COVID-19: When we stop paying attention, When we forget to listen

Updated: April 13, 2020 7:14:12 PM

Convenience and comfort have been the two legs of the human march, the unfettered chase for possessions of mass culture, commerce and consumerism.

COVID-19, Corona safety guide, death  mortality, coroanvirus pandemic, immunity, marginalisation, latest news on coronavirusThreat perception, defined as a deep sense of vulnerability that if assumed to be negative, is likely to result in loss, and largely spiral out of one’s control.
By Nivedita Das Narayan
COVID-19: We are accustomed to others being under threat. We’ve been immune to Nature being under threat, under threat from us. We’ve turned a blind eye to threats to the survival of the poor, the marginalised. Those under threat from commercial and capitalistic excesses, opportunistic governance and discriminatory politics of persons and States. We are cohorts of a human order that thrives on endless marginalisation of the marginalised.

I, you and we, have been undeterred, because paying attention would mean we compromise on comforts, that we forego what we accumulated over years of ambitious chasing, fruits of dogged individualism and many climbs up the ladder of success. There have been tugs at the heart—to be fair—of conscience, of guilt, of regret, slivers of doubt and we may even have been riled by conscience buried in the cracks of life, yet paid attention merely halfway and distractedly to the despair in humanity and Nature.

We have always weighed our choices, between the perceived value of heeding our conscience or paying in the currency of forfeited-comfort. We made a choice by turning away from mostly anything that required adjusting lifestyles, hauling up structures and acting on promises; and from everything that meant disconnecting from the commerce of life.

Convenience and comfort have been the two legs of the human march, the unfettered chase for possessions of mass culture, commerce and consumerism.

And then Threat decided to walk in on us. Because it required hurting us where it hurt deep. Threat arrived yet we did not heed it right away. Deluded and shrink wrapped in an existential wonderland where ‘nothing can harm me’, we took too much time to pivot to that place of listening.

How did we go so wrong in acknowledging the looming threat of this Pandemic?

Threat perception, defined as a deep sense of vulnerability that if assumed to be negative, is likely to result in loss, and largely spiral out of one’s control. Threat perception is commonly viewed as a requisite to change organizational inertia. To me, this is one way to make sense of this unprecedented yet altering threat for our generation of humans. The threat of novel Coronavirus may greatly uproot our innate status quo and inertia with some urgency to value wellbeing beyond ours.

As a race, we are not tuned to listening. Humans are perhaps the only living species who habitually ignore their sixth sense and barely use the five senses optimally. The animal kingdom is replete with images of alert herds on the verge of being attacked or animals sensing an oncoming hurricane or natural phenomenon, much ahead of the humans. In many ways we humans negate our own instincts, we dumb down intuitive alerts behind the placebo ‘Nothing can happen to me’ (and to my family). When we extend this parallel to the onset and spread of the Virus and how we—individuals and states—carried on undeterred for weeks, this theme played out right under our nose.

We took time to reach an unhindered place of listening, not until we saw the possibility of death – mortality is inevitability in denial.

The Corona safety guide-book is like the drill Sergeant’s crucial instructions for battlefield survival: You will make it and survive only if you pause, listen, use logic, follow rules, respect signs and believe that everything is interconnected in the battle for survival. And that everyone is connected in ways that are impossible to imagine, yet easier if you believe.

The pandemic is setting off changes in ways that we may not know as it happens. We do not feel in control and this new normal may become our guide to safety down this unprecedented path. Learning to listen is the beginning to understand that connection and reciprocity with everything around is the only guide out of this dark passage.

Nivedita Das Narayan is a life & executive coach, columnist and blogger. Views expressed are the author’s own.

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