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The coronavirus is the best thing that could have happened to us

Wherever I’m at, it’s always in the context of knowing I could die at any moment — a strange fact about life that has occupied my thoughts (not morbidly) for as long as I can remember.

Knowing that, I periodically ask myself, what should I do?

Lately I've been thinking maybe the new coronavirus is actually here to save civilization from itself and force us to remember what it means to be human.

The virus as a cosmic correction — a reboot — that, like it or not, could teach us how to live again.

The Boomer Generation and each generation that followed has been remarkably spared of hardship compared to our ancestors.

No world wars or depressions or global viruses like the Spanish Flu — nothing of that magnitude for three-quarters of a century.

As a result, we have perhaps become in some important ways, well, soft, and at the same time alienated from who and what we actually are by the escalating digital onslaught of modern culture.

With all the world stuck on pause, we’ve just been handed a rare opportunity to examine our lives and see what we’re made of. Things are going to slow down so much that people will have to connect in a way possibly not experienced since the earlier part of the 20th century, when there were still a few horses around.

Some of us will suffer and die, and we must experience and honor our grief and uncertainty and walk with each other through that valley. But we cannot dwell there.

Now is not the time for dread. It’s the time to cultivate a tolerance for ambiguity and get through our heads that all we have that is real — and have ever had that is real — is the present moment.

What shall we do while idling?

The other day I set my piano keyboard up on the terrace and played standards for a couple hours. You couldn’t see me, but you could hear me. One neighbor texted a request. (“Unforgettable.”)

So we can make music and sing, like the Italians off their balconies. Write poetry and letters. Make a home documentary. Have a Zoom party. Meditate. Fast. Do QiGong.

Have deep philosophical conversations and take long walks in the forest.

Start making love again, like we mean it.

Really play with our kids.

We may as well clear out our attics, basements, garages, closets and drawers, taking a load off our hearts and minds along the way. Tackle all those little repairs and paint jobs around the house and get an early start on the yard — raking, pruning, seeding, mulching, planting, and talking to our neighbors over the fence.

Think of it as a spiritual practice.

An old Zen saying comes to mind: “When you can’t fish, repair your nets.”

And something from Buddha: “Do nothing. Time is too precious to waste.”

And Socrates’ sage counsel from antiquity: “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Most of all, be brave. As impossible and even ridiculous as what I’m about to say may come across, find a way to bypass the chatter in your head and call up the feeling of gratitude. Gratitude can be a portal to a divine part of ourselves from which large and small miracles arise and the best of who we are comes to the fore.

In the end, we’re going to see each other through and in doing so rediscover how instinctively right that feels. To know again who we really are and what we’re supposed to be doing here — on this rock that’s tumbling through space at 20 miles a second and spinning on its axis at a thousand miles an hour. And all the while it feels as if we’re standing still.

I look forward to tapping the creativity-liberating potential of ... boredom. And the reawakening of the human spirit.

Marguerite Del Giudice is former staff writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Boston Globe. Her articles have appeared in a number of national publications, including The New York Times Magazine and National Geographic. She lives in suburban Philadelphia. margdelg@aol.com.

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