The Practising Life in many ways starts when there is a crisis. Our capacity to walk the talk, make our practice more than a mere means for survival, or for managing the banality of our existence is tested. Buddhism has many resources for facing crisis, but there is another tradition that is just as good, if not better; Stoicism. And some of its proponents lived through their own pandemics, and faced them head on. Albert Camus makes an appearance too. In this short, improvised episode of the Imperfect Buddha Podcast, I provide a dispatch from Italy and life at the start of a third week under quarantine. I also provide thoughts, suggestions and ideas on the practising life in a time of crisis. There are also a number of predications on the sort of future we might face at the end.
This is my small act of kindness, a theme that is fundamental in making sure that we live this crisis rather than merely survive it, and I hope you find something of value in this topical episode and live well the days, weeks, and months to come.
Feel free to get in touch if you’d like support and coaching in facing this crisis.
The Imperfect Buddha site: imperfectbuddha.com/
O’Connell Coaching: imperfectbuddha.com/authors-notes/
Hi Matthew, greetings from the island of Cyprus, home of Zeno, founder of Stoicism. Thank you very much for the latest podcast. Your thoughtful, considered take on the Covid pandemic is much appreciated. I didn’t know you live in Italy – we have seen so many pictures of what people are going through there, and admire the Italian spirit in the face of such suffering. Lockdown has been imposed fairly early here, it’s a small population and control is vital. Another three weeks to go, hot weather on its way, we’re hopeful. For once our politicians have taken right action, in time. Not so for family and friends in GB and NY. You’re right, life will never be the same again, how will the new “normal” shape up? What are your views on the benefits to the planet, is this experience going to kickstart a kinder, more stoical approach to our world and all sentient beings, how might this be accomplished? Best wishes to you and your family during this difficult time.
How nice to hear from a listener in Cyprus. Thank you for your kind words. As for my views, well, I’m no mage or Nostradamus but I think there are some clear observations to be made. My own views are always in motion, so this is what I guess might be our future now.
I do think the US will have one of the worst times with Covid-19, due to their privatised healthcare, poor social infrastructure and attitude towards individual liberty over all else. I fear preppers will have their wet dream realised too. I believe China will come out of this crisis one step ahead of the States, and Europe, unfortunately. I fear the West may continue to fail to start working together ideologically to confront the weakening of the US, rise of China and stagnation in a world economy that cannot grow indefinitely, when what is needed is unity, commitment and sacrifice for the greater good.
The state of the environment will relate to all this directly. I did tweet about this on my personal Twitter account this morning. Although we’re seeing a dramatic drop in pollution in Italy, especially in Lombardy, it’s most polluted zone and one of the worst in Europe, the almost immediate return of wildlife to zones where it had disappeared, the likely reality is that government and business will seek to return to normal and compensate for losses as quickly as it is able. We may see a massive return to manufacturing in countries where they see directly the consequences both politically and financially of handing over their industries, free-of-charge, to China. This will inevitably lead to a new crisis between the right to work, and the right to live and breathe clean air.
My final conclusion is that this crisis will need to go on for months, maybe over a year, in order for the short term social changes we are seeing to last beyond the very human tendency to react to crisis and then seek to return to the normal that existed before.
The question might be, to what degree will we be able to marry our old sense of normal, with the new normal created by living in quarantine in order to avoid a return to the dysfunction that was so normal up to 2019 and yet which was destroying our planet.
Anyway, I’ve said more than enough.