Looking at the bright side amid the pandemic

April 15, 2020 09:21
Photo: Reuters

We are living like rats in the Year of the Rat, one netizen observed in a social media post that has since gone viral.

“We are all in hiding. We only come out to get food. We store the food in our homes to eat later. And we run away when people come close to us.”

That’s one way of putting it as humankind shifts to survival mode amid the coronavirus pandemic. So far, infections have reached more than 1.9 million with the number of lives lost to the contagion surpassing 117,000.

Fear has gripped the world. We remain cooped up in our dwellings as death roams outside.

But more than fear, it is the loss of freedom, something we used to take for granted, that we much regret.

And along with the loss of freedom comes ennui, or boredom, which the poet Charles Baudelaire said could swallow the world with a yawn.

However, the human spirit is such that it refuses to be contained. There is technology to help us get around this confinement, allowing us to interact with friends and colleagues, and even be productive.

You will also notice the proliferation of jokes, memes, videos and stories on the internet that look at the lighter side of lockdowns, quarantines, and official edicts, as well as movies and music to help us cope with the situation.

Indeed, there is always the bright side.

Look at Boris Johnson, the British prime minister who looked slimmer as he emerged on Easter Sunday from the intensive care unit of a London hospital, where he spent three critical days on a ventilator after testing positive for COVID-19.

Some media outlets I know had hastened to prepare his obituary -- just in case -- but he managed to pull through and cut his weight as a result, unlike many of us who chose to gorge ourselves on snacks and become couch potatoes in a bid to fight boredom.

For working wives and mothers, working from home is just fine. They can go straight to their job in their jammies, and the hubby is always there to help with the household chores and in dealing with the kids mainly because there are no sports programs to watch on the telly.

They will also find that they are racking up much savings in view of the sharp plunge in shopping and dining bills as they brush up their cooking skills and purchases shift online, mainly for masks and sanitizers instead of clothing and luxury goods.

Also, holiday plans may have to be rescheduled. Microbiologist Yuen Kwok-yung has warned that it is doubtful if we could resume vacations abroad this year as the pandemic continues to rage in other parts of the world even if the situation appears improving in Hong Kong.

While that may be a bummer, it also means substantial savings. Besides, less flights mean better air quality.

Likewise, traffic congestion seems to have vanished. Everyday it looks like Sunday morning on the streets.

The protest movement, especially the violent type that wreaked havoc on the economy in the latter half of last year, has faded for the most part. All the more so with the ban on public gatherings of more than four people.

That’s one headache less for Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who probably is praying that social distancing rules could continue until her term ends.

Some people might miss their habit of going to church while others might be wondering when Mark Six will resume after it was suspended following the February 1st draw.

This reminds us of yet another online warning for those who don’t seem to take the COVID-19 seriously enough.

Is says: “Listen you all, the casinos and churches are closed. When Heaven and Hell agree on the same thing, it’s probably pretty serious.”

No one is certain when this living nightmare is going to end. And there’s the global recession that is staring us in the face.

But that should not preclude us from looking at the brighter side of life.

We don’t have to take a Panglossian view of the world, but neither must we succumb to despair.

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EJ Insight writer