2020 was memorable in a lot of ways, many that we may want to forget. Every year presents us with personal challenges, dilemmas, and events that impact all of our lives, but few have had an effect like Covid-19 has. We have witnessed the enormous impact the virus continues to have here in the United States and all over the world — something no one is able to escape, whether they contracted the virus or not. 

The pandemic brought a new awareness to how we interact with each other or, more aptly put, our lack of interaction with each other. Zoom became a household name overnight as we found ways to stay connected without in-person contact. I personally experienced this as I tried to continue to teach tai chi classes using the online application. In time it became clear there was no substitute for personal interaction, whether teaching tai chi or just connecting with family and loved ones.

Something has been happening this year and in recent years that is worse than any virus — we are developing a condition that is bringing to light just how fragile our humanity is. 

The history of humanity is fraught with horrible atrocities like war, discrimination, and hate, and although we have this to look back on and learn from, the pattern continues in our modern times. 

Families are fighting, friendships are dying, and lines are being drawn between one side and the other. It appears we have not learned anything from the past, which is a sad commentary on who we are and where we might be heading. Our human condition has been arrested by chaos, vitriol, media biases, and falsehoods we have chosen to believe.

No matter which side you believe is the right one, it is the way you regard the other side that causes the breakdown in our humanity. This is not about good or evil or right or wrong. It is about how we are choosing to act — it is about our own condition. Moreover, our humanity is on the line when we divide ourselves based on the issues of the day, and it is humanity that suffers when we partake in the vitriol. How we think and behave either contributes to the chaos or lessens it.

We can beat this Covid-19 virus if we work together and we can beat this human crisis if we are willing to erase the lines within ourselves. 

Though these divisions were already starting to become apparent, the pandemic has put the frailty of our humanity on full display. Covid-19 is invisible to us and is similar in many ways to the mental virus that grips our divided country. We must recognize that symptoms of the latter begin with our thoughts, which, when adjusted, change our behaviors. Thoughts are impactful because they lead to words and actions, which, as we have seen, can have grave effects. Thinking another person is evil or bad impacts oneself, and becomes a self-spreading virus in our minds that is as destructive and harmful to humanity as any pandemic.

As 2021 is upon us and the past year will become part of history, we have choices to make. Those choices will either lead us in a new direction or allow us to continue down a path worn thin from so much pain and suffering. 

Just like Covid-19 spreads from one person to another, our choices and behaviors can be contagious and cause a ripple effect through humanity that impacts all of us. There will soon come an end to the social distancing and self-quarantining and we will begin to interact as we have before this virus abrubtly dominated our lives. So how will we choose to engage with one another? Are we ready to take control of our own human condition? Will we spread a little joy instead of fury? Perhaps there is a better way forward for all of us if we are willing to look at little closer at our own behaviors.

There is no need to draw lines between one another or within ourselves — that only leads to crippling and destructive stress and anxiety. Haven’t we had enough of old patterns? Instead, let’s choose new thoughts, words and actions that bring togetherness, not divisiveness. 

Ed Williamson

Edited by Keith Maher and Victoria Rein