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Pandemic has provided opportunity to get back to the basics

Columnist Cynthia Breadner reflects on the silver linings the pandemic has brought to herself and society

I’ve been watching so much educational content since being in isolation, that I feel like an encyclopedia.  I have been taking courses, webinars, zooming with clients and searching articles that will teach me something.  I have self-labeled myself an “education junkie” with my drug of choice being information about such things as traumatic incident assistance, complicated grief, natural remedies, herbs and tinctures, spiritual teachings and their roles in our lives.  As I learn, I better understand my own behaviours and that of those people around me whether they are family or friends.  

Self-awareness is the gateway to a better life and creates a greater understanding and insight into daily existence.  It is fascinating.  I remember often having people say they like to go to the mall, the park or just to a patio and “people watch”.  Interesting hobby.  People watching, or the study of people, also known as anthropology, has been the focus of many degrees in university.  Our hunger to learn about our friends and neighbours on a global scale seems never to be satisfied.  As we learn about others, we, ourselves, are changed.

One of the greatest teachers is the global ability to travel and see the world.  In as short a time as the past 100 years we have witnessed the ability to get in a plane and be around the world in a couple of days.  In past writings I have reflected on my ancestors and how it was months at sea coming from Ireland to the new unexplored world.  In a very short time so much has changed.  Faster and faster, technology is making strides.  As culture is diversified, melded, pluralized assimilation occurs.  We as a human race are seeing great changes right before our eyes!  Before we can catch up to one change, another occurs.  For those of you who remember Get Smart talked into his shoe, the early James Bond recorded conversations with his pen and the Lost in Space robot G.U.N.T.E.R. was warning Will Robinson of DANGER!!! These all seemed like ideas so far-fetched and yet, they have not only been developed to a point where they are possible, they are archaic technology.  Worldly cultures, practices and religion and ways of life are being moved about like chess pieces or checkers on a board.  The earth grows smaller with every passing moment. 

So, who are we as human beings when all this change is thrust upon us so fast?  How are we coping with all the information that is at our fingertips in a world that is changing so rapidly that it is hard to keep up?  COVID is only one factor in a globally changing world and its presence pales all the other issues that need to be faced.  With time on my hands, I am learning about the environment, climate change, regeneration of land, planet earth, and the animals that live on it.  Our growing technology is the gateway to caring for the world as a whole and having a bird’s eye view!  Literally!  Never before have we been able to “see” the world in its fragile and frail condition. Never before has it been right before our eyes and shame on anyone who is seeing and not desiring to be the change they want to see in the world. 

Particularly, I have been watching the Planet Earth series and was so interested when David Attenborourgh, the narrator, was standing in a town near the Chernobyl nuclear plant that melted down April 26, 1986.  That date has special meaning and I was in awe to see it 34 years later.  As I think how close we are to Douglas Point Nuclear Generating Station, a melt-down would displace so many, however the signs of life in Chernobyl are encouraging.   On a positive note, in one of the planet earth series there was a school of dolphins and their strategy of finding food and working together to feed themselves was amazing to watch.  One swirls the water causing chaos, the fish jump and the rest of the school catch fish mid-air and feed.  I am in awe of our closest relative in the animal kingdom, the orangutan, a large male of over 100 kilograms eating and enjoying nothing but fruits and ants and greens, while never touching the ground below.  They totally live life in the treetops.  Their young are not leaving home, or mother, until they are 10 years old; ours are at home much longer than that!   I am fascinated by how the wild animal kingdom must work hard for their food and how basic survival is the day’s itinerary and focus.  With the help of wonderful photography, I can watch a lion yawn, a leaf-cutter ant as it cuts its way through a leaf, and see the allusive Siberian Tiger.  As the narrator pointed out, catching fish mid-air amidst a school of your buddies makes success somewhat arduous and I am sure satisfying at some instinctive level. The food is the reward of the hard work, tenacity, grit and cunning and nature protects her own and there is a greater plan at work.  

Then we came along in all our consciousness and our brilliance.  Makes me ponder and I stop to think, as I walk the grocery store aisles, looking at all the choices, who am I in relation to this planet and my right to exist in the grand scheme of things?  In all my learning, studying, watching, reading, listening and attempts to help others, am I really all that smart?  It makes me want to learn how to fit into nature and learn the ways of the animals in their day to day existence and no need to look forward or back on their lives.  Makes me want to live like a tree, or a dolphin, or be hidden like a Siberian Tiger … drop my leaves with no shame, stir up dust and make waves and then live in such wilderness that it takes days and days of a stake out with a camera to catch me, even for nothing more than a chance encounter and a walk-by.

Nature is so amazing in its intricacies and in its way of taking care of itself.  The rumblings by all reports are that we are destroying the earth.  That is not the case at all.  Mother Earth will survive just fine, like she has all along!  Creatures will morph and evolve as they have for millions of years.  The only question is will we, in our infinite consciousness and wisdom, be here to watch?  I think not, because contrary to our brilliance, we are the only species on the plant that is willingly destroying its own habitat and choosing to go extinct.  Go figure!

Cynthia Breadner is a grief specialist and bereavement counsellor, a soul care worker and offers one-on-one homecare for aging adults who choose to age in place. This care includes emotional support, physical care, mental well-being, and spiritual practices to soothe the soul.  She is a volunteer at hospice, LTC chaplain and a death doula, assisting with end-of-life care for clients and family.  She is the mother part of the #DanCynAdventures duo and practices fitness, health and wellness in the South Simcoe and North York region.