(Food for thought on the relation between freedom and humaneness)
“Social distancing”, just a simple expression describing what we are doing as a community in this time of the pandemic. Or maybe not? Dario Fortin, Professor at the University of Trento (Italy), together with many other experts, argued that the definition is misleading, we shall better call it physical distancing. One might say it’s a little thing, but the choice of wording has a significant impact on how we perceive everything in our lives. That professor is totally right. Thank you Dario for saying it out loud.
Now I am not trying to encourage you to go out there and protest against how we name pandemic-related issues. That’s not my purpose here. I just want to bring back to light the fact that it’s all about interpretation and our attitude towards what’s happening that defines our reality.
Yes you read it right. We decide to make our own lockdown better or worse, just like we are doing with our lives every day. We all know the devastating consequences of the pandemic and I want to share my sorrow with everybody who is suffering, lost a dear one, is going through depression and economic struggles. For the rest of us who are facing the consequences, but thinking “all in all, I’m in a good place”: we could try to make sense of this time as something precious, that we can make the best out of. For ourselves and everybody around us, for society’s well being.
Now you might ask what all this has to do with freedom because even if we call it physical distancing, it still feels like a limitation. How do we regain our freedom, now that we are facing a major lifestyle change we never actively pursued? Now that we are experiencing uncertainty every day. And have a hard time recognizing our own friends behind a mask?
You are right, it’s not easy. I myself started feeling not excited at all about grocery shopping because “it was just not the same as before…”. But everything changed for me two weeks ago, when I went to the supermarket and while I was putting the shopping in my bag I asked the cashier how she was. I felt like it was simple courtesy in this difficult time. But her reaction was way more intense than I expected. She stopped her work, look into my eyes, and said:
“Thank you for asking me, it basically never happens, people want to leave as fast as they can. I am feeling good now, how about you?”.
I was shocked to hear this, we were both smiling behind the mask. How do I know she was smiling? Cause a sincere smile can be seen from the eyes.
From that day, I started saying hello to every person I come across on the street, even if it feels a little weird sometimes. And I felt freer than ever before. In the mountains, it is common practice to greet everyone. People at altitude are simply acting with more humaneness. Neither the virus nor any kind of mask can stop us from saying “hi”, “thank you” or “have an amazing day”. Just like that, without expecting something in return. To genuinely start spreading positivity and good energy.
Going back to how this translates to freedom, a Buddhist quote summarises it best:
The price of freedom is simply choosing to be, liberation is in the mind.
This means that we have the freedom of choosing not to engage in social distancing and only respect physical distancing for the sake of public health. There is no “fine” for being too sociable behind a mask or plexiglass in this challenging time. So we can reappropriate this freedom. No condition in the world can take away our most human side if we don’t allow it. This is our freedom as human beings.
I firmly believe that we should never stop fighting for freedom and human rights, by reporting whenever we have the feeling they are not respected. I just made the point that we can avoid to self-impose certain limitations, to make life easier and more pleasant for us all.
And for you who read until here, thank you. Remember to spark your amazingness all around you. We are in this together. If you, like me, wish for more freedom, humaneness, and positivism in this world, feel free to share this reflection. I would also appreciate reading your feelings and thoughts on social distancing and physical distancing in the comments.
All the best to you all !
M.Sc Human Resources | specializing in employer branding | HR generalist | Internal communication | Digital Marketing