In the year 20/20 our vision cleared. The fog of hedonistic narcissism that had covered the earth during the last century lifted with an unprecedented suddenness. Robed gladiators donned their masks and shields, and their gloves came on, as they prepared to protect the innocent victims who had been stripped naked and thrown into the centre of the ring. Spectators sat glued to their sofas in the global colosseum, eyes affixed to screens, mesmerized by the indestructible, impenetrable enemy that had taken the entire globe by storm. Some remained indifferent to the suffering, perceiving themselves to be invincible. Others shivered in their seats, petrified they would be in the next wave of sacrifices. The gladiators valiantly formed the front line of defence.
As the far-off battle became a global war and casualties grew exponentially, a new haze began to blanket the populace. Ennui took hold of the masses and manifested itself in anxiety, depression, and boredom. Days passed without name, weeks flowed into months, and time stood still while the clock ticked.
And we, the collective known as humanity, found ourselves immersed in a science fiction novel in which humanity faces an alien invasion—not just as readers, but as characters, unaware of the plotline or our role in it, much less the ending. Waking one day to find the world we knew unrecognizable, the setting strangely familiar, yet unworldly, we were thrust into the role of authors of our own story. The theme, at least, was a common, well-known one—good vs. evil. With the crisis predetermined by a force unknown to us, we were left with no option but to use improvisation to forward the narrative.
Even as we struggled to put words to this fictional account that was apparently now our reality, we found ourselves knocked sideways by twists and turns in the subplot. Floods, cyclones, and tornadoes ravaged the land, while the earth quaked and volcanoes erupted. Locusts devoured the crops as wildfires destroyed the forests. Amidst an increase in domestic violence, a senseless mass shooting shocked a nation.
The greatest author in the universe would need an extraordinary imagination to bring this tale to a satisfying conclusion. Regrettably, we are all amateur authors, each of us obligated to contribute a line or two to this sorry story. How then, can we aspire to collaboratively bring a happy ending to this convoluted tragedy?
This is where the writer’s block hits full force. With so many of us sitting at home, waiting this out, we wonder what we can contribute to this global epic saga. The prose flows so easily for some—those who take it in their stride to serve and protect, those who swear to heal and comfort, those who research to find answers and solutions, those who lay themselves on the line to provide the necessities of life. They are the true heroes in this tragic adventure. They are the Nobel prize-winning authors of this inspirational memoir. But what do the rest of us have to offer?
More than we think, that is the power of the majority. As we set the pen to paper, our fingers to the keyboard, we, the masses, begin our chapter’s title with two words: Stay Home. Ours won’t be the most exciting chapter written in this account that will go down as one of history’s classics. It will, however, be the greatest influence on the outcome of this drama.
Our contribution isn’t as visible as that of the gladiators who stand steadfast in the ring against the invisible enemy whose weapons take no concrete form. As we sit on the sidelines observing the fight, and waiting for the last chapter to be written, we come to the realization that our seemingly inconsequential chapter will impact the conclusion. And so, we cheer on our frontline warriors, thankful for their bravery, and encourage them to keep up the good fight in the face of the despair that surrounds them every day. We pray for and hold out hope for those innocents who have been randomly selected to fight in this life-and-death battle on the open stage, with neither weapons nor defence shields. We practise social distancing and handwashing to keep ourselves and our families safe, and to protect our neighbours, friends, and those we don’t even know. With this simple plan, this meagre outline, we steer the plot toward that happy ending we would all love to read.
In that fairytale ending, we would see our malicious foe unceremoniously ousted from the arena by our collaborative efforts. Our frontline gladiators would be decorated not with glory and prizes, but with marks of honour and badges of courage. The victims who had been sacrificed would be remembered with love, and those who were fortunate enough to be rescued out of the ring of fire would be given a fresh outlook on life.
That final chapter we write together with a common goal—to close the book on Covid-19. We hope to once again return to some semblance of the life we had and took for granted. We vow to never again be ungrateful for the gifts that have been bestowed upon us.
For now, we can only use our imagination as we envision that Utopia where we leave our homes to go to work, to run errands, to do our shopping, without fear. What if our dreams came true and we could see and speak to our loved ones in person, not through technology? What would it be like, we wonder, to wander through a mall, to go to a movie theatre, to eat out in a restaurant, surrounded by other people, be they friends or strangers? Is there a chance we may get to attend community events, celebrations, ceremonies, concerts, games, and share special moments with our fellow human beings? How wondrous would it feel to go to the beach, walk on the trails, go to the playground, without putting ourselves and others in danger? Will we ever again be able to experience all nature has to offer, the wonders of the world, other cultures, without the worry of bringing back with us some unseen killer?
Out of our imagination, onto the page, and into reality, we aspire to bring an end to the dystopian novel, Coronavirus, with an ending that satisfies all of us. Out of the ruins of the colosseum, let the victors arise above the villain, humbled by the strength of their synergy—stronger together.
Upon publication of our joint heroic epic, renamed, We Got Through This Together, may we shake each other’s hands and hug each other as we did once upon a time. May we banish the term ‘social distancing’ and replace it with ‘social embracing.’ And most importantly of all, may we learn, may we remember, may we know that we were not meant to live in self-isolation. No man is an island. All mankind is in this together.