A few years ago, a buddhist monk in Bhutan introduced me to a powerful word – Bardo – meaning an intermediate, or transitional, or the liminal state between Death and Re-birth. Out of the incredibly many interpretations the word stands for, it represents the space – an opportunity for awakening – between the past and the future, between losing and having, Between exhalation and inhalation, Between Stimulus and Response.
Contextualising it, it could also represent the opportunity for awakening that exists between life before covid and the life after.
Life before Covid
With all the intelligence our species is credited with, we have built systems that allowed poverty to emerge and perpetuate, in a world of plenty. Systems that justified suffering of the many (including but not limited to humans) as a cost of progress for the few. We built the Omelas.
We know that we derive our life energy from all nature around us. We know that it is within our interest to preserve, nurture and nourish it. We all talk about it. Yet, we continue with our lifestyles that have a heavy footprint wanting and acquiring what we can easily live without, while unconsciously depriving others of what they cannot live without.
As a thinking species, it’s amazing that we never paused and reflected about what we were causing, and how we could course-correct. We were constantly too busy even to notice the bardo, forget about leveraging it as an opportunity for awakening.
We are not exploitative or insensitive. We in fact like the ideas of fairness and restorative and regenerative justice. We all know what’s right and what we ought to do. But we also nurtured and popularised a perspective that what’s good for everyone and everything isn’t good for business or economic development. In other words, our incentives weren’t aligning at a scale that matters, with doing the right thing and doing it the right way – with what we ought to do.
Life during Covid
There’s a beauty emerging, the rivers are cleaning themselves up, the air is clearing itself up, the earth is putting its protective layers back on, the orchestra of nature is divinely audible, and the harmony of its colours is delightfully visible… It’s a shame that the world seems a better place as humans suffer. It’s not that the planet is rejoicing our suffering. The planet is simply showing that in the brief respite resulting from our suddenly abandoning our ways, beauty can emerge. It just means that our ways were not allowing this incredibly powerful beauty to play, nor were they allowing us to recognise and celebrate its existence.
Covid brought with it, an unprecedented threat, yet it also brought with it an unprecedented opportunity. For the first time, there’s an opportunity for all of us to find one common ground, and unite and strive…
Surviving this crisis doesn’t define victory in this war. The objective shouldn’t merely be to get back to our life as it was. We deserve better. The victory is in organising ourselves to collectively step-up to the opportunity for awakening, so the future would indeed be meaningful. We must exercise our intellect to recalibrate our role as a contributing species on the planet, for the planet.
Let’s look around – we thrive not because we get our profits and/or salaries. We thrive not because of what we wear, how we look, what we drive or who we pray. We thrive because there’s our Sun that is our source of energy. We thrive because there are our trees that happen to be the only life forms that can convert the Sun’s gift into consumable energy and a life force – food and oxygen. We thrive because there is our water – the most incredible and the most complicated yet predictable supply chain that procures, distributes, recycles and guarantees life by running through our veins. We thrive because there’s our soil, the forgiving mother that absorbs all our mess and regenerates the potential of our life. We thrive because there are our cyano bacteria that generate a significant amount of oxygen without which our life is just an idea. We thrive because of our ants and the earthworms that burrow through the soil and create ways for the earth to breathe and absorb. We thrive because of the bees, the bats, the butterflies without which we wouldn’t have the forests that generate oxygen and that form a critical link in the water logistics. We thrive because the dung beetles roll up the shit. We thrive because so many species and elements are what they are and do what they do. Our “extra-ordinary” life is possible because of a concerted effort of billions of simple beings doing simple things extraordinarily well. Calls for Gratitude!
Imagine our lives without salaries, profits and all that – it’s hard but it’s easy to see that we can make it possible. And now, imagine our lives without this fellowship of species – it’s impossible.
We thrive because they thrive. Ubuntu.
Each of these species lives in ways that contribute to the perpetuation of all life around them. Purpose of life is that simple – to figure out a way to contribute to the perpetuation of life around us. What’s our contribution to the perpetuation of life around us?
If there’s a context of life, then, at the moment, we are outside of it. We are irrelevant.
Life is not just Human – It’s a fragile, delicate yet resilient fabric formed with the billions of life forms as its warp and weft. Through tonnes of checks and measures it ensures that the right species exists in the right numbers for the right amount of time to maintain the balance. Balance.
Our victory is in finding our ways back to being relevant to the context of life. When we do that, we can not only witness the beauty re-emerge, but can also celebrate being part of it.
Let’s know that the invisible “enemy” has in fact given us an invaluable gift – time to reflect, contemplate, make a choice and to commit ourselves to a new life that has beautiful possibilities for everyone including humans. Let’s make it count!