Connected by a bond of sympathy

Thursday, 07 May 2020

Albert Einstein wrote in Living Philosophies: “Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others …. for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day I realise how much my own outer and inner life is built upon the labours of others, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received”.

I have watched, listened to and asked so many about their perspective over the past few weeks and there seems to be the one theme that emerges time and again. It is about the calm that has descended over everything during this period and the valuing of the family connection. Put simply, people have appreciated the slower pace and the (mostly) quality family time. Kids have even spoken about their mum and dad being less stressed! There is something that bonds people in a crisis (if that’s not too strong a word) and has made us recognise the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. What can bond us equally is the realisation that fundamental changes may be needed to the ways we think and behave. 

Travers McLeod outlined 10 steps to build a stronger Australia after this crisis and is looking for a rethink in many areas of Australian life. (Full article here) In Step 4 he said: ‘COVID-19 has exposed the Faustian pact our society has made with our carers. Nurses, teachers, childcare, disability and age-care workers are among the many whose work has been undervalued. More often than not these carers are women. Just as carers and essential workers have underwritten Australia through the crisis, revaluing the service they provide must be at the centre of our national recovery’. That would be a new way of thinking! 

Meanwhile Yuval Harari was asking for an economic rethink in his recent interview. He thinks this is not so much a health crisis as it is an economic and political crisis. Science will find an answer to the health component of this crisis. There is a substantial political crisis emerging in the US which will be much harder to deal with than the virus itself. This crisis will be amplified in that polarised society and played out in social media and in siloed allegiances. 

Many kids have enjoyed this period of time. Sure, they have been restricted in movement and have not had as much contact with friends but many have enjoyed something on which they can’t quite put their finger but my guess is it is the calm and presence of family. I have made it my mission to ask kids in the morning what did they like about being at home. One from Yr 4 said this morning: “I really enjoyed the way we (the family) interacted each night and spent time together”. Some have not been hauled from one activity to another at a frantic pace. As the poem below states:  

We now call it the Great Realisation, and yes, since then there have been many. But that’s the story of how it started, and why hindsight’s 2020.

The Great Realisation – Tom Foolery 

If you have not seen this poem which is read by a father to child then go to the link here. It appears much better in context of the visuals coming across the background and give it more meaning. However, the poem reflects a prevailing mood.

Snuggle down my boy although I know you know you full well. This story starts before then in a world I once would dwell 

It was a world of waste and wonder; poverty and plenty - back before we understood, why hindsight’s 2020 

You see, the people came up with companies, to trade across all lands - but they swelled and got much bigger, than we ever could have planned  

We’d always had our wants, but now it got so quick. You could have anything you dreamed of, in a day, and with a click 

We noticed families had stopped talking, that's not to say they never spoke - but the meaning must have melted, and the work life balance broke 

The children’s eyes grew squarer and every toddler had a phone. They filtered out the imperfections, but amidst the noise, felt alone 

And everyday the skies grew thicker, ‘til you couldn’t see the stars. So we flew in planes to find them while down below we filled our cars 

We’d drive around all day in circles, we’d forgotten how to run. We swapped the grass for tarmac, shrunk the parks ‘til there were none

We filled the sea with plastic cause our waste was never capped, until each day when you went fishing, you’d pull fish out already wrapped

And while we drank and smoked and gambled, our leaders taught us why - it’s best to not upset the lobbies, more convenient to die

But then in 2020, a new virus came our way, the governments reacted, and told us all to hide away 

But while we were all hidden, amidst the fear, and all the while - People dusted off their instincts, they remembered how to smile

They started clapping to say thank you, and calling up their mums - and while the car keys gathered dust, they would look forward to their runs

And with the skies less full of voyagers, the earth began to breathe - and the beaches bore new wildlife, that scuttled off into the seas

Some people started dancing, some were singing, some were baking. We’d grown so used to bad news but some good news was in the making

And so when we found the cure, and were allowed to go outside - we all preferred the world we found, to the one we’d left behind

Old habits became extinct, and they made way for the new. And every simple act of kindness, was now given its due

“But why did it take a virus to bring the people back together?” Well sometimes you got to get sick my boy before you start feeling better

Now lie down and dream of tomorrow, and all the things that we can do. And who knows, if you dream hard enough, maybe some of them will come true

We now call it the Great Realisation, and yes, since then there have been many. But that’s the story of how it started, and why hindsight’s 2020.

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