2020 Taught the World Gratitude for Love
By: Forrest Rivers
When we look back on the past year, we will undoubtedly remember it as the “year of the pandemic.” And all the painful associations that we have had with 2020 will be relived again in stories told to future generations who are too young to recall the tragic loss of life, challenging periods of social isolation, and crushing poverty caused by COVID-19. In addition to all the world’s suffering, we will also remember this year for the utter lack of compassion exhibited by such world leaders as America’s Donald Trump, Great Britain’s Boris Johnson, and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro in response to the crisis. We will also associate 2020 with long-standing racial tensions that boiled over, billionaires who turned record profits, and ballooning cases of mental health issues.
However, despite all the real pain that this pandemic has visited upon the world, this year in passing will also be remembered for something that many news outlets have overlooked all together: a renewed gratitude for the power of love. More now than in past years, the world is beginning to re-awaken to the spirit of a mystical force so profound that it can transform us from the inside out. Something remarkable has begun to take root through our shared experience of isolation. A growing realization that we truly need one another has transformed from a concept that we occasionally waxed poetic about before the pandemic, to a living truth that we have only now begun to discover within ourselves since.
In my own life, I have come to realize just how wildly peculiar it is that it literally took a once in a lifetime pandemic for me to gather up the courage to reach back out to dear friends who I had lost touch with. In 2020, I have reconnected with more people through the phone than in any other year I can recall. The past year has had the effect of re-awakening a profound sense of gratitude for all the wonderful beings in my life. The circumstances of the past year have also confirmed for me an important truth that the Christian mystic Thomas Merton wrote about in his meditations on solitude: No man is an island. This powerful realization, alone, contradicts almost everything that we westerners are taught to believe.
Particularly in nations like the United States, where the value of rugged individualism is extolled, the mere mention of our intrinsic connection threatens to dissolve the illusion of separateness that the fabric of this civilization is built upon. To acknowledge that “no man is an island,” is to admit that we really are our brothers and sisters’ keepers. Undoubtedly, a renewed awareness of this sacred soul connection we all share is the greatest gift that this pandemic has bestowed on humanity. One day soon, the dust will settle, and we will be able to gather once more in song and dance, dine together again in proximity, and embrace complete strangers (though in a cosmic sense are any of us even strangers?) with a handshake or hug. When that day comes, let us remember those difficult moments when we struggled in isolation and dreamed of how wonderful it would be to reunite with beloved friends and family in person.
May we never again take the power of love for granted.
Om Shanti. (peace)