Of late, the phrase
“This too shall pass”
has been widely used in response to the Covid-19 situation.
For many people hope for the coronavirus pandemic to pass. So that regular life can resume. So that you and I can move freely and meet our loved ones in real life instead of via the Internet. So that the economy can turn around and people can worry less about losing their livelihoods or jobs.
Did you know that “This too shall pass” is a Persian adage?
Depending on how you look at it, just as the bad things in life shall pass, so do the good stuff. This is a good reminder to value and live life to the full. For life is too short to be fussing about things that do not matter.
We recently moved to an outlying island that is far less dense than Hong Kong Island where we used to live.
Here, there are around 6,000 inhabitants, less than 0.1 per cent of the city’s population of 7.5 million. While towers dominate much of Hong Kong’s urbanised areas, the buildings here are no more than three storeys tall. There are no cars, no Ferraris jolting us from sweet slumber in the middle of the night. Instead, we wake up to a symphony of bird song.
I have spent most of my life in hyper-dense urban cities: Singapore, Paris, and, now, Hong Kong. Brussels is a notch lower than these on the density scale but still home to a lot more people than where we now live.
If you had asked me a year ago, or even six months earlier, if I would live on an island like this, I would have said no. I could not imagine living somewhere without an extensive transportation network. Here, people commute to and from the rest of Hong Kong only via ferries, or helicopters in emergencies.
It was important to me to have ready access to many shops and restaurants. Never mind that I usually only shop for groceries, and this is mostly done online. Never mind too that we tend to only eat out once a week.
Truth is, we rarely make use of such “conveniences” that are typical of dense, urbanised areas. Rather, I am accustomed to such environments and a less-crowded alternative seemed daunting.
Earlier this year, the ceiling in our previous apartment started leaking, again. We did not want to waste more time and energy negotiating with our landlord’s preferred contractor whom we suspect was cutting corners so that his services would be in constant demand. We had enough of paying good money for a leaky flat and started looking around for a new place.
The idea of living on Lamma Island popped up in my mind and I became fixated on it. I do not know what made me take this leap, to want to move to this former fishing island that I would not consider before. Had I let go of my illogical attachment to big, dense cities as I had gotten older (and wiser)?
This was during the early days of Covid-19, before the madness took over the world.
Our move turned out to be a timely blessing. I am grateful for many things about our new island home: To be away from the mask-wearing crowd and paranoia. To be close to nature and be in a quiet environment. To have more mental and physical space. To be part of a vibrant community where people are warmer and less hurried.
There are some adjustments to make but they are straightforward. These include: Making shopping lists for things to get on the other bigger island. Planning our schedules based on the ferry timings. Checking the sheets for centipedes before getting into bed… one bit me on my right cheek while I was sleeping in our second week here, and it scared the shit out of me.
This too shall pass… the good and the bad, however many days, weeks, or months it may take.
Meanwhile, some people will become more self-sufficient, and learn to cook and clean their homes. Some will get to spend more quality time with their loved ones at home and cherish more the ones from whom they have been kept away. Others will get to know their neighbours and make new connections.
Challenges will be met with creativity and new opportunities and new ways of doing things will arise. Some businesses will realise that things can function smoothly even with their employees working from home.
Let us make the best of these unusual times, for this communal experience that billions of people have shall one day pass.