Lesson from 2020: Be cautiously optimistic

Grief and suffering are a part of human life. No amount of optimism will change that.

Death, even during normal times, is tragic. The tragedy is multiplied manifold during a pandemic. Most COVID-19 victims suffered and died alone. At best, they were accompanied by nurses and doctors who were wearing PPEs that hid their faces, thus reducing human connection. COVID-19 fatalities suffered from tremendous physical suffering. Their loved ones suffered just as bad.  They experience grief mixed with guilt. Not being there when a loved one is breathing his last, and being unable to give them even a small measure of comfort —-that brings a lot of emotional torment.

On the other hand, wildfires and typhoons, and other natural extreme phenomena, have also claimed precious lives and damaged properties. Our hearts shudder at the images of devastation and of people trying to pick up pieces of their lives.

The death of 41-year-old Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in helicopter crash on January 26, 2020 shocked the world. Hollywood star, Black Panther superhero Chadwick Aaron Boseman died of colon cancer on August 28, 2020. He was just 43 years old.  These famous people were adored by multitudes and lived in glitzy mansions—but just like that, and life was over for them. The death of well-loved local and international celebrities, whether by accident, disease or suicide, has cast more clouds into our already-dark sky.

Heartache after heartache. Pain after pain. Sorrow after sorrow.

How do we deal with the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”, as the great William Shakespeare termed it?

Realistic and cautious optimism is an effective guiding principle.  Prepare and take precautions in life, but know that grief and suffering will come sooner or later. Anything that was given can be taken away anytime. Whether it’s a house or a life. The earlier we accept that, the more resilient we will be. However, put that at the periphery of your mind. Do not dwell on it so much that it makes your daily existence miserable. Do what is within your power to minimize risks: like having a healthy lifestyle, saving money and fortifying your homes. Preparation will cushion the blows. Then, move on to another level. Deepen your spirituality. Find meaning and purpose in your life. Find beauty and happiness in this world. Enjoy simple things: a dinner with your family, a game of hide-and seek with a child, a Netflix movie, a cup of coffee. That’s realistic, cautious optimism.

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