What Gives Me Hope

These last days, I could hear a voice from outside my apartment urgently reminding people to stay inside. I later learnt it comes from a car driving around with a speaker, repeating the same message over and over again. We’re still allowed to go grocery shopping or take a walk, as long as we’re alone, so I guess it’s not the end of the world.

Still, it was a bit surreal and reminded me of old war movies where people had to find shelter from bomb attacks. Our chancellor called this the biggest crisis since World War II. Maybe she’s right, even though it feels like I’m still in denial, as I’m not the one fighting at the frontlines.

🤔 What I’ve been thinking of

It’s important to have hope – Because having no hope for a better future is what depression is, basically.

Even though the situation is objectively dramatic in many parts of Europe and soon in the US, I read more and more good news that give me hope, so I wanted to share them:

Today I discovered a great article in Medium by Brianna West which puts it into better words than I ever could. Here are some of my favorite paragraphs:

I like reading the Daily Stoic, a great newsletter by Ryan Holiday, and I’d like to recommend a recent article on Marcus Aurelius and the lessons we can learn from history for today’s crisis. I’d advise you to read the full article, but here are my main take-aways:

  • History repeats itself: (…) we could be talking about the Bubonic Plague (aka the Black Death), the Spanish Flu of 1918, or the cholera pandemics of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, just as easily as we are talking about the Antonine Plague and thinking about the coronavirus pandemic that is spreading across the globe.
  • Seeing how history repeats itself can shatter our illusion that our civilization with all it’s progress should have things figured out and that our technology and treatments should shelter us from such terrible things
  • We make the same mistakes. Succumb to the same fears. Endure the same grief and pain… then eventually exult in the same heroism, the same relief, and hopefully, the same kind of emergent leadership.
  • One of these impressive leaders was Marcus Aurelius, who was Emperor of the Roman Empire during the Antonine Plague of 165 CE, and who rose to the occasion. This plague was a global pandemic and killed between 10 and 18 million people. Aurelius didn’t flee Rome, he stayed, helped rebuild the economy and medical system, and even sold off imperial possessions for fundraising.
  • Having led the people through the worst of the crisis, which stretched on for some 15 years of his reign, and having never hidden or neglected his public duties, Marcus Aurelius began to show symptoms of the disease and finally died from it.
  • “Weep not for me,” began Marcus’s famous last words, “think rather of the pestilence and the deaths of so many others.”
  • There is no amount of fleeing or quarantining we can do to insulate ourselves from the reality of human existence: memento mori—thou art mortal. No one, no country, no planet is as safe or as special as we like to think we are. We are all at the mercy of enormous events outside our control, even (or especially) when that enormity arrives on a wave of invisible, infinitesimally small microbes. You can go at any moment, Marcus was constantly reminding himself and being reminded of the events swirling around him. He made sure this fact shaped every choice and action and thought.
  • Be good to each other, that was the prevailing belief of Marcus’s life. A disease like the plague, “can only threaten your life,” he said in Meditations, but evil, selfishness, pride, hypocrisy, fear—these things “attack our humanity.”
  • Which is why we must use this terrible crisis as an opportunity to learn, to remember the core virtues that Marcus Aurelius tried to live by: Humility. Kindness. Service. Wisdom. We can’t waste time. We can’t take people or things or our health for granted.

I really hope that we will, in these difficult times, choose solidarity and make it about “us” instead of making it about “me” (Andy Stumpf said it well on Joe Rogan).

Eventually, all we can do is (it’s not much but it’s important):

  • Stay home / follow the instructions, and not go crazy (here’s a helpful guide on managing anxiety by two Psychology doctors)
  • And, if possible: Help others. Call your relatives and friends who freak out, lose their jobs or are sick. To the extent possible, we should also support health care workers more, e.g. babysitting their kids which Italian volunteers have been doing.

😴 What helped me find calm this week

Unintentional ASMR Picks:

Here’s some Unintentional ASMR that I think you’d enjoy:

Intentional ASMR Picks:

I’ve added these videos to my “ASMR Favorites” Playlist“, again.

💜 What I enjoyed this week

YouTube for once recommended something I actually wanted to see: A man (Paul Barton) playing the piano in some jungle for a 80 year old elephant (who seems to be emotionally touched): Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” or Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”.

What a beautiful animal! This comment sums up what I thought: “I feel so happy knowing that somewhere in the world there is a man playing the piano for elephants”
(and I laughed about the comment “I guess we should first talk about the Elephant in the room”:)