Sacred Anxiety and the Silver Lining of COVID-19

There is at least one silver lining to the COVID-19 crisis.

Posted Mar 12, 2020

Of the two things that are certain in life, as the saying goes, one of them is death—we are all going to die, it is just a question of when and how. Sorry to break it to you if you haven't thought about that lately, but it is true.

When we raise our awareness of this fact—as the COVID-19 pandemic is doing—we have two choices. The first choice is to (literally or metaphorically) not get out of bed in the morning, pull the covers over our head, and say, "Woe is me." Perhaps drink a fifth of whiskey a day or otherwise numb ourselves with drugs, sex, eating, or something else. 

The second choice is to recognize that each moment of life we have is precious because they are limited in number, and life is fragile. One implication of this choice is it puts us in a better position to make the most of each moment, celebrate each one, and not squander this precious gift. Another implication is that it can lead us to ask ourselves two questions more frequently. The first question is whether we are living as fully in accordance with our highest values as possible. The second is if we were to learn in the near future that our death is imminent, would we have any major regrets? Any important unfinished business?

If the answer is yes to living in full accordance with our highest values and no to having regrets or unfinished business, then celebrate that! If the answer is no to living in full accordance with our highest values or yes to having regrets or unfinished business, then take some action that will bring you closer to living in full accordance with your highest values or to not having regrets when your time for dying comes. 

Say "I love you" to a loved one you have not said those words to before or recently. Express gratitude to those you have not yet thanked for something or for being who they are. Do something—even if it is small—to make this world a bit better or someone else's burden a little lighter. Smile to strangers. And I am sure you can think of a myriad of other ways to act on these principles.

Finally, everyday life and the limits of human awareness conspire to keep most of us out of touch with our fear of mortality most of the time. Thus, the silver lining of coronavirus is that it is making more of us aware of our fear of mortality so that we are more likely to ask ourselves the questions of whether we are living in full accordance with our highest values, and whether we will have major regrets if we were to die in the near future. 

So, have you asked yourself recently whether you are living as fully in accordance with your highest values as possible? And whether you would have major regrets or unfinished business if you were to learn in the near future that your death is imminent?