“Go to your room and stay there!” This is a scene from our childhood that many of us will be quite familiar with. When we were naughty or misbehaved, we were told to isolate ourselves in our room and to use the time to reflect on our misdeeds. The lockdown that started in March was a bit like that. Things on the planet were getting out of hand. We had become arrogant and unruly. In our pursuit of material gain, we have been mindlessly exploiting the earth and destroying our natural resources, not to mention how we treat each other. So ‘Mother’ sent us to our room to think and do some introspection. However, much like a rebellious child, in such a situation our first reaction was not to engage in introspection but rather to slam the door and kick the cupboard and feel sorry for ourselves because it was so unfair. That was the yelling phase. Angry, shocked and upset, we tried to find someone to blame for the mess we found ourselves in. Since misery loves company, we then tended to revert to social media in search of others who agreed with our view, and in that happy huddle, we fuelled the fires of anger and upset. Cozy in our echo chambers, we slammed our fists and kicked the door.
But as the weeks became months, we went into a second phase. We started getting bored with all the chatter. Social media started to irritate us, and one can only watch so many movies and series. That is the yawning phase. During that stage, we just wanted to get on with our lives again. We want to get out of our room and do what we used to do, since we were bored stiff. “Enough is enough” is a phrase we often heard during that phase. But since our movements were still restricted, we entered the next phase: the yearning phase. We started dreaming about all the things we wanted to do once we were permitted to leave our room again. We dreamt about going shopping again, or having friends over, or having coffee with a friend at our favourite spot, or joining our friends for a beer. We even told ourselves how great it would be to be back at work again.
And then, from a certain date, we were allowed to roam free again. A sense of normality returned. For some it was great. Things were back to normal. They could return to work, go shopping, visit friends and family, have friends over – they loved it. For others, not so much. They noticed a difference in themselves. It was still the same friends, the same coffee shop, the same shops in the same mall, the same office, and the same colleagues – but somehow on a deeper level, something had changed. It was as if they were looking at life with new eyes. They now had a deeper yearning. Their yearning was not to have the old world back. They were yearning for a different world – a world in which principles like respect, honesty, kindness, compassion and love dictate our behaviour. They were done with pretence and superficialness. They were yearning for genuineness. They were dreaming of a world free from judgment and greed, a world in which the main mission is not to survive but to thrive.
How come our dreams and yearnings are so different? It must be the result of how we chose to spend our time in isolation. The options were to be angry, mad and upset all the time, or to focus on how bored we were, or to use the time to take stock, do some introspection and start dreaming a new dream. To yearn for something better. To be better. To do better. Surely you will have noticed that all three words – yelling, yawning and yearning – start with a `Y`. This letter of the alphabet is pronounced as ‘wye’ or ‘wy’, but it also sounds like ‘why’ – and perhaps that was the question that should have kept us occupied while we were locked up in our room. Why? Why am I here? Why am I not happy? Why am I still in this relationship? Why am I hanging onto a job I hate? Why am I spending so much time and energy on things that bring me no joy? Why am I still hanging on to some things? This is a very good time to ask some ‘why questions’. All these why questions may just lead us to what we have always yearned for. Be brave, and ask yourself a few ‘why’ questions. They could lead you to new beginnings.
Yearning for the seemingly impossible is the path to human progress.
Bryant H. McGill