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The end of the beginning in the fightback against the pandemic

By Mindo - 01st Apr 2020

The battle containing Covid-19 has begun, and we will fight on because we can’t do otherwise

Shortly after Allied troops had taken the beaches of Normandy, Winston Churchill declared: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”.

And so too it feels that we have reached a milestone in the battle against the coronavirus; we have begun.

The ‘surge’ still haunts us from some bleak future, but we have commenced the battle in earnest.

Like the Allied troops of World War II, with many months of battle and fallen comrades ahead of them, it seems that our own conflict with the coronavirus will follow a similar course.

When this pandemic response will end is anyone’s guess. But it is very clear, that the response has indeed begun.

Before these dark times are over, we will need frequent reminders that one day ‘this too shall pass’ and also regular prompts as to ‘why’ we are fighting this battle.

I can’t go on. I’ll go on.

Yet how can we move forward, when the light on the horizon seems so dim?

The answer it would seem is buried in the writings of Epictetus, Friedrich Nietzsche and Albert Camus.

In facing what they felt was a meaningless and needlessly painful world they all arrived at the similar conclusion of ‘amor fati’; to love one’s fate.

I expect no one is happy we are in this current crisis, yet here we are, faced with the greatest global challenge since World War II.

We have no choice in whether we choose to face this foe, yet we must act, together.

In the words of Marcus Aurelius:

 “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realise this, and you will find strength”.

In ‘Amor Fati’, in loving our fate, we acknowledge that we do not control outside events, we only control how we respond to them.

The enormity of the challenge we face seems completely overwhelming, both in its magnitude and its anticipated duration. We collectively feel like Sisyphus, destined to eternally push the boulder of the coronavirus response up a hill. Unsure if what we are doing is the correct response and if this daunting challenge will ever end.

As Camus writes, we must “have a desire to accept and even come to love difficulty along with ease, or at least to not ignore it”.

However, maybe the most prescient sentiment on how we struggle comes from the most unlikely of sources, Nietzsche.

I can’t go on. I’ll go on.

To find hope in the writings of a man who seemed to lose his mental faculties upon witnessing the beating of a horse in Turin would seem somewhat strange. Yet in the darkest of places, can often be found the most intense light.

When Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist, spent four years in Nazi concentration camps he turned to Nietzsche for guidance during unspeakably dark times.

For “he who has a why, can bear any how”.  

When or how the coronavirus crisis will end is unknown.

But ‘why’ we have taken up arms against the greatest challenge of our generation is abundantly clear. The ‘why’ is what motivates us to move forward, even in the face of great uncertainty and at the potential peril of our own lives and the lives of those we love.

We choose to take on this challenge because our parents are waiting patiently in their homes for a time when they will be allowed to see their grandchildren.

We choose to take on this challenge because our children miss their friends and want to play in the woods.

We choose to take on this challenge because our friends and families are waiting anxiously to return to their jobs to provide for their families.

We choose to take on this challenge in honor of those who will not be with us to enjoy the simple pleasures of life when all of this has passed.

We choose to take on this challenge because some of those who will not be with us may well be our colleagues and might be reading this very article.

Dark times lie ahead, and no one wishes for even another day of this crisis to be upon us. Yet we must endure. There will be times when all we want to do is quit, when we feel as if we have nothing more to give. And yet…

“Where I am, I don’t know, I’ll never know, in the silence you don’t know, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.” Samuel Becket.

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