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The Pandemic As A Welcome Lesson In Humility

The coronavirus crisis has been stressful and tedious. But it's also a reminder that we can't have everything we want, when we want it. And that, in many ways, is a good thing.

The pandemic also offers some benefits.
The pandemic also offers some benefits.
Ignacio Zuleta Lleras


What a drag. It's so exhausting. I can't take it any more. These are the kinds of everyday complaints that come with the pandemic, and they're understandable, because here in Bogota — and in London, Delhi and everywhere else — the situation really is an energy drain.

Toxic emotions currently occupy considerable space in our minds. We find it hard to concentrate, and become pessimistic and listless. The body becomes confused as regular cycles are broken: We can't sleep properly, maybe grind our teeth at night. As a species, we're fighting to adapt.

But while this situation fuels negative thoughts as part of the way we process data in life, it also brings some marvelous novelties, not the least of which is uncertainly, which can actually be a blessing in disguise.

We're used to a certain "I want and I will" approach to life, and right now that's just not possible. And because this society of instant gratification is allergic to patience and ill-trained to accept frustrations, it panics when it cannot control events. That in itself is exhausting.

In reality, even those who have the dubious privilege of being able to work remotely will find it hard to keep regular hours as the lines between work and home life are blurred. We must care for the family, cook or tend to the home while facing the implacable reality of work on a screen, and this is especially the case with working women. Effectively they undertake three minimal working days in a day, with no labor code to protect them from overwork or exhaustion.

In the absence of a basic universal income here, which the government has skirted around and will do so as long as it can through this and subsequent lockdowns, all those without work at home must don a homemade face mask and go out to make a living. They're perfect fodder for exploitation and extended hours — and employers can always blame the pandemic!

Uncertainly can actually be a blessing in disguise — Photo: Daria Nepriakhina

The exhaustion in Colombia is physical. But make no mistake, it's political as well!

And yet, the pandemic also offers some benefits. By pulling the curtain back on some painful inequalities, it may trigger fundamental changes around the world, especially with the second wave of infections now hitting Europe. The uptick in cases there may be a prelude to more waves that will make the changes even more necessary, even if they must happen under duress or fear.

Our hidden resources emerge under the pressure of hostile surroundings

Events are forcing us to consider outside realities, but also to look inside ourselves for purpose. We may be wondering what our lives mean. Threats strip our life goals bare like surgery without anesthesia. Without them, life may become painful and depressing, but this may precede a recovery toward a healthier spirit. and that's because anxiety is an unexplored source of creativity and resilience that is usually only approached by the brave or saintly. Our hidden resources emerge under the pressure of hostile surroundings, when they might have remained hidden and dormant.

Uncertainty has recovered its rightful place as an essential part of existence, without the comforts and structures we use to cushion our lives. We are not in control. Science is not an all-powerful god and, believe it or not, Google can't answer all of our questions.

As we do not know what will happen tomorrow, the wisdom is to follow the age-old counsel of living in the present. One day at a time, trusting in God, loosening our expectations and letting go of the absurd ideas about control. It's better now to be a humble bamboo that bends with the wind than a colossal, and unyielding tree that could come crashing down.

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This Happened—November 30: WTO Seattle Give Birth To "No Global"

Updated Nov. 30, 2023 at 12:10 p.m.

The sometimes violent protests against the 1999 World Trade Organization summit in Seattle is considered the birth of the No Global movement, which sought to bring attention to the harmful effects of globalization, especially on the most vulnerable.

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