It is said that the water in the Venice canals has cleared. Murky waters once filled with pollution, motor boat fuel, garbage, and sediment are now transparent once again. Fish and birds have returned in the inactivity and quietude mandated by Italy’s COVID 19 restrictions.
There will be many lessons that arise from this period of challenge, and the clearing of the Venice canals offer some early learning and wisdom — clarity and purification arising in the space of non-doing.
There is much ‘murkiness’ in our world right now. We seek profit and economic growth over justice, equality, environmental stewardship, and the basic care of each other and our planet. Poverty, hunger, homelessness, global warming, and natural resource depletion are the pollution that results from our insistence in measuring societal success through economic growth over human care and happiness. If this COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything it is how we are inextricably interconnected and interdependent. I wonder how greenhouse gas levels have changed in this time of grounded flights, and reduced transportation and industry? What other natural waterways, airspaces, and woodlands have cleared and regenerated in this time of imposed pause? Even as so many are quarantined and self-isolating, I am struck by the many stories of generosity, compassion, heroisim and human connection that have emerged in this space.
In the overbusyness of our culture, where we assume worth from our accomplishments and to-do lists, we have polluted our bodies, minds and hearts with exhaustion, worry, fear, shame and regret. Depression is now the leading cause of overall disability worldwide, and anxiety disorders in our children, youth, and adults are reaching epidemic proportions — causing far more suffering and loss of life than this latest coronavirus. While there is no denying the uncertainty and challenge of this time, can this also be an opportunity to reconsider and redirect our priorities? Right now we have time – time to be with our children, with our families, and with our community (even if it must be online). Time to play and create, rest and regenerate – just like the Venice canals…
Right now there is an opportunity to simplify. What do you really need? In this time of emptied store shelves and reduced trips to the grocery store, can we simplify our diet – basic meals from what is in our fridge, cupboards or freezer; making yoghurt or bread; baking together as a couple or family; cooking based on what is available versus what we fancy. Isolated to our homes, can we buy less and be more? 40% of all Canadians with debt accumulated this by spending beyond their means, and 30% of all Canadians say that their spending is increasing faster than their income. Can we begin, again, to redefine ‘wealth’ – a reminder and opportunity to reconsider our purchases and increase our savings; to honour the richness of our relationships and our moments.
And in the clearing perspective of this space and pause, can we remember gratitude for the simple things that abound amidst the challenge. Yes we are isolated or quarantined, and yet there is music, words, and laughter to be shared on balconies and porches, through internet and amongst family. Yes stores and restaurants are closed, but Nature is open – the tender morning light pours through the trees, and brightens the fields and streets; birdsong resounds amidst the relative silence; and the colors of Spring quietly emerge from their slumber. Yes there is fear, but there is also hope and opportunity and choice. Our resilience does not arise from drowning ourselves in the muddied waters of uncertainty and the places we can not control. Rather, our strength and courage grow from recognizing the choices we do have and the blessings that await our noticing.
This pandemic will pass. People will emerge from their isolation, communities will gather, stores and restaurants will open, industry will resume, and the busyness of our lives will begin again. And yet the narrative will forever be changed. Can this period be an opportunity to rewrite our stories? What is a good life lived? What is ‘wealth’? What is ‘success’? May we remember this time always, not only as one of challenge but as one of opportunity, of connection and of gratitude for the blessings that abound. May the timeless canals of Venice, and our human insight, ever remain clearer.