Coronavirus has come. It has swept across the globe in such stunning fashion that it has laid waste to not only lives and economies, but to our preconceived notions of who we are.
I grew up in the age of globalization. It was drilled into me from high school onward that we were heading towards a borderless world that was only an air flight away. Even with my turn towards traditional Judaism and my move to Israel, I still believed to this to a certain extent.
The problem with globalization is that it is based on an infinite amount of resources and cheap products that essentially just turn traditional cultures and communities into carbon copies of one another.
How was the world meant to be built? China. The authoritarian regime would help produce this new world of anonymity, phone addiction, and infinite consumer products. Of course all of us have played along nicely.
The coronavirus pandemic destroyed all of this. It has blown out the idea that one can build a perfect world on the fulfillment of desires by using cheap slave labor in a far away land. Rather than a perfect word, the pandemic has revealed just how bankrupt these notions have been all along.
We have been trying to fulfill our ambitions for products and money and by doing so we have destroyed forests, ruined top soil, and assigned whole populations to a life of factory and wage slavery.
None of this has been holy work – it has been about giving into our base desires.
So much of what we experience and grapple with can be traced back to that initial decision of Adam and Eve to taste from the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. It was simply about fulfilling a want versus focusing on needs.
We are constantly tripping up over the same challenge and it is about time we have learned from our mistakes.
Rebbe Nachman teaches in the 24th lesson of Likutey Moharan that one who lives in excess eventually falls into depression. In a sense, what Rebbe Nachman is saying is that the more each of us lives a life oof excess, the more the collective world falls further away from what it is meant to be.
We are meant to be G-dly beings – to repair the broken world that exists around us and within us. We can do this. We can return to our authentic selves, but we first must exit the world of desires and excess.
The coronavirus has taught us that we can in fact live on so much less than we thought we could. Will we continue on this path or return to our lives of excess once the world opens back up?
The choice as always is before us.