Pandemic Offers a Path Toward a Healthier Identity
Prior to the social upheaval forced upon us by COVID-19, we perpetuated what felt like a relentless merry-go-round of striving, clamoring for attention, and feeling overwhelmed. Electronic distraction and social media consumed more hours every day as we sacrificed sleep, activity, connection, creative expression and rejuvenation for the constant fear of missing someone’s Instagram post or critically important Snap Chat.
As Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks described in his TED Talk on facing the future without fear, “…we worship the self, the me, the I.” In his talk, he jokingly describes the “selfie” as akin to a religious ritual and solemnly notes, “…when we have too much of the I, and not enough of the we, we find ourselves vulnerable, fearful, and alone.”
Nature has a way of taking corrective action. In a matter of weeks, a virus literally rendered us even more vulnerable, fearful and alone, rapidly forcing us to reevaluate what was truly important.
Crises bring out the best and worst in humanity. The pandemic provides a silver lining, hitting the collective pause button on our harried existence, compelling us to stop and breathe. Facing a lethal enemy encourages us to treasure health and those we hold dear, swearing never again to take them for granted. We hope that narcissism, the worship of self, yields to altruism.
We have choices to make as we endure and emerge beyond this pandemic. Will we revert to the “every man for himself” era of insecurity and “selfie” worship? Or will we take this opportunity to recharge and reflect on our role in the world we want to create? If we look back on our social media posts in the past year, do they reflect the kind of person we truly want to be? Are they selfless or self-absorbed? Are they toxic or inspiring? What choices will we make?
Pope Francis recently reminded us, “…it is a time to choose what matters and what passes away.” As Rabbi Sacks notes, “The only people who will save us from ourselves are we the people.”