Finding “good” during the coronavirus pandemic

Gavin Victor, Columnist

It is my belief that nothing is ever an unequivocally “bad” thing. If we look closely enough, we can find, in anything, at least a sliver of good. COVID-19 is both a tragedy and a divine reminder of human values and the need for transformation in the way we operate as humans on a global scale.

I aim not to argue that the tragedy does not exist, or even that the tragedy is less important than the positivity of the situation. Our current societal focus is almost exclusively on the “bad.” Not only is the good more pleasant to focus on, but it is also equally (if not more) useful.

It’s no stretch to say that our media runs on fear — fear having a direct correlation to construing events as “bad.” Scary sells. The brain releases adrenaline more readily at danger than at hope, and choosing to click on an article comes down almost exclusively to how much adrenaline it causes us to produce. Production follows market demand — what sells is what is produced. Fear drives the mechanism behind which our society is informed — a terrifying prospect.

Such an information system is fundamentally inaccurate and breeds an absolutely toxic form of interaction with the world. We can interpret our current situation in a way that shows us an empowering understanding of the pandemic, centered on “good” rather than “bad.” Of course, we should acknowledge the very real necessity of some of the points that fear-based media touches on. Yes, social distancing is vitally important, but beyond a certain point, reading about death and viral spread does little more than make us miserable.

In the grand scheme of human life, what we have is a rather gentle reminder that what we are doing is not sustainable. COVID-19 pushes against what Christopher Ryan calls in his book “Civilized to Death” the “narrative of perpetual progress.” The earth is letting us know that the way we live has consequences. This reminder should not be seen as a tragedy — it should instead be a call of empowerment to move away from the toxic aspects of human life. 

When I venture outside, I see people riding bikes, walking with dogs and family, enjoying fresh air. Never have my local walking paths been so full. If we take stock of what people do during a crisis, we see a massive reduction in people doing frivolous trivialities. Instead, we see them doing what is meaningful. 

What we have is a situation that can provide a special type of context. We are already taking a step back, and we should use this perspective to observe ourselves. Let this pandemic be a reminder that all humans are fighting the same fight — to live healthy, positive lives. Let it remind us that our daily lives are, in some ways, comfortable beyond imagination, and in other ways, more disconnected than we could ever realize in normal life. I never thought I’d be as excited as I am to see fresh bananas on my kitchen counter.

As we are compelled to change our way of life, let it prompt us to take stock of what we really care about. We find ourselves at the brink of issues far worse than COVID-19. We have gotten our warning and our test run. We find ourselves, as we watch the world spin a little slower, asking these questions: What do I miss? What do I value? How can I shift my life, even after this “storm” passes? How can we not only prevent something like this from happening again, but lead a life more in accordance with what we really find to be meaningful?