Discovery of hope begins with ‘why’
The coronavirus lays bare why our individual and personal choices matter in life.
Normally blended into the wider society and economy, individual responsibility, or rather the absence of it, is barely perceptible. But that has shifted dramatically. Personal choices now command our attention.
Some readers either already have contracted this virus or will do so sometime in the future. And it is entirely possible that some may not survive that. That is the horrible reality we are living through.
And those personal choices that normally blend into a wider population will now determine both the length and severity of this reality. It isn't a leap to say that individual responsibility and personal accountability are not as abundant as they once were.
Most of us are children of the times of plenty. Even a cursory glance at social media shows weaponised selfishness, which has contributed undoubtedly to the spread of the virus.
And given enough time and isolation, could that person be you or me? The time between the rational present and the irrational future may weigh too heavily.
How then do we never, not once, give in to an irresponsible urge that the virus will exploit?
My answer: Hope.
Not the pixie-dust-covered fluffy kind used on motivational posters in the office. I mean the chin-up, shoulders-back kind that focuses the mind, puts others first and is relentless in the face of adversity.
That kind of hope knows there is a future beyond the present problem, and it lives into and for that future.
We didn't invent roads, buses or population centres; nor did we arrange the scheduling of those resources to move the people around. And despite all of the institutional memory, academic research and specialist expertise, we cannot seem to get a modern, effective bus schedule. Somehow, it's not just a problem — it's a national problem!
The search for individual significance and public success clouds problem-solving. It confuses service with glory.
And now the virus is making a mockery of all our problems, self-induced and historical — buses, race, immigration and finances.
Problems such as this virus do not respond to political bluster, eloquence-coated ignorance or resting on past laurels.
It came for us all, individually and personally.
And if we act selflessly, focus our minds, put others first and never waver, we will push back against this common enemy.
Acting selflessly is abnormal enough that there has to be a clear, perceivable “why”. Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl told us that if we have a “why”, then we can survive any “how”.
A hopeful Bermuda, a Bermuda where we know “why”, is not easily panicked. A Bermuda that knows “why” is not self-righteousness or constantly lamenting personal affronts and indignities.
This period gives us an opportunity to remember “why” we get up every day. It breaks the cycle of living on automatic pilot, of waking up like it's an accident.
It is not in the power of this article, or anyone else, to tell us our own “why”. We know only that it is as different as our life stories, that all of those experiences of jubilant achievement and bitter failure tell us our “why”.
We are sheltering in place from a powerful problem, and there are more problems to come. And it's not like life was a bucket of sherbet before.
We're sitting on a corner stool in a boxing ring, sweating and bleeding. Our ringside team is rubbing our exhausted arms. They are pouring water into our bruised, numb and bloodied mouth. They are trying to stop the inflammation from closing our eyes shut. They are shouting in our ears, “Don't give up!” And from the corner of our eyes, we can see our loved ones crying for us.
Self-pity and panic will not bring us to our feet. Hope will. Let's grab hold of that hope and push back against the times. There has never been a time such as this in living history.
What will we tell our grandchildren about the pandemic of 2020? Will we tell them of our collective hope? Will we say that the virus came for all of us, but that we selflessly pushed it back? Will we say that, in doing so, we remembered why we overcome our problems?
Good luck in finding your “why” and selfless role and, God willing, I will see you when this time subsides and passes into a hope-filled future.
• Jarion Richardson is a One Bermuda Alliance senator