Thinking with the Breath of Life

Coronavirus has almost cleansed our desk which displayed all our achievements so far. It has exposed that there are holes in the manner we organise our life.   We might think that the virus has arrived late.  It has not given us an early signal.  Its late arrival has caught us unawares.  This sense of late coming has to be a moment of recognition. Life always arrives late for us. We seem to become wise in hindsight.   Unfortunately, we seem to lack the wisdom of foresight. 


 Coronavirus has hit us as an urgent postcard that has arrived late.  If at all it was in time, we would have been ready and averted this tremendous disaster.  The wild spirit of the virus has dismantled everything that we thought were our distinguished achievements. The lethal virus has found us out.  It has exposed our incompetence in several areas. It has manifested lacunae in our medical as well as educational establishments. It is punching holes into our capitalist organization of the economy.  The virus is interrogating and even derailing our lives and ways of being in the world. 


The Virus is cruel. It does not leave anyone.  We can easily annihilate it with lockdowns.  Without proper medicine and vaccine, only herd immunity can save us. Otherwise, there is always a looming threat that will linger everywhere.  There will always remain a danger that will slip through the protective shield that we are building to nail it down.  


Without proper full proof medical treatment, we seem to be put in the position of Mr Joseph  K of Franz  Kafka’s novel, the trial.   Each of us feels that we are innocent but unjustly called to account for something by the virus that we have no direct responsibility for.  Our condition is similar to Mr K who is forced to vindicate himself as a representative of humankind without really knowing why and how.

  We have to face the virus. Only a vaccine or development of herd immunity can save us. Otherwise, the lethal virus will remain in the liminal space like a sword of Damocles hanging over our head.   We are pushed under a kind of totalitarianism of a virus that we cannot escape. 


We do have to hope in humanity. We are certain that we will overcome the corona disruption.  The way we conduct ourselves is based on this delayed arrival of a safe future. The delayed arrival of complete safety marks everything that we do, think, and be for now. It has a double bind that structures our ways of thinking and being in the world.  


Although the safety is delayed, our hope already anticipates its arrival and we can look at life with positivity.  It can take way our pessimism that thinks that coronavirus has converted some humans into sacrificial lambs. The delayed arrival of the virus is faced by us through frontal thinking that is still waiting for the arrival of the moment of reckoning that will bring safety and freedom to us and the world will be the same as before.   This dream of the arrival of the same world, even if it is delayed is a denial and escape away from the ambiguities and uncertainties of the future. 

 The delayed future is always open and will not fold into the sameness of the past.  Future cannot be a mere repetition of the past although we may bend forward to try to draw it to resemble our sacred past.    This approach mummifies life and deprives it of its jest for novelty and adventure. 

The intolerance of disruption leads us to fantasize about the future as a repetition of the past.  Although the hope of past safety is thought to arrive in a future in the wake of uncertainties of the obnoxious virus, the delayed future will not be simply a copy of the past. It is going to be different and the world will not be the same again.   

This night of darkness that afflicts our present will go.  But the future that is yet to arrive and seems to be delayed for now will not be a repetition of the past. It is novel and stays open although not completely free from the past and the present that precedes it.  We have to cross the bridge to meet this delayed future with the present and the past.  

The past and the present will live in the future yet our future is not reducible to the past or the present.  Forgetting the openness of the future is part of our anxiety about it and we turn to the past and imagine it as a land of secure milk and honey.  The future is not a tomb where the secure life of the past will resurrect and we will have the same world again.   

The depth of the future cannot be forgotten.  It does cause anxiety and dislocates us in the present. But escaping into a lockdown of the past cannot be an adequate response.  Maybe we have to overcome our ocular-centric thinking that visualizes the future as a repetition of the past. Maybe we have to privilege nasal thinking at a time when our nasal track has become vulnerable to being a passage of receiving and transmitting the deadly infection. 

 Our hindsight and foresight are both privileging the sight and are ocular-centric.  The nasal thinking or olfactoric thinking can bring smell as well as breathe of life as new coordinates to think through the privileged position of the nose. Such thinking is required at a time when we are facing the breath of death everywhere. 

 Olfactric thinking rightly smells the dangers posed by the lethal virus and invites us to promote the breath of life so that we can face the breath of death engulfing us. The breath of life that sustains our life has to be breathed into everything that we do and build. This is why our responsiveness to the lethal virus includes instilling the breath of life in our institutions and structures of our society.  The future is going to be different and has to be full of the breath of life so that we can smell all dangers including viruses that can cause pandemic and destruction much before they can arrive. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao