A crisis of existentialism in a time of COVID-19 pandemic

It’s June already next week. The first half of the year went by like a snap of the fingers. The last half will be a race to December and before you know it, 2021 is over and marks out first full year in the pandemic. Meanwhile, an eminent sociologist appears to be having an existential crisis. He’s had to contend with the passing of his beloved Karina. At 75, he believes his time on earth is short. In his Inquirer piece today “Breathing and walking through the pandemic”, Professor Randy David writes;

Thus, whatever I’m doing, I tend to rush. I eat fast, I walk briskly, and I fast-forward predictable movies or programs. When I ride my motorcycle on long stretches, I need to remind myself that I must slow down to permit my aging reflexes to catch up with the bike’s speed. I make more stops than usual to stretch, rehydrate, and, yes, breathe.

All roads to any such existential reflection leads to what David proposes in the end — that “we all need a philosophical or spiritual outlook to be able to accept the finality of death without succumbing to the temptation to view our ephemeral lives as pointless.”

The pandemic has changed mindsets among us. We have lost friends and family to the virus. March 15, 2020 was when reality hit me in the face. But having become more spiritual than religious, my conversation with the supreme being went like this; I should be so fortunate to be living in a time that when all of this is over, nothing will ever be the same again. If it is your will that I make it out this pandemic alive, it will be done.

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I reported for work throughout the period from March to May over which the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) was put in effect. My contract ended in July and I go out to earn a living in whatever way I know how. I’ve never had any signs of depression or the fear of the virus and death because of my faith. Even if I don’t have much, I give to those in need because I know how it feels to have nothing and no one. I have been there and survived. Think about it. The pandemic need not bring useless deaths if only vaccines are easily and readily-available. They are not. Governments have either been successful or not in combating the virus. Citizens of rich countries are up in arms against lockdowns even when their lives are at stake. In an era where information is easily accessed, there are more idiots than there are those who read about the science behind the virus. Nothing much has changed about the mindset of humankind. The rich are able to travel in their private jets and yachts. They have profited immensely off the miseries of the average human being who is faced with uncertainty. The ghastly images of the situation in India have failed to move rich countries to pour aid into the country. Indian government officials have not made it easier for their countrymen to get treatment. You wonder why we are at the top of the animal kingdom’s hierarchy and yet seem helpless at preventing suffering and death. Maybe this is the natural order of things — evolution as Charles Darwin defined it.

People have suddenly become more religious but not spiritual. There are still conflicts such as that between Israel and the Palestinians in the occupied territories. The US continues in its efforts to contain China and Russia. Iran is still a threat. Iraq is still a mess. France has apologized for its role in the Rwandan genocide. Germany has done the same with its former African colony, Namibia. Mental fortitude is sorely lacking in the younger generations. You can see them ranting and fulminating on social media. As if that will make a difference. Those who are in power never seem to have enough of it while those who don’t have a better attitude towards the present and the future. When the pandemic is finally over, the world will never be the same again so it’s best to accept that now than continue to be in a state of denial or non-acceptance. After all, change is one of the constants of our existence.

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