Finding joy amidst COVID-19 crisis

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    THIS Holy Week, the suffering of Jesus Christ takes a deeper meaning with the whole world suffering from the menace of coronavirus.

    The lockdown has forced us to appreciate what we have taken for granted when we were busy surviving or getting ahead in our pre-COVID-19 life.

    As we meditate on the sacrifices of Jesus Christ for us, we take each day as a blessing. The inconveniences of being quarantined becomes trivial as we read doctors and health workers, people we have met as sources, colleagues in the industry, dying and their relatives can’t even be with them. Many are suffering  hearing the cries of loved ones in need but feeling helpless to do something about it.

    This is a time of deep concern. Many are subjected to the harassment- whims of heartless politicians and stupid bureaucrats. Press freedom is under siege.

    Many of us are seething in frustration and anger.

    I dug out “The Book of Joy”,” a conversation between two revered personalities, The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso and the Archbishop Emeritus of Southern Africa Desmond Tutu assisted by writer Douglas Abrams. The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu are both Nobel Peace Prize awardees.

    As we all know, the Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of people of Tibet and of Tibetan Buddhism. Tibet, is under the control of China. He lives in exile in Dharamsala, India.

    Archbishop Tutu played a major role in the fight against apartheid in South Africa. The late South African President Nelson Mandela appointed him chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where he pioneered a new way for countries to move forward after experiencing civil conflict and oppression.

    Abrams is founder and president of Idea Architects, a creative book and media agency “” helping visionaries to create a wiser, healthier and more just world.

    Here are some of the inspiring takeaways from the book:

    As we try to cope with quarantine, feeling isolated from the rest of the world, we may be able to identify with these words of the Dalai Lama: “Exile really has brought me closer to reality. When you are in difficult situations, there is no room for pretense. In adversity or tragedy, you must confront reality as it is. When you are a refugee, when you have lost your land, you cannot pretend or hide behind your role.  When you are confronted with the reality of suffering, all of life is laid bare. Even a king when he is suffering cannot pretend to be something special. He is just one human being, suffering, like all other people.

    Many of us these days are angry. One can see and feel it in social media posts especially after President Duterte’s midnight rants.

    It is alright to be angry.

    There’s a part in the book where Abrams spoke about anger in connection with the Archbishop’s struggle for freedom in South Africa when killings often marred their peaceful protests. “He was not afraid of anger and righteous indignation in pursuit of peace, justice, and equality in his homeland, ” he said.

    The Archbishop explained the power and limits of this anger: “Righteous anger is usually not about oneself. It is about those whom one sees being harmed and whom one wants to help.”

    Abrams elaborated on it: “In short, righteous anger is a tool of justice, a scythe of compassion, more than reactive emotion. Although it may have its roots deep in our fight-or-flight desire to protect those in our family or group who are threatened, it is a chosen response and not simply an uncontrollable reaction. And it is not about one’s own besieged self-image, or one’s feelings of separation, but one’s collective responsibility, and one’s feeling of deep, empowering connection.”

    Abrams, who tried to fathom the inner joy he saw in the two revered personalities who had suffered so much, concluded: Adversity, illness and death are real and inevitable. We choose whether to add to these unavoidable facts of life with the suffering we create in our minds and hearts, the chosen suffering. The more we make a different choice, to heal our own suffering, the more we can turn to others and help address their suffering with the laughter-filled, tear-stained eyes of the heart. And the more we turn away from our self-regard to wipe the tear from our eyes of another, the more- incredibly- we are able to bear, to heal, and to transcend our own suffering. This was their true secret to joy. “

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