The word “crisis,” from its Greek root, means to sift and separate. A crisis is a time of sifting. Like children at the beach with their sand sieves, we let fall all that is not important. What does not get sifted, what remains, is where our focus should go.
While we stay away from one another, we are encouraged to rethink how we spend our time and what is important to us. This new lifestyle shifts us out of some habits we might like to change anyway. We find we are not buying more than we need; we disconnect from our over-reliance on global supply chains, we reconnect with our local economy. We buy less and save even more, saving our money but also, our planet. We are more focused than ever before on the community we live in. While we may have family members far away who love us, now we see our individual health is dependent on the health of the other person who is in the same aisle as us, at the grocery store, and we need them to love and care about us, too. Those physically nearest have become, quite literally, our dearest. We realize that we are interconnected, interdependent and that we belong to each other. This is the focus sifting can bring.
The word “virus” first appeared as a word in the ancient Proto-Indo-European language (PIE); its original meaning was “potent juice.” The power this virus has is profound: It can move like liquid through all our established systems and change us, not just physically but at a societal and cultural level, too.
It’s well documented that times of crisis can bring change, in rapid and previously unexpected or unimagined ways, for the better. “Better” denotes improvement, and can be traced back to the Sanskrit “Bhadra,” meaning “blessed, fortunate, happy.” How happy and fortunate we feel to be resourceful and courageous, to be a community united by a shared goal and common purpose.
What does it say about how disconnected we must have been before, that we now find joy in acts of overt altruism? What does it say about the profound and restorative power of music, and of storytelling, that we have come together in our shared love of the arts in our time of collective crisis? What does it say about us that our greatest balm is being out in nature, on a simple walk? What were we missing before the great sifting, that we are so drawn to now?
Perhaps realizing that what pushes us apart, pulls us together. Perhaps moving from the individually focused ego-system to recognizing we are one united eco-system is the equivalent of the rock in the child’s sand sifter. Perhaps this solace for our souls is what we hold onto and build on from.
Etienne White lives where the land meets the sky on a farm in Iowa County where she raises grass-fed, Old English Babydoll sheep, as well as pastured chickens, a happy farm dog, a wily barn cat and her two spirited children. She works at the intersection of marketing and sustainability, leading efforts to create mass consumer behavior change, for the greater good of both people and planet.