Love in the Time of Coronavirus
Facing our mortality has a way of reorganizing our priorities. The Stoics and various faith traditions emphasize memento mori (“Remember that you must die.”). This helps us prioritize what is truly important while we live. What kind of legacy do we wish to leave? Such contemplation helps us focus on doing the right thing now, because "now" is really the only time we ever have in which to operate. From climate change to COVID-19, now is the time to do the right thing. Let's start by asking the big questions:
What do you love?
Various faith traditions and modern science affirm that we should love both ourselves and others. Hatred and xenophobia are toxic to life. But only when we extend our love to all living things have we accepted the scientific fact that humans are related to every living thing on this planet. Furthermore, whether coming from a faith tradition that affirms that all life is sacred, or the science that tells us every living thing is the progeny of ancestors that survived five previous mass extinctions, every living thing is a storehouse of vital genetic information. The loss of a single species, however seemingly insignificant, has been likened to the burning of the Library of Alexandria.
What do you live by?
Yet we humans are driving both global warming and a sixth mass extinction. A single species—us—directly affects 70% of our planet's ice-free land and appropriates as much as one-third of nature's productivity for our sole use. We are killing not only our fellow passengers on Spaceship Earth but, as diminishing wilderness introduces us to new and lethal diseases like COVID-19, ourselves. Our lifestyles and choices must change.
What do you think is the purpose of life?
Faith traditions often spend a great deal of time on this question, but it is a good one for all of us to contemplate. May science and faith guide your meditations. My own mentor once summed up his answer to this question as follows: Earth is the only spot in the entire universe where we know life exists. It is therefore vital that we protect life—all life—here and now. Start by protecting your own life, but don't stop there.