Don’t Panic, Pt. 5: Philosophy Corner

To those who are ill: I wish you a speedy recovery!
I wish everyone good health, safety, strength, and patience!
And we all owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who continues to work during this time. They are on the front lines and deserve much more than we’re giving them. 


This week I’ve been thinking about the Tower card in the Tarot deck.


It’s pretty scary! If it comes up in a reading, it means sudden, shocking change. There’s a lightning bolt from the sky. Fire! The symbols of the kingdom are knocked over. People are falling. Everything you know is going to be shaken to its foundations.

But most interpretations offer a glimmer of hope.

  • What if the Tower was a prison? Now you are free.
  • What if the Tower was built on shaky foundations? Now you can rebuild.
  • What if the Tower was a monument to illusion? Now you can move forward with knowledge.

COVID-19 is definitely a sudden, shocking event, and it has shaken the world. It’s scary, and it’s a catastrophe for physical and mental health, for the world economy, for social connections, for everything we knew before.

Now what? Where is the glimmer of hope?

Day after day after day after day after day after day …

If you’re sheltering at home, they do kind-of blend together, don’t they? Someone wished me a nice weekend, and I channeled Downtown Abbey‘s Lady Violet, “What is a ‘week-end’?”

But I’m more reminded of the the movie Groundhog Day, a Bill Murray classic about a guy who relives the same day until he gets it right (and gets the girl!).

If you’re feeling bad about staring at screens all day, shouting at the news, and not doing any of the things you planned to do when you “finally have the time,” don’t. We’re still at the beginning of Groundhog Day. Bill Murray’s character realizes that his actions have no consequences and instead of doing good, he gives in to all his worst impulses: stuffing his face with food and alcohol, being violent and dangerous, using his time loop to develop new and creative ways to be a social tsunami.

Wikipedia writes that Groundhog Day is a story about the philosophical idea of “cultivation.” I first heard about this concept in Chinese dramas about gods and immortals. The idea is that a person spends 10,000 years becoming a better person – a little bit every day. In a pithy phrase: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Bill Murray’s character didn’t learn French in a day. He didn’t learn to play piano in a day. And it certainly took him longer than a day to learn to be a better person.

Just one step

So we’ve had this shocking change in our world.

Take a breath. And then, every day

  • Take care of basic hygiene
  • Remind yourself of the date
  • Be grateful for your blessings
  • Do one small good thing

Everything feels like it’s falling to pieces right now, but like the Tower card, it depends on how you interpret it. Like in Groundhog Day, you can choose what to do in an impossible and insane situation (while gently forgiving yourself for your imperfect cultivation).

Passover is next week and we’ll tell the story as we do every year. After surviving plagues, the newly freed Israelites will receive some new life instructions and will do their best to become better people.

We will overcome this. We will be free of the before-times. But our strength is that we can choose how we will rebuild in the after-times.