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by Tatev Derzyan

Ups and downs: how to make the next ‘down’ less painful

After the scientific breakthrough, humans thought that science will give answers to all questions that religion neglected. After Enlightenment, humans believed that reason would govern better than God-given authority. After the industrial revolution, humans found the eternal engine for growth in expense of nature. Needless to say, that the hopes born during these events never saw their dawn in fulfillment, but instead, they gave birth to new expectations, and the circle continued. The creation of the UN, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and widespread liberal democracy made humans think that it is “the end of history’’ as no person will even suffer from authoritarian regimes and deprived of their rights. Well, those did not come true, either. Then, we gave birth to the unprecedented network of interconnectedness, social networks allowed us to feel elevated, to project that we all are in the stage where life is beautiful and all you need to make it even better is to buy the next product suggestion in your newsfeed.

The crush of self-deceiving illusion came harshly on humanity. As we cared more about investing in the spheres which promised big and fast payback, we forgot to care about the foundation, health in individual, societal, and global stages. Covid-19 was the final beat in this circle of illusion, which closed us at homes, at hospitals, and at graves, depending solely on luck. Apparently, the mesmerizing and paradoxical thing about this virus is that it hit in a non-discriminatory manner, still, several layers of societies were hit even stronger. As for the unmet expectations discussed above, Covid-19 was/is a mere consequence of our action/inaction in the past, when we thought that our future was in the next app or program. Humans put all the eggs in one basket, in the bucket of fast profit, consumerism, but did not pay enough attention to the spheres that matter the most: education, healthcare, and science. Healthcare in universal and personal senses because humans positioned themselves in the area of 'comfortable opinions' and did not dare to rise from their egos to have difficult but meaningful conversations. The lack of the last component is yet to hit us, as the issue of depressions and anxieties will surface in the future, revealing that our educational systems taught us the skills to fit in in the labor market, but did not help us to develop skills to have meaningful lives

I personally share all the descriptions above, I had big plans for 2020, I went to study in the Netherlands, I was going to chair MUNs in Rome and Lisbon, I was going to travel to #GrIStuF2020, I was going to have a summer school in Oslo then a forum in Alpbach. Instead of these, I was ‘rewarded’ by flying back to my home country, being quarantined, experiencing the rest of the semester with online classes, helping my cat to overcome two operations, and all these while suffering from anxiety. Nevertheless, I can project whatever I said on myself: I have had big expectations from my semester, from my summer; I have postponed many things to catch up with my studies with the picture in head that ‘after all these hardships’ the spring will come, I did not develop mental strength to overcome that if in the form of a pandemic but in any other form would otherwise arrive at my door.

I have found the answer to cope with my own Covid-19 experience in philosophy and meditation, my 'enlightenment' perfectly matches the slogan of #GrIStuF2020 from Ego to Echo, as I found the answers in my ego, and I plan to enlarge it with echo. The answer was in ancient philosophy, which all of us have read, but as modern people always in a rush for new experience, never reflected. Buddhism, Daoism, Aristotle, Plato, Epicure, Stoics all talked about the problem that we have now, all of them gave a relatively different answer. Still, their point of departure was the same: human life is full of ups and downs, it is the nature of life, and it is silly to think that it will last forever. The answer that I can summarize from them is mindfulness and readiness. During this past month, I have taught myself to be present in my situation, to accept it, and to reform my response to it, as pandemic was not my fault, it was not anybody’s fault, but ‘this too shall pass’ and the lessons should be learned, and the next time, I face hardship, I know that I have built capacity to overcome it.

Pandemic, as harsh as it was, left us alone with ourselves, it showed us that before we were trying to escape from our situation, to neglect the roots of the problems in personal and universal stages. Therefore, I think that pandemic of this scale is a result of our inaction, however, it gave the best lesson to my generation (let’s face it, it treated us better than world wars, natural catastrophes or famines) that our comfortable bubbles will not last forever, there will be ups and downs, the best thing we can do now is to equip ourselves and our generations for the next down, not with fear, guilt, and intimidation but with care for the people, nature, and universe.