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The sum of our fears

Photo by Ahmed Al-Shukaili

02.06.2020 Portlaoise

However prosaic it sounds; we are all wondering what the return to normality will look like. But the answer does not have to be as simple as it seems. The whole problem is based on the archetypal distinction between good and evil. We might as well have written a 15-volume encyclopaedia about it and the problem would have gone as far as Jupiter. I think it’s enough if we limit ourselves here to the concept of hope, which in my opinion results from the inherent skill of distinguishing between one and the other.

Good is a very resilient material and is not readily criticized as such, so it is extremely difficult to write something revealing about its nature. Evil, on the other hand, loves the warm touch of spotlights. Great majority would agree that it lets people to arrange itself into sentences, only to overpower each one of us with its seductive grace, while we think we are still in control.

And take my word for it, it is even harder to write in order to cheer hearts. Every time I picked up the pen, I subconsciously felt a rasp in the melodic line of the text. Something indecently hypocritical was gazing at me from the shadows.

This is not what writing is about. Hypocrisy or sarcasm are the best breeding grounds for fear, and fear (We were taught. So, we know well where it led to) is the best fertilizer for evil.

I strived to bring comfort, the last thing I wished for was a depressed reader. Then, I decided I would be telling the story of people I know, sometimes quite close, and sometimes only by sight, but no matter who they are, they share a constant optimism and a friendly approach to others.

Moreover, in spite of the whole craziness right now, they prove by their daily kindness that even a small gesture can bring hope. A bit of rosemary for someone across the street, everyday shopping left at neighbour doorstep, sometimes even phone call, with simple question: are you ok?

You ask if such gestures can change the world? Probably not. After all, someone who hopes does not have to be a naive right away. However, I believe, that a good word or seemingly insignificant gesture has enough power to make someone’s day. Besides, when they give away their insignificant, tiny good deeds, they are putting world back on tracks and everything seems to be going in the right direction. That is why I am convinced of the need to highlight all manifestations of kindness and compassion, especially today and especially in a world that values a lot of attributes, but not every day courtesy.

And what if not this confirms our belief that the universe is good at its sources, and evil is only a small and temporary contamination. Thus, neither those who spit or cough on Gardai nor those who spread harmful nonsense about life-taking vaccine will change it. The more I read about similar feats the stronger the feeling sprouts within me that evil, attracts stupidity like a magnet and mutually stupidity clings to evil, like a moth to a flame. Sometimes it starts completely innocently.

Because each day is a reminiscent of the previous one, and each passes too quickly we start making a big plan for life after the pandemic. We promise ourselves a lot because we don’t know what happens tomorrow. Maybe we’ll have to isolate again? We’d like to catch a moment while we still can. Only yearning for freedom makes us realize how much we had to sacrifice. This is where dreams and hope mix along.

Nevertheless, this does not entitle us to lose sight of what I’ve been speaking before — same entity desperately trying to get into the limelight zone.

Unluckily hope is one of the scarcest goods in recent weeks, and circumstances are discouraging. Yes, I see fear, world seems deserted, anxiety leads to depression, mood swings also are doing their job, and the effects are often worrying. One day we get up full of energy, we tell ourselves that we must act, then the day after we have to put up a hell of a fight, just to afford to get out of bed. There is no strength within us, the sense of dignity has evaporated, and the picture outside the window is simply depressing. We have lost confidence. Although only yesterday we thought it was our birth right.

Will we ever get it back? I do not think so. And right now, especially now a new journey commences. It will be a path into the unknown, full of mistakes and falls. And subconsciously I know that we will want to turn back more than once, but there is no turning back, the old bridges have collapsed under own weight, and we still have to build new ones. In spite of great discoveries, and even greater achievements of our civilization, despite all splendid things we learn about every day from the press and television, we are in fact extremely vulnerable and helpless against such a small thing as a virus.

This odd experience of our insignificance suddenly materialized and immediately took over entire planet, and now in its essence is the unprocessed sum of all our fears. Something got broken, and it seems that there is no such force in the universe, with the help of which we could fix it. In this light, our desperate attempts to make up for lost time seem even more pathetic than they actually are. Consequently, aren’t e-yoga, e-books, Facebook challenges, movie marathons on streaming platforms a desperate, and at the same time simplest attempt to drown out apprehension, outcast despair?

I would like to say something encouraging, but one cannot write about hope based on fantasies. No, it is not that simple. I have a stubbing feeling that the sum of all these activities in the long run can do more harm than good. Woody Allen use to say: if you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans. How many of our plans were derailed by the virus?

All the more I lean towards the theory that everyone’s life is based on a bizarre pattern, that however avoided, activates at least expected moment, as if someone had deliberately programmed it into our genetic code. I mean the episodic states of chaos, which is something that is completely at odds with our ability to learn — suddenly something ends, although it should start, there is silence around, although we are used to the clamour, and in the light of day we feel like in the dark of night — behold of insidious nature of loneliness!

This is how we come to solve the seemingly insoluble riddles of the end of the world, in a world that has ended 25 times in past 25 years. No one benefits and no one loses anything — world goes by its own course, and all we have to do is try to keep up, keep up, keep up…

That’s what I wanted to warn you about. One cannot demand too much from life, but one must not give up for banal reasons. It seems to me that each of us should work out his own way, while not dying of boredom and not risking death by excessive burden of self-imposed obligations. Let us live an ordinary and peaceful life without unnecessary exaltation, let us accept the world with its glitters and shadows, let us be good to each other, and the rest will work itself out — take me for granted.


The sum of our fears was originally published in ILLUMINATION on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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