the challenges and opportunities we face as a human race in the face of this global pandemic. He emphasized that in spite of the chaotic feeling that everything is out of control, we still have agency in the cosmos, which responds to our actions. We can always do something about whatever shows up in our reality. Hearing him say this makes me feel like we are in a kind of cosmic game show. What will we choose? How will we choose? Our survival appears to hinge upon this.
While I hope that collectively we will make conscious choices, ultimately, each of us has a responsibility to make personal choices that benefit our immediate environment. We can be more mindful of the resources we have, we can be kinder, more flexible, more present.
Now where did the time go? Excuse me while I attend my next Zoom meeting.