The individual and the collective

Within the broad spectrum of feelings one could have, from very calm to very anxious, lays fear, boredom, joy, happiness and all the rest of our human emotions. Living through this COVID-19 pandemic though, it does feel like the ride is becoming a rollercoaster, with steep turns yet none of which is novel to the human experience.

What’s novel to us today is the awareness of a collective experience we're all seem to be having while being hundred and thousands miles apart: Staying home under lockdowns, shutdowns, curfews, surveillance, militarization or extra policing all done to force social distancing at scale.

It's true that some may have had the privilege of being able to stay secluded by choice whenever they wanted or had the chance to. For me that always felt special because it was a choice, it was a timeout from the daily chaos, traffic and social customs. What's novel in this awareness, is how different this feels when its forced, when I know many of my friends are also in isolation, having similar discomforts, thoughts and worries.

Do we find comfort in this awareness of a collective experience?
Can we help carry each other through this?
Is patience a virtue we need to collectively help each other learn?

Our conversations from a distance keeps revolving around the pandemic, as if this collective pause renders everything else suddenly unworthy of discussion or that it comes from another life none of us have access to momentarily and that moment could last months or more.

Embracing uncertainty was a challenge to many of us before the pandemic, how realistic is it to ask anyone to embrace it now? We adapted fast to all the social distancing laws imposed, can’t we adapt to this uncertainty now because it’s no longer an option, since we’ll be taking a high doze from in waves for a couple of years at least?

For those of us who had gone through personal turmoil from a painful loss or trauma, we can remember that at some part of that turmoil lies the absurdity of ever thinking you have control over much of life. The anger, denial, bargaining will eventually and hopefully lead to a state of contentment bringing a form of serenity, sad ridden yet very peaceful.

So goes with this pandemic, we are collectively grieving along with all the fear. We are worrying about a future many are trying to predict yet none with certainty. We swing into whatever relief we can find nearby before we swing back to the reality of how long our ex-normal will be normal again. Not that we were very happy with that "normal" all of us were in few months ago. Still, its better than this temporary state that is also becoming normal in its sad horrifying way.

So where does one find their voice of realistic calamity amongst the madness, the chaos and this continuous rollercoaster?

The various reactions to the pandemic has been diverse and depending on the type of media you’re consuming you’ll find:

  • Fearful truths or rumors on WhatsApp
  • Anxious real-time reactions on Twitter, news sites
  • A mix of pandemic wisdom, national pride and social judgement on Facebook
  • Dreamy optimism on LinkedIn manifested through broadcasting advice on productivity, efficiency and home-transformed workaholism
  • Lots of conspiracy theories, sarcastic opinions, and delusional logic
  • Stories of horror, compassion, solidarity, love and reminiscing.
  • Lots of humor all around except those news sites maybe

Between the surface of delusional optimism and the deep end of despair and discomfort there comes a place, not quite a middle and neither a center but an observatory-like place absorbing different bits at various volumes, trying to bring about a sobering and content voice into the consciousness of its occupants.

I for one, will do my best to keep finding that place.

Razan Khatib

Razan Khatib

Playing at the intersection of culture, technology, and values. Trying to structure my thoughts and share experiences, learnings, and insights. Co-founder of @spring_apps
Amman, Jordan