5 things Covid-19 has taught me about life – Okey Ndibe

Anybody who is able to read this—or, for that matter, who is alive today—is witnessing a Covid-19-provoked radical and near unprecedented turn in human history. We may well be in the early stages of the devastating novel coronavirus. Yet, the public health consequences are already dire—and mounting. Besides, the virus is almost certain to trigger a global economic crisis that may dwarf the late 1920’s depression.

Here are five things I’ve learned from Covid-19.

1. We’re all more fickle and vulnerable than we imagine. In crisis-free times, nations and people tend to proceed with an overdose of swagger, even hubris. It’s as if Covid-19 has landed a punch at humanity’s collective solar plexus—and decreed that hyperactive humanity slow down, the better to ponder what’s truly important, what’s transcendent. Public health professionals—including doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators—are some of the (deservedly sung) heroes in these bleak times. Even so, doctoring in a time of Covid-19 has sometimes seemed confused and tentative, an exercise in desperate guesswork.

2. There’s immense joy in the small things of life. I’m a notoriously peripatetic kind of guy, always on the go—by road, rail, or air. But I’ve come to savor the surprising joy of sitting still. And the delectable experience of relishing dinner with my family. Before the coronavirus crisis, I was sometimes too busy to make calls to friends and relatives, or to send “how are you texts” to folks who should be in my orbit. That’s changed. Phone calls and texts have taken on a sacramental quality for me. I’ve learned to reach out more via telephony. And the grace of unexpected calls and texts from long-silent friends or relatives has given abundant fillip to my spirits. I’ve also found a deepening of my faith, a sense of being spared undue anxiety.

3. An overload of information is—there’s no other way to put—bad! The novel coronavirus has spawned another kind of virus—an inexhaustible swarm of videos, audios, texts, memes etc, by certified experts and quacks alike, vending everything from how-to-stay-safe tips to vaunted elixirs. Each day, my many contacts bombard me with more videos than I can ever find time to watch—even if I could devote all my time to the task. Often, I get the same video from multiple sources. Alas, some of the most circulated videos contain the most unreliable information!

4. For all its dreadful impact, the novel coronavirus has given me space and time to do more of some of the things I treasure. I’m passionate about writing, reading, and cooking (on an ideal day, in that order). I’ve been productive in all three sectors in this season of Covid-19. I’ve written every day, read almost every day, and cooked for my family several times each week. I have found time to extend my culinary repertoire beyond my signature meals—egusi, okra, vegetable sauce, beans, and baked salmon.

5. There’s an unsustainable and grim gap between rich and poor countries and rich and poor folks within too many countries, especially in Africa. The virus has dramatized these disparities, and vivified their potential combustible effect. In Nigeria (and some other African countries) I’ve seen hopelessly famished crowds resort to stealing food from trucks and stores. I fear this situation will grow grimmer—unless political leaders act with imagination and urgency to address crushing hunger.

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