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Coronavirus shining a spotlight on homo sapiens

June 1, 2020
By: 
Noushin Nabavi, PhD
Mitacs Canadian Science Policy Fellow

I am a scientist who has learned to not speak when tried and tested evidence of my carefully measured experiments and observations are not available. This pandemic lockdown, however, has fascinated, frightened, and bewilderingly amused me into the following thoughts. You could call them rants, meditations, or just insights received from the serendipitous universe. I thought instead of having to convince, debate, discuss, or converse with friends and family, I can reflect on the broadening horizons while we race to win against the virus as one race.

The global coronavirus crisis, even though very unfortunate in its manifestations, has united communities worldwide in our post-modern era like no other event in our lives. It has reminded me, personally, that humankind’s capacity to innovate and adapt is remarkably astounding, and perhaps unlimited. It has also gently brought me back to the cradle and a forgotten childhood innocence, nudging thoughts that geopolitical demarcations are increasingly meaningless. That race, power, money, gender, religion, status, and color of skin cannot put a limit on the vast resilience and adaptive abilities of Homo sapiens. A reminder to go inside when I can’t go outside, to witness and acknowledge the vast horsepower of our collective thoughts and actions. The invisible mighty virus has shown me that I had grown quite comfortable with my status quo. I greet this gentle invitation to witness my limits, or lack thereof. I welcome this push out of my comfort zone as a call to think, speak, act, and, perhaps, love out-loud. Time is ripe, bleak, and painful, while space is filled with seeds of realizations.

I write to share and hope that the opportunities that this grand pause is affording us don’t go wasted when our busy lives resume after COVID19. We ultimately empower a sustainable change in our very being, one that goes in the woven fabrics of our societies and DNA of our thoughts. Albert Einstein said: “In the midst of every crisis lies great opportunity”, and Brad Evans confirms: “A lot of the big major changes in the history of the human condition have come in response to pandemics.” Allan Chalmers further affirms: “Crises refine life. In them, you discover what you are.” Oblique glitters of transformation and revolution have already occurred, twinkling very weakly in our psyche. I hope it doesn’t get forsaken into the ashes of our short-term memories and modern amnesia. I hope the virus infects and inoculates a new consciousness outside of the rat races we have created and brings us to the humanity we had forgotten. As the available medical resources like personal protective equipment, disinfectants, biologics, diagnostics, and therapeutics get consumed rapidly, more solidarity forms between frontline workers, companies, communities, and the nations. An invisible thread of supply and demand chain forms from passion and compassion without the atrocities of monetary concepts that had crippled us into mere ego and existence. From rapid mobilization and centralized actions to the direction of efforts and capacities towards supporting the management of the pandemic to social distancing and diagnosis apps, science and technology have been at their peak in guiding us towards our journey of eradicating COVID19 worldwide.

As a scientist, I am encountering a surge in the diversity of researchers, scientists, and technologists who rush in to help and come together in virtual spaces to share ideas, discuss possibilities, and innovate for the betterment of the world. The international partnerships and collaborations being formed in unexpected online platforms are astonishing and heartwarming to witness.

From organized virtual software and hardware hackathons to virtual summits, scientists, technologists, and methodologists among others are using every known technological platform they have developed or someone else developed to innovate. These times are also a testament to the importance of supporting the knowledge economy sustainably so that research and technology developments lead us in the foreseen disasters that are becoming more frequent, according to experts.

This crisis has also carved a new cultural window for me to experience social and cultural rebirths brought about by the arts, and catch up on the songs and movies I had missed. Much of humanity’s masterpieces in the form of music, concerts, operas, circuses, and movies are being distributed for anyone irrespective of race, age, gender, and socioeconomic status to experience free online. This virus has personally brought me out of my primal modes of survival and the dead-minded devotion to the pursuit of the material and conceptual and towards returning to the moment with family, friends, and the entire human race.

A non-living twist of RNA is teaching us how to live and romantically reminds us, even only if momentarily in this temporary standstill, to exist in harmony with the food, animals, plants, children, elderly, and any ecosystem around us. It kindly whispers in our ears John Lennon’s song “Imagine all the people, Sharing all the world”.