When I was a college student, many of us read books and articles by Alan Watts. A quote from Watts claims, “By replacing fear of the unknown with curiosity we open ourselves up to an infinite stream of possibility. We can let fear rule our lives or we can become childlike with curiosity, pushing our boundaries, leaping out of our comfort zones, and accepting what life puts before us.”
Life seems to have plunged us into our own US version of “being in the wilderness.” I understand anxiety about needing to earn money. Very frightening. Yet, this may be a prime to allow curiosity to replace fear. To those who wring their hands and moan that they can’t wait till life returns to normal, my guess is that we will never return to who or what we were before COVID-19. In fact, I do not want us to return to the “good old days” before the virus.
I believe Watts understood something basic about human needs and wants. In the US, we forget about those who pack the boxes at Amazon, who load the trucks, and conveniently deliver the goods to our doorsteps. Most of us enjoy healthy eating on the backs of laborers in the fields, truck drivers that bring food to stores, and those who stock and organize goods in grocery stores.
COVID-19 affords an opportunity to reassess who we are. The questions then become, “When the pandemic gets under control, how do I want to be different? How can our nation be better? Is it even possible to push the boundaries established by making money, to leap out of comfort zones, and accept what life has presented?” In fact, the real question asks, what does each and every individual need for life to be satisfying?
I believe each of us wants to feel safe.
Everyone wants a place to live. No one needs a palace but each of us needs a spot where we can securely curl up at night.
We all want food to eat and clean water to drink. Rumors that we will run out of groceries during this pandemic prompt us to consider that possibility. Not a pleasant feeling.
All people want health care, especially now during an extreme threat of illness. What would it take to provide this basic need to everyone?
Not all, but most people prefer to work with some dignity rather than ask for handouts. That means, we need new, meaningful jobs.
All of us want work environments that promote safety. Those who face dangerous conditions need hazard pay. Everyone needs the security of unemployment benefits and paid sick leave.
All people want the freedom to choose any religion, or to choose no religion at all.
Although not all people realize it, the truth remains that we need for planet earth to work harmoniously for all plants, animals, and humans.
We want prisons to prepare people to reenter society and the workplace.
Every single person wants to be judged by inner qualities instead of skin color.
The good news is that, yes, we will get through this pandemic. Curiosity raises questions such as, “Do we have the will to expect basic needs for every single person to be met? Do we have enough courage to choose a better world than we have ever experienced?” A return to life as it was before “shelter in place,” will not be good enough.