The present residents of planet earth have experienced just over a year of the largest disruption of daily life ever to have challenged the world’s population.    Yes, there have been pandemics in the past.   There have been more deaths in the past.    However, I venture to state; never before have such a large percentage of the world’s population had their daily lifestyle disrupted on such a massive scale.

Around the world, we have been inundated with news stories initiated by a microorganism that has dominated our ability to live, work, travel, communicate and play.   Perhaps less has been written from a personal perspective.   So, I decided to do my own little bit of research.

Together with my friend Mary in Arizona USA, we convened a meeting:  9 of the participants were from South Africa, and 10 from America.   We asked them to speak for 2 minutes to the question, “How have the restrictions of the past year affected you on a personal level?”

Surely not a representative sample, as those taking part in this mini-survey were all in the second half of their life, and fall into the middle class.   Maybe this is the cohort that was least affected by the restrictions imposed by governments all over the world restricting the liberty of the populations under their control.

Introversion and Extroversion

Many of the participants mentioned their self-assessment of their personality on the introversion/extroversion continuum.    As would be expected, participants who see themselves less needy of social interaction adapted very well to the zoom room.   Many went as far as to say that their needs were met by the type of meeting in which we were all participating.

A Strange Surprise

Farzana is a medical representative who shocked the group when she told us that a few of the doctors she visited were in denial about Covid-19.   When I questioned her about this finding it turns out that two of those doctors hailed from Central Europe and the third one was Afrikaans speaking.   Maybe these personal details helps to explain their conservatism!

A More Universal Experience

Sybil lives in Sea Point, an upmarket coastal suburb of Cape Town.   She is used to looking out of the window of her flat and viewing scores of people enjoying the promenade and the swings, while they exercise on the beachfront.  She experienced a macabre feeling of loss when observing the quietness of this territory during the lockdown.   A great contrast to the usual hub of activity.

My Personal Story

Something that has been a positive for me.   As the owner of two Whippets who play a dominant role in helping me to maintain my emotional equilibrium, I was freed of one of my internalised feelings of guilt.   No longer did I have to worry about how long I would leave Blanco and Freddy on their own while I pursued my daily perambulations.    My activities have become far more home centred, as I now spend more time with my appreciative canine companions!

Do we Plan our Lives?

For me, it was interesting to note the variation people expressed regarding the degree to which they either plan their lives or spontaneously capitalise on opportunities as they arise.   Corel expressed the incentive she experienced to look at what she and her husband would be doing with the years that remain to them.   Whereas Duncan described himself as an opportunist who was happy to await events and then make the most of his possibilities as they arose.

New Initiative

Had it not been for Covid-19 this lively international group of seniors would not have met.  Mary and I who are the co-initiators of this group which we have named “The Curious and Inquisitive Wisdom Seekers,” would not have even imagined such a gathering just a year ago.   We met in a Zoom Room run by The Golden Civilisation, and have become friends.   Maybe the modern equivalent of the pen pals of old!  We have a warm and supportive relationship which has allowed us to form this novel group of awake and aware citizens from around the world.

Our First Meeting

It is said, “You should never allow a good crisis to go to waste.”  What are you doing to enhance your life during this unique and challenging time?”  This was the question we asked the participants to consider when we first met.    It was surprising the amount of positivity that emerged from this discussion.    Many contributors have forged new relationships with people and events.   Gratitude for what we have has been enhanced.   Appreciation of both our material benefits and natural resources were named as items for which we could be very thankful.

Some Comments from the Chat at this Meeting
  • I found this the most heart-warming, inspiring and energising experience.
  • Wonderful experience. Amazing people.
  • Great to connect with a wider group, interesting the similarities on different continents. After all; we are all humans!
Subsequent Meetings

A lively discussion of Roman Krznaric’s TED Talk on “The Good Ancestor” was the stimulus for the next meeting.   This philosopher’s research and insight into the habits of consumption and values of future generations formed the bedrock for us all to consider our long term priorities.

On another occasion, one of our American participants, Dave, led us on a deeply insightful discussion on our belief structures.   He made us aware that during these changing times we may need to re-examine our value system and introspect on whether our daily habits are dominated by conscious or unconscious beliefs and behaviours.

Here are some of the topics we discussed:
  • What myth/story/map organizes your thinking, values, and behaviour?
  • What are some of your maps and how were they formed?
  • How does our age invite a paradigm shift?
  • How can we help others to identify the map/myth/story that organizes their beliefs?
Concluding Comments

I consider myself very lucky to be part of one of the least challenged cohorts during this pandemic.   I believe that single mothers who have to find time to work whilst home-schooling their children simultaneously have had a very stressful time.   There is no doubt that people from poor communities have suffered the most.    All thinking people have been challenged to re-evaluate their lifestyle.

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