The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
As our country and the world frantically respond to these remarkably tumultuous times associated with the current coronavirus pandemic, an opportunity has been created for us all to reflect upon some of the lessons learned through our shared reactions and experiences. Our typical schedules and activities have all been unexpectedly disrupted and stress, fear and even panic is in the air as we all wonder if we, and those who we care deeply about, might become severely ill or perhaps even die in the coming days and weeks.
Colleges and universities have moved to online classes only, workers have been asked to work from home, various travel bans have been instituted, numerous major and large-scale events have been canceled, and even the National Basketball Association has suspended their season. We are living through unprecedented times for sure. While everyone must do their part in keeping themselves and others safe by following Center for Disease Control and other public health guidelines about social distancing, quarantining themselves if they experience coronavirus symptoms, and frequent hand washing and sanitizing, it may be helpful to reflect upon some of the important lessons that can be learned from this unprecedented public health crisis.
First, our global world is much smaller than we typically believe it to be and we are all so closely connected on this shared and often very fragile planet. A new illness that originates in one part of the world quickly can spread throughout the globe due to modern transportation conveniences and in particular, air travel mobility. Second, evidence based best practices in public health in coordination with organizing government agencies sincerely working for the common good is critical to prevent a serious health threat from getting significantly worse and spinning out of control.
We pay a high price when evidence-based scientific public health approaches and a common good approach are ignored for political or for financial reasons. Third, our world is an interconnected system at the micro and macro levels where problems, small or large, at one level and in one area can severely impact other systems and that dysregulation and chaos can unfold quickly under certain circumstances.
Fourth, a pandemic reminds us of our shared humanity and does not discriminate based on fame, fortune, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, privilege and so forth. The rich and powerful are as susceptible to this illness as are the poor and marginalized when it comes to the coronavirus.
Yes, even Tom Hanks and his wife have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Perhaps nature, or the divine, is currently teaching us an important lesson as we all confront the challenges of our current coronavirus pandemic.
Maybe a reminder that we are all in this together. That regardless of privilege or lack of privilege, it is worth noting and taking seriously that in our modern world we are all truly human, vulnerable, and susceptible to the same unexpected viruses as well as other health and wellness risks.
And perhaps nature or the divine wants us to treat each other and the planet with care and compassion as we share this remarkable yet delicate planet together. We cannot let this opportunity for important lessons learned to pass us by.
Perhaps our planet and the world’s population needs a nudge or wake-up call now and then to remind us of our need to care for each other and for our very fragile world and community. The common good and the health and wellbeing of all is in all of our best interest. Hopefully we can see the propitious opportunities for learning and maturation inspired by this wake-up virus.
Gary Schwartz is a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona and Thomas Plante is a professor of psychology at Santa Clara University.