The Coronavirus Ordeal – How We Got Devoured by Our Own Vanity
Sometimes you open your eyes and reality feels like a dream.
You don’t know what is real, what is fantasy, what is actually true and what is guilefully fabricated.
We are voyagers in an impressive but unpredictable armada that sails towards the unknown.
An unknown that is quite inviting but also quite perilous.
You think that our supposedly stable monolithic institutions have everything under control but they eventually crumble in the face of a virus.
Black swans, like the coronavirus ordeal, are inevitable because they are a byproduct of our growth mechanisms. We think that our voyage is smooth but it actually resembles something more like a Mad Max narrative.
The precarious times that we created are here to stay and we sometimes reduce ourselves to mere observers of an inevitable future.
During such times the collective shadow grows bigger and it exposes us to our own fragility.
We thought we were gods and we got ferociously devoured by our own vanity.
We reduced ourselves to primitive instincts and realized that the road to theosis is no bed of roses.
We cannot shy away from this truth.
Not only because of our fragile make-up, but also because of the inevitability of our vision to align with the demands of the cosmos.
Reality is unknowable, forever hidden behind the veil of our assumptions, preconceptions, definitions, and paradigms.
Our leaders really try hard to do the best for us but, inevitably, get lost in the translation of what is actually the best for us.
Some people are pessimists and some people are optimists.
In the end, nobody really knows what the future will bring.
We are surrounded by so many promises and so much hot air that we are tired to even deal with all these in the first place.
We are lost in a mish-mash of megalomania, ambition, and greed.
All these are just projections.
Projections of a lack of honesty towards the real issues that we are facing.
Jung said quite elegantly about projections the following:
“The effect of projection is to isolate the subject from his environment, since instead of a real relation to it there is now only an illusory one. Projections change the world into the replica of one’s own unknown face.”
In this essay, I will present five ideas that we can entwine with our experience in order to mentally equip ourselves better for the future.
The Coronavirus Ordeal
We are our own worst enemy
We humans are greatly perturbed by fear, anxiety, and uncertainty, and in seeking to becalm our existential angst, we sometimes anchor ourselves to irrational and ignorant practices that offer certitude and stability.
I mentioned before that we think that our voyage is smooth but it actually resembles something more like a mad max narrative.
Let me elaborate.
The unprecedented evolution of technology led to the expansion of our growth practices in every level of our social echelons.
We accelerated entropy and increased the level of complexity in our systems to the extent that we are unable to control them.
We are actually running faster than we can, chasing something abstract and incomprehensible.
Yes, we want the perpetual betterment of our species. Yes, we want to eradicate hunger and poverty. Yes, we want to minimize inequality. Yes, we want to achieve self-transcendence.
But we need to take into account that we are not omniscient beings with benevolent mindsets.
We are still greedy, we are still hungry for power, we are still psychologically ill, we are still unspiritual, we are still humans.
If there is one thing that we learned from evolution is that evolutionary changes take a lot of time.
We want to “hack” evolution and transcend human nature as fast as possible but, most probably, this will backfire.
We don’t necessarily need to race that fast.
Our journey could resemble something like a smooth ride through Amalfi coast with a well-preserved convertible.
Instead, we choose to ride Mad Max’s Interceptor, constantly tweaking it and pumping it so it can maintain us on the desert road for as long as possible.
Caring should come before panic
Panic is the first automatic human response.
Then comes acceptance.
Then comes adaptation.
Then comes caring.
When we face danger, our brain switches to panic mode and we become even more irrational than we already are.
But why can’t we escape this mental prison?
This question lies in the periphery of one’s consciousness.
We live aimlessly, breathe mechanically, and act in the surging flux of the present tense.
We forget to breathe properly and act as rational agents instead of primitive egomaniacs.
We can adapt to new realities faster and better than we can actually expect.
If we take a step back and look at the bigger picture, panic should act only as an alarming mechanism, not as a survival mechanism.
Survival comes through cooperation and caring, not through panicking and despair.
Carl Sagan once wrote:
In the course of looking deeply within ourselves, we may challenge notions that give comfort before the terrors of the world.
Let us challenge these notions now.
Let’s move to caring a bit faster than usual.
We are in this together and we will overcome it together.
Capitalism is not a panacea
Capitalism prevailed after the cold war and for good reasons.
