Have we created a monster?

Life as we humans have created it over thousands of years and live in most parts of this world has something antibiotic, i.e. against life, about it. What is meant by this? If we think about how much time we spend doing gainful work to earn our living (one could also think about this designation), it seems that nowadays we do not work to live, but rather live to work, and the trend is increasing.

There is such a great imbalance in this world as well as in our individual lives that, intuitively, cannot be natural. On the one hand, there are many people who have working hours that only allow them to get barely enough rest, not to mention time for other things they want to do. They are able to support themselves financially, but not even able to do much more. And on the other hand, there are people who are struggling to have just enough to survive, who want to work but can’t get a job. They can’t do much either because they have to worry about finances, food, and survival. (Of course, there are also cases between the extremes). So, it seems that some are working for two or three while others don’t even get to work? Those who have the goods to stay alive don’t have the time to live and the others have the time but not the goods? Isn’t there a middle way?

Many years ago, people started to settle down, build houses, farm, and build more and more of a (world) economy. And it goes on steadily. It seems that everything we ever have is never enough. We have smartphones, cars, houses, etc., but we need bigger, smaller, faster, and so on. To get there, we (as humans) need to perform and work, but at what cost? We will never get where we want to go, there is always something that could be better, smaller, bigger, and so on – there is always more profit to be made. It has long ceased to be about providing us with what we need to live, to live well. It has long ceased to be about the living, rather it’s about the inanimate such as money and the power of those who have it.

This is neither healthy for the world nor for us. We are getting sicker and sicker – physically, mentally, and socially. That’s a high price to pay, and that’s not all – think about it: For all we know, we have to assume that as human beings we have only this one, finite life, and to spend it predominantly in a rush of achievement, attainment, earning and providing seems like a waste of that life – especially when there is not even enough time (and/or energy) left beside it for joy, play, love, creativity, self-development, seeing, hearing, feeling and being – for living.

Life should not mean work and work should not mean hardship, pressure, and burden. Working – understood as being productive and creative – is a part of life (any life – even the smallest microorganisms actively take care of their survival and we humans have always hunted and gathered for food and built for shelter), but it needs to be balanced in itself and with all other aspects of life.

So, I’m not arguing that development, innovation, and activity are bad things per se, but they should not be mainly about profit and power, but about us as humans, as individuals and as a community. Above all, we should develop positively as a human race. And life and all its parts should be in favor of living.

The questions that arise and that we need to think about are therefore: Is, paradoxically, the price of the way of life which we have created and which is supposed to sustain our lives, life itself? Is there a way out of this paradox? The point is: not only did we get ourselves into this mess, but the way of life as we have created it now seems to be a self-runner, and to stop it – to defeat the monster we have created – we need a huge shift in our thinking, in the way we deal with life and the way we make things (and ourselves) work – towards a balanced way of living.

COVID-19, spreading humanity?

In the past few days some thoughts came to my mind that I would like to elaborate on.

The first thought, it’s more of a question though, appeared as I left the drug store after my first visit since the corona virus outbreak had reached Austria: Why is it so hard to be friendly while keeping spacial distance? I know, we have to wear face masks and keep a certain distance and that these times are not easy, but does that mean we cannot greet each other? “A smile goes a long way” it says and, yeah, while wearing masks we don’t see each other’s mouths, but we can smile with our eyes or our voice or our words or even our body language.

There’s kind of a paradox going on it seems. While on the one hand people get out on their balconies to sing and cheer together, excited to show solidarity, on the other hand they just stare and don’t have a single “hello” to spare or buy so much toilet paper that the others can’t get any. I’m puzzled. For Austrians keeping distance emotionally seems to be a lot easier than keeping distance spatially, not only during corona though.

Second, it is often stated these days that people show more solidarity and humanity in this time of crisis. And I begin to wonder: What is humanity? What distinguishes ‘to act humanly’? What makes a certain behavior being considered inhumane? I always liked to think of behaving humanly as being respectful, giving, compassionate and understanding, which is surely true. But while reflecting on the meaning of it I came to think that there are characteristics which as well are part of humanity, like fear and suspicion that are not considered as praiseworthy. Of course, these could in a way be connected to our survival instinct.

So what shows up in this time of crisis? What is it we truly choose when we choose to show more humanity? Is it the compassionate and helping facet? Or is it the distrusting one? Or is it both, but intensified? I think for the most part we are able to decide which part gets stronger and which part we want to give to this world – not only in times of crisis. I would like to raise two subsequent questions to reflect on: Is there another disease spreading besides corona that is much more powerful and much more to be feared? And is this why we now have to face the corona virus pandemic to make meaningful decisions as humans?

Now more than ever.

Whether the unit is length or time, these days keeping sufficient distance constrains us. “Keep at least 2 seconds safety distance from other cars” and “keep at least 1 meter distance from other humans” they say. The former rule already existed when the corona virus was released into our world, the latter results from it. Sometimes it seems we have a problem with these rules – we obviously like closeness. All the more we are hit by the latest development that obliges us to stay at home.

Driving certainly is a different experience these days. Trucks mainly use the roads, but hardly any vehicle can enjoy the spacial freedom now available – our personal freedom suffers tremendously. Today the government announced that we must wear masks when shopping, which seems to be a necessary step in controlling the corona virus outbreak but changing our lives in so many ways.

People try to maintain closeness by increasing the use of social media. Phone, Skype, WhatsApp, Telegram, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, e-mail and internet providers are more important than ever. Life challenges us by not being able to continue our daily routine, but we are humans, clever in finding new ways and possibilities.

It’d be great if we could learn from the current situation and if we embrace and take advantage of the opportunities the corona virus opens up. For example, to minimize individual traffic by thoroughly rethinking our behavior in this regard. Do we absolutely need to take our car to get here and there? Must we reduce the time of travel? Do we have to maximize our comfort?

Now, more than ever, we have the opportunity to reevaluate our thinking, decisions and beliefs. Now, more than ever, we have the chance to learn to be alone but not lonely. Now, more than ever, we can shift our physical closeness to psychic closeness.