Crossing the five month period since lockdown, the Philippines today holds the world record for the longest and strictest lockdown. Sadly, however, despite such draconian measures, the reported number of COVID-19 cases still continue to rise. Todate, COVID-19 cases have reached an all time high of 161,253 with deaths reaching 2,665. Indeed, the hard stance of Gov’t proved ineffective in quelling the pandemic’s scourge.
Whilst the Govt’s move to protect lives seemed quite laudable, its effect on the economy was catastrophic. Recent statistics point to an economic depression expected to be worse than the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Undoubtedly, the strict stay at home isolation precipitated the closure of hundreds of thousands of businesses. This, in effect, resulted in the unprecedented rise in unemployment of nearly ten million workers. With no silver lining in sight, this grim scenario is now begging for a miracle that would quell the pandemic’s scourge.
A Glimpse at the Holocaust Days
A look back at the Holocaust era (1933-1945) would reveal some insights worthwhile considering during these days of extended isolation. In particular, Viktor Frankl, a celebrated Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, recalled in his memoir the importance of having a firm grip on one’s inner spirit in order to remain alive.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
No Time for Frivolity
In the face of grave danger and uncertainty, Viktor Frankl would advise his fellow inmates to be mindful of the existential truth as quoted above. To survive this lockdown, it is vital to take advantage of the ample time to contemplate on the power of freedom of choice. In other words, instead of passively accepting fateful events, one ought to proactively make a choice as to the “end game” that needs to be pursued after this pandemic lockdown. Obviously, there is no time for frivolity. Amidst the difficulties during the Spanish Civil War in 1936, St. Josemaria Escriva aptly pointed out:
Point no. 17
Don’t succumb to that disease of character whose symptoms are a general lack of seriousness, unsteadiness in action and speech, foolishness – in a word, frivolity.
And that frivolity, mind you, which makes your plans so void – “so filled with emptiness” – will make of you a lifeless and useless dummy, unless you react in time – not tomorrow, but now!St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way
“Intensification of Inner Life”
Given the existing challenges that confront us each day, there is need to personally take action: to respond sensibly day by day to the thousands of little demands that need be confronted or addressed. To do this would require deep reflection of personal values and beliefs acquired since childhood. This is tantamount to doing self-examination of the desires and longings of the heart, in order to find out one’s inner state of being, one’s strengths, weaknesses, desires, etc..
Choosing to Do the Right Thing Daily
As a follow through, it is important to always keep in mind the consequential effects of each act committed. This means that, in every instance, the overarching principle of choice is to go for what is right. Hence, one should always guard against distractions or temptations that may detract from the good. For example, screen-use addiction (inordinate use of social media) could pose a problem as it could deprive you of time needed for more important matters. If one gives in to such frivolous tendencies, then, obviously, such lack of conviction could lead to perdition. To survive, therefore, one needs to assiduously practice the morality of choosing the right thing to do daily.
Doing it for Love
Finally, it is important to remember the transcendental power of love. Simply put, no matter how hard and difficult things may be; but, if love is the primordial reason for doing so, then, any burdensome task becomes light and easy to handle. For this reason, Viktor Frankl survived the Holocaust, as he often reminisced his love for his wife during his imprisonment. To close, I leave with you his poignant words:
Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance.Viktor Frankl, ibid