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Batavick: Interconnected world population experiencing the great realization together

What strange times! Last Friday I was walking toward my favorite wine shop and glimpsed a man 10 paces ahead entering the store with a bandanna on his face, cowboy bank robber-style. A few months ago, I would have ducked for cover and dialed 911. But now I simply adjusted my own face mask and nonchalantly entered after him.

I can be pretty much of a loner and am just as happy spending time at home and not having to shop, visit friends, or attend social functions. (I know.) However, I’m now very antsy and anxious to “flatten the curve” ASAP so our social distancing can end. I don’t like the “new normal” and don’t care to live like “A Gentleman in Moscow.” In this 2016 best-seller, a Russian aristocrat is put under house arrest in a luxury hotel for 30 years by the Bolsheviks. He eventually learns to cope.

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I keep wondering, “What is the bigger picture here, especially when COVID-19 departs? How does this horror flick end?” If you are in the mood to see an upbeat script, check out the four-minute YouTube video, “The Great Realization,” if you haven’t already.

The video’s title comes from Buddhist philosophy, as taught by a Bodhisattva, enlightened beings resembling Christian saints. When personal, local, or even world calamities occur, Bodhisattvas help followers see the events as opportunities. These sages long ago patented the business model of turning “lemons into lemonade.” They believe that crises can put us on the path to new “realizations” about the deep-seated importance of truth, knowledge, compassion, generosity, and contentment. The ultimate reward at the end of difficult journeys can be serene happiness. Who wouldn’t want their ticket punched for that?

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Granted, that’s a heavy lift for a pandemic, but you must admit that this unique moment in history has given us a better appreciation for how connected we are to the 7.8 billion other folks who share the planet. We do live in a global village after all, and a bug that hatched in Wuhan quickly found its way over 7,600 miles to Mount Airy. That’s quite a “realization.” Just think of what this might eventually do for collectively battling the world’s ills like climate change and nuclear proliferation.

The novel coronavirus may also help strengthen families and friendships. Sure, there are probably some frayed ends at your place, but it’s important that at-home parents have spent more time communicating and interacting with their kids. There should be some carryover in the months and years ahead.

Some folks have renewed distant friendships, even if only to relieve some of the boredom. According to songster James Taylor, we all need a friend, and now many of our friend lists have grown. Just be careful if you’re married and have communicated with an old flame from high school. I don’t want to see your mate’s letter in the “Ask Amy” column.

Stepping back from jobs and schools is teaching many of us what life is really about. We’ve been able to take the extra time to soak in the glories of nature and appreciate how essential hugs, kisses, and touching are to well-being. It may be a long time before we shake hands or embrace and cheek-kiss friends again but craving these tactile experiences has only underlined how dependent we all are on being cared for and loved.

Experts have documented the recent drop in world pollution levels. The empty factories and highways have literally given nature a bit of a breather, though we all know the respite must soon end so that we can restart the economy’s engine. Still, maybe some of us will get used to not using our cars so much for every little errand.

Everyone should have noticed the surge of creativity, especially on the Internet. I can’t help but hope that many of the young filmmakers, artists, and authors have discovered what gives them bliss and that they’ll grow into tomorrow’s cultural geniuses.

I am surely aware that many have suffered and died from the pandemic and that there are legions of unemployed unable to pay for food and lodging. However, we need to be reminded that the last few months are just a blink in the cavalcade of time. We also need to cultivate the grace to see all the good things that are unfolding and to realize that COVID-19 is but a part of a much bigger plan for humankind.

Frank Batavick writes from Westminster. His column appears every other Friday. Email him at fjbatavick@gmail.com.

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