One thing seems clear to me through this coronavirus ordeal. American’s in general have a real hard time sitting with discomfort. We’re quite bad at dealing with things we personally don’t like. The pride of the individual over the idea of the whole is rampant. It looks to me that if you squash all the US into one mind — that mind would always worry about “me, myself, and mine.” It would often say, if it’d be willing to admit it, “I want my own safety and security and I don’t care about you.” I mean, I already knew that. Coronavirus reactions make it stand out.
I’m not immune to this. America values the individual and the personal above all else. Being born and raised in that culture has glued to my mind certain ideas of me being an individual that is more important than I actually am. Safer than I actually am. Smarter than I actually am. I have seen my own selfishness. I have witnessed my own ideas of self-importance keep me ignorant and get in the way of a larger well-being. I have watched poor, lil ol’ me try to avoid disappointment and inconvenience. As a result, I have done things that detract from a greater good rather than enhance.
It’s not that this is morally bad or wrong — it’s that it will always catch up with us. There will always come times when thinking this way will make our lives more difficult. In an attempt to look out for ourselves, we will end up hurting ourselves. We are in one of those times now.
This virus may not be a drastic health threat to most of us. It may latch on to our bodies and be taken care of by our physical immune systems. But my oh my, what it has done by latching on to our sense of self… It will wreak havoc on the American emotional immune system. You can already see the collateral damage. We have not focused on that enough. We have not looked past the idea of ourselves enough to gracefully withstand an attack there.
That what we want as an individual is not important goes against the American Way. We have a hard time seeing life as a whole and accepting that it does not care much about the individual. That is difficult to acknowledge for a self who wants to have control. Try telling us it’s not about us nor up to us, and watch us writhe and lash. Watch us bite off our nose to spite our face.
It will pass, of course. Some of us will get through this inconvenienced, but fine. Others will find their lives drastically altered. It could get very ugly. But in the end and overall, we’ll be okay. Most of us will look back at this as a weird and crazy time — like so many others before it. But I would suggest using this time to see something new about who and what you are. To see something so much bigger than yourself or your immediate surroundings.
This is what I am doing with the extra alone time I now find myself with. I am reflecting on a wider picture of what it is to be human, beyond my own ideas of me. As uncomfortable as it may feel, I know it enhances my emotional immune system. It keeps me clearer and sharper, more flexible and more compassionate. If enough of us did that, there would be far less disruption when the next definite threat rolls around, whatever form it takes.