God seems to have listened to Greta Thunberg, the tiny yet powerful champion for climate change crisis. The world has stopped and “is closed for reconstruction” as Wusudullah Khan said in a beautiful Urdu-language video. In the melodious eloquence, gripping sarcasm and multi-layered nuance of Urdu – another endangered language- the poet summarizes the unsustainable status of life before Coronavirus, a dark world of greed, violence and lack of compassion. And of course, academics, scientists, spiritual leaders, wise political leaders and futurists have been warning us for decades that the way we are living cannot go on, and that we need to change to survive as a species.
However, never did we envision such a shocking and sudden stop of our world with no preparation whatsoever! Every single person on the planet – that is over 7 billion people- has been impacted in some negative way or another. I mourn when I hear the numbers of people who have died, who continue to die and who will be at continued risk. I am shocked at how little we are prepared as the biggest superpower in the world. I worry and pray for all every day, and especially for the poor and the developing countries who will suffer even more from this disease. When I think of the economies that will continue to plummet and the suffering to come, it seems incomprehensible. When I think of the younger generations whose lives have been so disrupted, I feel such compassion and concern for them while admiring their calmness in the face of the biggest calamity that we will ever know. If our world was unsustainable at the rate we were steaming ahead on the single engine of material and economic progress, the price we are paying for our collective transformation seems shockingly high. Yet, our faith reminds us to not ask “Why” but say “Now what”?
One thing I do know amidst all this uncertainty is that life will never be the same. It will not return to normal. We will be different in many ways. We will shift our behaviors en masse and it will impact all the systems of the world, spiritual, financial, social, cultural and political. From the recent religious holidays that witnessed the largest return to spirituality across all faiths to the smallest changes in world politics, e.g. Saudi Arabia’s cease-fire in Yemen, I am hopeful that we are seeing the emergence of human unity and a budding collective global transformation towards a religion of the heart. This wake-up call is so big, that even if reactionary forces want to reestablish the same world order, it just won’t stick. I hope this painful journey leads to a new hopeful future- one where we will give more than we take; one where our hearts will feel once again – not just for ourselves or our tribe- but for all of humanity; one where love will overpower hate; one where gratitude replaces entitlement and greed; May this pain go away soon and may we be reborn as better human beings, Ameen.