Here we are again at the threshold of a new beginning. A year has gone by and the new one has just started. "A very Happy New Year" is what we are going to say to each other in the days to come. It is wishing for the bliss that we all aspire in our lives. But how much thought do we put into those words? It has become a kind of automated response in tune with the surrounding. Do we actually mean something or just utter those words?
The word to look out for is happiness. It is a common saying that money makes the world go round. If we have money, we can have everything. But having everything makes sense only if it can make us happy. Of course, the connotation of happiness differs with each individual, but there is no denying that this basic and profound feeling is capable of carrying humanity beyond the realm of physical existence.
Like all things in the world, happiness is relative. It means a million different things to a million people. For some happiness is in its pursuit, for others, it has an abstract vague notion which keeps shifting with time. But everyone knows that it is there, and this knowledge is what makes life worth living.
The unprecedented events of the past two years give this New Year a different overtone. There were moments when many of us weren't even sure if we would see this day. The Covid pandemic forced us to seek shelter in our homes, restrict our social interactions and find comfort in isolation. It was a time when an innocent sneeze or a cough was looked upon with suspicion and an oxygen cylinder or a hospital bed became the most prized possession. Humanity as a whole was pushed into the wrap of immense anguish.
The pandemic, they said would change everything. Our life, our thoughts and the way we conduct ourselves. There were talks of redesigning our social spaces aimed at minimising man to man contact. Masks was to be our second skin and a bottle of sanitiser our only hope of redemption. The future looked bleak and undefined.
But here we are welcoming another year. We seemed to have moved past the scary times and got back to the old normal. The new normal of Covid times that everyone predicted never materialised. We have befriended our enemy and have learned to live with it. The vaccination has shown its effects and is helping humanity to reclaim what was lost.
The world since then has picked up from where it left. Russia invaded Ukraine, children are starving in Africa, the health of our planet is still a matter of debate, fossil fuels still control our economic destiny, dictators are asserting their position and people are dying not because of the virus but otherwise.
This ability of the human race to withstand and recover from difficulty has been applauded as resilience. But what is the point of this resilience, if we make the same mistake? What did we learn from the dreadful days of the pandemic? Or are we in the process of relegating the past years as an aberration that would never repeat? If this is the case then we are heading towards a future where more such disasters await us.
In the million years of our existence, humanity has overcome many impediments. Each of those obstacles has taught us something. The accumulated wealth of that knowledge has made us the most dominant species on the planet. If for a moment we leave aside the pain inflicted by the pandemic, what we see is a unifying force that had blurred the distinctions and made us think as one. It unveiled the connection by which each one of us is bounded. A plexus where each entity sustains the other and the failure of one leads to the collapse of the system.
This bond may no longer be visible now. But the feeling has worked into our consciousness nurturing the most potent force of human existence…Hope. The millennials have tasted the true meaning of the idiom hope against hope. This is an experience none of us will forget. Our lives are connected… even if we have all the comfort and wealth in the world can we be truly happy if people are dying in our neighbourhood. Like everything else our happiness too is connected, this is the lesson that the pandemic has driven into our psyche.
There is a bit of pessimism in this regard. People are good at responding to crises, but then go back to their ways and let another crisis brew. They force themselves to believe in the phenomenon called the happily ever after. A kind of collective amnesia grips everyone, and they act as though they had forgotten the difficult part. But change is a complex process, as complex as chaos theory and as slow as evolution. What the pandemic has done is to alter the DNA of happiness and hope.
The gestation period for this change may be long, and at times may appear self-defeating. But we can always hope. In the post pandemic era "A very Happy New Year to you" should mean that my happiness depends on yours and vice-versa. We can be happy only when everyone around us is happy or else its pursuit would be a futile exercise. Hope is the basic keystone on which this belief rests, as James Baldwin rightly puts it, "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced".
By Emon NC