Learning to see again; Reflections amid the COVID19 Pandemic

It is a strange time to be alive, strange in a way that this is not the “normal”. At least, not for our generation. Witnessing a major pandemic that has literally put the world on its knees is something we never anticipated this year. Who would have thought that at the beginning of the year, as we made plans, inserted events, reminders and goals in our calendar that those foreseen events would in fact not happen? And time would pass us by in our homes grasping our TV remotes and flipping channels to see the latest updates of COVID19, worried sick about our friends and relatives abroad in areas where COVID19 is killing people in thousands, and worried about our future plans.

In Chapter 5 of the Certified Training Program on Culture, Luis Barragan in his acceptance speech talks about solitude and says that ‘only in intimate communion with solitude may man find himself.’  Perhaps this time in lockdown might have served that purpose, maybe it is the best time for some of us to find our purpose. When Josef Pieper in his book “Only the Lover Sings” writes about ‘learning to see again’, he refers to the spiritual capacity to perceive reality as it truly is, and not merely the aspect of looking and seeing with our physical eyes. He makes an argument that I agree with that the modern man of this century is restless and has a lot of stress and is totally absorbed in practical goals and purposes.  More or less, the way we are, we barely have time to pause and listen, even look around us, or seek within our souls what we are truly experiencing.

In one of my experiences in New York City, my friends and I decided to stop by Grand Central Station on a Monday evening to look and experience the busiest subway station in the world. Its beauty is quite aesthetic, ingenuity in its form, and the art, to put it in simple terms, is very beautiful. In the high ceilings, there is a display of the constellation and stars, which adore the roof. The moment one enters the station and stands by the grand clock you feel ethereal, feeding off the energy of a million commuters, it feels surreal. When I stood still for a moment, to look around me, I noticed how everyone was in a perpetual hurry, moving left, right and center without stopping or sparing a second to look around them. That dispirited my soul, and I thought, how about if people would stop, just for a second, and feel, and listen and look and see again? Perhaps so many of us would be in touch with ourselves.

Maybe having to stay home during this pandemic will open our inner eyes, so that we are not so busy. We see our family and friends in our thoughts and our hearts, since we cannot be with them physically, to ease the burden of our everyday lives, and be still,  listen and see. If anything, we would have nurtured our souls. One of my favorite columnists in a newspaper, Sunny Bindra writes that as humans, we should stay humble. Sometimes we feel that we have control of our lives, we feel like rulers of the planet. We feel like we have many accomplishments to our names, but they can be undone in a minute. To be human is to be gullible, fanciful and vulnerable. We should embrace our reality, as it is now and do the best of things.

Published: July 15, 2020
Written by Faith Kabora, a WYA Africa intern