Covid Reflections: If Life is a Mess

In the current period of virus pandemic, it becomes ever more apparent to me that life is just a constant, ongoing mess.

In normal day-to-day lives, we are already faced with new challenges every single day. And as we frantically battle with the myriad of daily hassles on the front line, lingering big questions in life lurk in our backyard. Every now and then, at our weakest point of defense, these big questions pounce on us aggressively, crush our ego, and send us into a flux of existential crisis. 

Particularly in this period of social isolation and major disruptions, it becomes difficult to dodge these existential questions.

ArtStation - Maze Runner - Matte Paintings, David Edwards

Throughout our lives, we constantly scramble around, looking for a direction in this huge, confusing maze. Finding the meaning to our existence seems to be the only escape. Yet just as we thought we found a way, a new dead end appears. In the grand scheme of things, nothing ever seems to be the right answer, and perhaps there isn’t one. 

But we find it so hard to swallow this possibility – to know that there is no exit to this maze and that we are stuck with the ambiguities and complexities of life forever.

It’s like given a complex math sum, and told that this problem is different from the usual ones – there is no solution. Then you are left there alone, with a bunch of indecipherable symbols and numbers, insurmountable frustration, and paralysing anxiety. You can’t help but panick, because you know that this would be the most important question to tackle if life was an examination. 

That’s not all – there are more events and affairs situated in the outskirts of our life contributing to this swirling turmoil.

Pandemics, terrorism, social inequality, political strife, humanitarian crisis, environmental issues – they form a web of interconnected Gordian knots that encompasses the lives of discrete individuals. They tie us together closely, and also drive deep divides.

We all quiver in the fear of a looming dystopian future but diverge at the point of decisions and perspectives. As mere individuals, there always seems to be so much that we can do and so little that we can do at the same time.

Till this date, I still find it hard to grapple with all these ongoing messes – big or small. 

Sometimes, keeping my head above the waters is the bottom line, and it seems difficult to spend even an extra ounce of energy to untangle the remaining puzzles. 

But these questions always have their ways of finding me – in those sleepless nights, in moments of exhaustion from studies or work, in coming across sources of inspiration (films, books, people etc).

Especially amidst the current coronavirus pandemic, the abundance of time and solitude created an undisturbed dimension where I mulled over many of these questions – career, friends, family, life goals, lifestyle – there are just so many problems that a 20 year-old young adult can think of but can yet to find an answer to.  

To be frank, I still haven’t found the route to escaping this convoluted maze – but I may have found the faint outline of a mental exit. 

Perhaps the messes are hallmarks that we have never ceased our exploration in life – in finding out who we are, why we are here, and what we want to do in life. 

They outline a silver lining – that we have never settled for any easy answers. Our child-like curiosity continues to extend beyond the restrictions of age, and we continue to tirelessly explore different answers to these questions. The pathways we’ve trod down along the adventure may be messy ones, but at least we have never given in to the temptations of staying within a fixed bubble. 

And perhaps the most notable thing is that amidst all the devastation, frustration, and disappointment, we have found ways to brave through trying periods, and to emerge stronger and better.

Sometimes we tend to forget that humanity is a fragile, and yet remarkably strong, resilient, and beautiful species.

All the messes in our lives are ongoing crystallisations of our courage and efforts – they go through long processes to come together and attempt to find a pattern of stability through repeated experimentation. They are also the witnesses of this immense resilience that prevails through the toughest of times.

As time goes by, the fluidity of life will gradually settle down into a growing solid mass – of knowledge, experience, values, and insights – with limitless room to expand, and surrounded by even more fluidity. 

Just as how the pandemic will eventually pass, humanity will find its way to rebuilding strength and hope.

I guess that is the beautiful mess of life. 

In the words of Leonard Cohen, 

Ring the bells that still can ring 

Forget your perfect offerings

There is a crack in everything 

That’s how the light gets in. 

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