If the crisis can create learning formulations for a more sober and thinking human being, then this period of agony would be a blessing for humanity

There is one widely accepted cause for an avoidable personal disaster. It is rooted in the simple belief that “it cannot happen to me.” The propensity of drivers to take undue risks on the road is also rooted in the same belief. There are enough studies on accidents and in traumatology which establish this fact.

It is a similar story where contagiously-transmitted disease is concerned and HIV/AIDS is a classic example of this. People believe that it will happen to someone else, somewhere else and not to them. They manage to convince themselves that a brief indulgence cannot lead to such disastrous consequences. But, as they discover to their peril later, this is not always the case and they have to pay a heavy price for negligence.

An obvious one next in the list is Covid-19. A quick visit to/from somebody one wanted to see surely can be undertaken without fear of infection. We do not want to be accused of overreacting so we would rather take our chances. Such things can happen, do happen and several people do escape unscathed. But lightning is also known to strike when least expected.

The news of an employee in a bank contracting the dreaded disease has a salutary effect. That branch itself may have to be shut for a week/fortnight. When one hears the news, it has a disconcerting and sobering effect. But as time passes the memories fade and the impact dims. Life goes back to normal and the inevitable rationalisation sets in: How long can one take precautions? Some day the workers/domestic helpers will have to be let in? If it has to happen, it will happen and so on.

Else the logic which Duryodhana used on Karna to get him to use that “invincible” arrow on Ghatotkach sets in. Karna was reluctant to use that unique arrow as he had saved it up to kill Arjun. However, Duryodhana is reported to have argued, “That day may never come if Ghatotkach is not killed today. Ghatotkach is going to wipe all of us out.” Karna yielded to Duryodhana’s logic, Ghatotkach was killed and Krishna had the last laugh as he once again saved Arjun from death.

The use of illogical reasoning to appear rational is a common human failing. It comes out very strongly in times of emotional exhaustion, social tiredness and most of all an exasperated mindset. Unfortunately, there is very little in our learning strategies which gives us the antidote for such failings.

The present phase of the passage of Covid-19 on this planet has seen different types of popular and common practices grow. More Zoom meetings have happened in the last 90 days than in perhaps any other comparable time frame. There has been more talk of online education in the last several weeks than has been ever before in much larger units of time.

Working from home, once considered an innovative fringe in organisational management, has now almost become a routine and accepted practice. The human mind and human nature are allergic to “inactivity”, hence a location for work has to be found, even if it means disrupting the work-life balance and the sanctity of home. Man is described as a social animal and being gregarious is a human trait. So much so that solitude is taken as one of the biggest forms of punishment. Stretched over a period of time and the subject himself being rendered helpless in responding or exercising a choice about solitude, can be a devastating experience. People in such situations have been known to suffer psychiatric disorders. Social distancing and the lockdown necessitated by the pandemic has locked us up in our individual cages and we have become wary of each other. 

There is so much talk of the “new normal”, “nature taking its revenge” and the “costs of indulgences” and more. This is an understandable line of thinking as a sense of guilt at one’s indiscretions feeds such thoughts. The environmentalists are gleeful and are boasting how they saw it all coming. They are right in saying so and this pontification has to be permitted and learnt from. We would not have been in this mess if we had listened to their wise counsel earlier. The fact of the matter is that with all the forwards masquerading as “philosophy” and “knowledge” on social media, there is no attempt to give content and form to this marketplace philosophy, for the making of better and wiser human beings. The next generation of pre-teens, when they graduate to teenage and more, may well be behaving just like or worse than their parents or ancestors did at that age or phase of life. This is a loss.

The global tragedy of the pandemic has the potential to recast  learning processes. A universe where mature consideration supersedes trivial indulgences; where a due consideration of risks can result in the application of brakes before our actions unleash punishment too severe to capture in words.

If the pandemic can create learning formulations for a more sober, thinking and sensitive human being, capable of self-renewal, then truly this period of agony would be a blessing for the human race. Humanity would have evolved to its next stage of growth.