Recent reports point to “serious brain disorders found in mild, recovering COVID-19 patients.” Likewise, Melinda Moyer wrote in The New York Times: “Among patients hospitalized for Covid-19 in Wuhan, China, more than a third experienced nervous system symptoms,” and “French researchers reported that 84 percent of Covid patients who had been admitted to the I.C.U. experienced neurological problems, and that 33 percent continued to act confused and disoriented when they were discharged.”
Clearly, the coronavirus isn’t only a respiratory infection; it is affecting who we are.
Today, it is already recognized that the virus is spreading in the air, not just in droplets that fall up to six feet from the carrier. It is infecting everyone, every single person, though in different ways. It does not mean that we will all suffer or get sick, but we will all feel that we are changing—externally and internally—in our behavior, thoughts, and actions. In everything we do, something will be different.
At the moment, we focus mainly on the more superficial changes—the impact on our senses, such as blurred vision, loss of ability to smell and taste, etc. But the impact goes far beyond the physical senses. If you look within you carefully, I’m sure you will already find that you’re already not the same person you were before the outbreak of the virus. Notice how your thoughts have changed, your ambitions, your hopes, and expectations. COVID isn’t just a virus; it is reprogramming us, our psyche.
“The social and emotional changes that the virus is creating are already underway. The more we go along with them, the better we will feel along the way. The more we resist, the more aggressive the virus will become.”
The novel coronavirus is forcing us to reconsider our values, our priorities, our relationships. Gradually, we will realize that lasting happiness and satisfaction cannot be found in accumulation of wealth or property. Having a bigger pile of bricks and wood written to my name won’t make me satisfied, and certainly not happy. Neither will having more zeros in the bank, whose worth is only pleasing when they make you feel superior to others.
We may not even notice that we have changed, and certainly not why, but in a few months, when we look back at who we were in the beginning of this decade, we will see how far we’ve gone. We will not feel that we have changed because of the virus; we will simply foster different values than we do today.
The virus is imposing its changes very subtly. It is levying a sense of social responsibility on our psyche. The idea that I am not wearing the mask to protect myself, but for the safety of others—so I will not infect them, since I may be an asymptomatic carrier—is foreign to the mindset we’ve been raised on. But in the mindset enacted by COVID-19, it is a given.
But the virus will take it further than the duty to wear masks. Since it’s destroyed the entertainment industry, ravaged the culture of dining out, and landed a devastating blow to the whole notion of physical shopping, it is in fact compelling us to enact social responsibility on the economic level, too. The country will have to help those who cannot find income get their bread regardless. At the same time, the country must oblige them to give something in return.
We will have to learn that in a society of mutual responsibility, we get what we need, but we must also give. Moreover, only those who give earn the right to receive. This doesn’t mean that we all give the same, since not all people are the same, but it will be taken for granted that every person must make a minimum effort for the benefit of society. Soon we will realize that this is how it’s supposed to be; it’ll seem natural to us, and we will not even remember that we once thought otherwise.
The social and emotional changes that the virus is creating are already underway. The more we go along with them, the better we will feel along the way. The more we resist, the more aggressive the virus will become. If we play ball, we won’t even feel it as an illness, not even as mild as a cold. We are transitioning to an era of social responsibility, prosperity, and happiness for everyone, and the virus is our scrupulous yet caring hidden guide.