We are living through unprecedented times right now. The visual that comes to my mind when I think about life in times of Coronavirus is of the ‘Touch me not’ plant, the one we all would have probably read about in schools – the one that withdraws into itself as soon as it experiences human touch. That is what we are being encouraged to – in some cases – being forced to do right now – withdraw into ourselves as much as possible.
Living with oneself may entail very different things for different people. To me, it is an opportunity to once again be able to segregate the ‘essential’ from the ‘superficial’ in life. In all the chaos around me, one thought that has hit me with utmost clarity is the fact that a human being is after all only one part of the entity that we term ‘Nature’. The day we began to believe that not only were we meant to rule over Nature but were also capable of doing it, we started paving the way for our own destruction.
The phrase ‘living in harmony with nature’ has become cliched due to overuse. We use it in our everyday conversations without even batting an eyelid. But do we ever really stop to think what does this phrase actually mean? What does it entail? May be the time that we all have got on our hands now can be spent constructively in thinking about this.
First and foremost, nature does-not differentiate. Neither based on caste nor creed; neither based on colour nor race; neither based on religion nor class nor the umpteen number of differentiating criteria that human mind has managed to invent. These differences need to be understood for what they are and need to be given their due place – they need to be put in the ‘superficial’ category – where they rightly belong.
This current crisis that has morphed into a life and death issue in the minds of people has managed to displace all other thoughts – at least temporarily – which proves that we don’t require the negativity of these divisive thoughts for our survival in the first place. It has also proved that ‘living in harmony with nature’ needs to be given the status of much more than a mere slogan. Nature is not a kingdom to be ruled over by human beings. It is not a commodity that we can use, abuse and throw as we please. We exist if we respect it, we perish if we don’t.
In our blind race to nowhere, we managed to turn ourselves into mere consumers and the Nature into a commodity. We have till today stubbornly refused to heed any warning signs that have been sent our way. We have managed to silence all the sane voices warning us of the consequences of our blatant actions. So, why this hue and cry now? What has managed to bring the entire world to a complete standstill? The answer is very simple – a serious threat to its very survival, which was taken for granted just till yesterday. In today’s scenario, everything looks just that much grimmer, everyone is that much more unsure. The hubris of the human race has landed it in this situation today.
I am sure we will find a way to get through this crisis. And I really hope we do. But I hope and wish much more than this. I hope that once this immediate crisis has passed, we don’t comfortably forget the biggest lesson that we should be learning from it. That life is not about how many things we are able to accumulate, it is also not about creating artificial divisions between ourselves – between one human and the next – and then spending the entire lifetime trying to prove oneself superior to the next human being based on these divisions.
It is about learning to truly live as someone belonging to this Nature, as someone madly in love with it, and as someone who does-not consider it as a separate entity but as an indistinguishable part of its very being.
As the saying goes, ‘something that does-not destroy you, only makes you stronger’. I hope that this is only a dark tunnel, at the end of which there still remains a chance for the human race to redeem itself and to emerge stronger and wiser. And I hope that even the smallest of steps taken by any human after that does not tread upon the rights and existence of Nature or any of its fellow human beings.
Nivedita Dwivedi is an Independent Writer. She is working in the field of education and—based in Mumbai.