It is a system that attempts to orchestrate financial freedom that is predicated on the responsibility and ambition of each individual.
In theory, this sounds great, but, in practice, there are some caveats to consider.
Equality of opportunity is indeed a freedom that we ought to celebrate, however, we need to also realize that opportunity has different levels depending on social conditions.
The conditions in poor ecosystems are clearly less favorable than these in rich ecosystems regardless of the genetic makeup of the individual.
This clear handicap creates all sorts of problems, especially in highly populated areas where the competition in the workplace and in the resource acquisition is high.
So, inequality becomes the norm in capitalism.
And it is this inequality that creates issues like the coronavirus ordeal or a myriad of other misfortunes that we are constantly facing.
Capitalism is not a panacea.
It is a system inspired by our own nature, and this is the sad part of the equation.
We think that capitalism is the best system because we refuse that our nature could be flawed.
We all exist in this bubble of egocentrism where we think we are so special and disregard that our lack of humility might be the source of the calamities we experience.
We need to create refuges of beneficial order that deny the idea of constant antagonism and embrace the idea of synergy despite the issues that our differences beget.
The key is to open our minds to further possibilities and refuse the pseudo-comfort of passivity.
Dystopias exist everywhere and nowhere
Dystopias exist everywhere and nowhere.
They are fed by our demons and are projected outward as physical creations that reflect the color of our inner world.
By 2030 depression will be the number one cause of illness worldwide.
Dystopias are, essentially, a manifestation of our depression.
If you walk in a city, regardless of where you are in the world, you will notice signs of both utopias and dystopias.
Whereas dystopia has one meaning, “bad-place,” utopia can mean both “good place” and “no place.”
In other words, utopia can be something ideal and reachable, but it can also be something unattainable and non-existent, like a far-fetched dream.
So what happens here is a word-play and a perception play.
Language is used as a way to interpret the world. And because this interpretation is multifarious, we play with words in order to ensure the plurality of present and future possibilities.
In any case, dystopias and utopias constitute points of view.
Even in the most idyllic place, humans can find reasons to complain.
Even in the midst of chaos, humans can maintain stillness and peace of mind.
The fact is that entropy will keep increasing and we need to be constantly aware of this.
The more entropy increases, the more we lose track of what is going on at a macro level.
That is a sign that we need to bring ourselves back to our own level of influence.
Overcoming the fear of death
The fear of death is a paradox.
It is not so much about the fear of death itself, for it is a state of nothingness which, as far as we know, has no connection to our current state of being.
It is more about fear of the unknown, which is a perpetual happenstance throughout life.
And it is this perpetuity that creates states like existential angst and general anxiety disorders.
Anxiety is disturbing because it is free-floating. It is not like fear, fear is quite specific.
Specificity can be tackled because we narrow our focus to something that is within our scope of understanding.
Anxiety emerges from the unquenchable thirst that is individuated human life, along with the unremitting oscillation between pain and boredom.
Memento mori is inescapable but it can also lead to the emancipation of the spirit.
Slow the mind down because the fear is about projections of future events.
Narrow your perception to a singular point of focus.
A singular point of focus that is now.
I don’t try to play guru.
I am just a thinking person that is puzzled every day by the absurdity of existence.
I am not any different than all the people who worry or panic.
But I am aware of it and I try to reduce my reactions to something that is meaningful and well-examined.
I take a deep breath, step back, assume observer state, be grateful, look inward, and feel humbled by the awe-inspiring vastness of the human experience.
In situations of chaos you can be a hero or you can be a victim.
The choice is always yours.
During this coronavirus ordeal, most of us need to isolate ourselves. Isolation can be tricky, but it can also be used as an opportunity to change bad habits and adopt better ones. My book “30 Challenges – 30 Days – Zero Excuses” can offer a lot of inspiration in that respect.
Also, don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter. It is thought-provoking, free, easy to unsubscribe and some great resources will await you once you confirm your subscription:
And for the ones who prefer the video version of this essay:
Latest posts by Adrian Iliopoulos (see all)
- The Coronavirus Ordeal – How We Got Devoured by Our Own Vanity - April 9, 2020
- Ludwig Wittgenstein Philosophy – Transcending The Limits of Language - December 17, 2019
- Ultralearning – How to Learn Faster (A Thorough Analysis) - October 30, 2019