Contagions come in many forms. Most of them are not airborne, and they can’t be addressed by vaccine or quarantine.
Panic is a contagion. Ignorance is too. Despair. Apathy. Cruelty. All of these can function as insidious viruses that are transmitted from one to person to another if left unchecked and unchallenged. Their spread is streamlined and expedited by fear.
Fear is like a steroid that compromises the immune system of our souls, rendering us susceptible to all the most debilitating bugs that plague our species.
In a sense, fear is the most destructive virus of all. It spreads like wildfire, scorching our sense of humanity and empathy, rendering us blistered and bleary-eyed. Fear has the capacity to destroy us, or more accurately, to help us destroy ourselves.
But there is another contagion more powerful than all of these. It’s a revolution that is rarely televised. It doesn’t drive ratings. It doesn’t sell products. It doesn’t consolidate power. It’s a contagion that fortifies both our individual and collective strength. It helps render us immune to the virulent strains of panic, ignorance, despair, apathy, cruelty, and fear.
It’s the contagion of hope. We can all inoculate ourselves with it on a regular basis. And we need it right now more than we’ve needed it in a while.
“There are no passengers on spaceship Earth.
We are all crew.”
~ Marshall McLuhan
The hope I’m referring to is a kind of unwavering optimism that imparts a confident sense of purpose. This hope is based on different things for each of us, depending on our philosophical framework. But every one of us, from the deeply pious to the deeply skeptical, has the distinct capacity for hopefulness.
And just as inexorably as viruses and vitriol and all vile contagions spread, hope spreads too. Even without handshakes and hugs, when those basic social norms falls out of favor for a time, hope can be readily transmitted from person to person. It can be conveyed through unbroken eye contact, a warm tone of voice, and thoughtful sentiments uttered with care.
Hope is transmitted through empathy. Hope is transmitted through humans exhibiting humanity.
We are not wired for inertia. We are not wired to give up. We are not wired to resign ourselves to oblivion. And we are certainly not wired to disconnect ourselves from each other in a mad, fevered embrace of self-preservation.
We are wired for interconnectedness. And momentum. And purpose. We are wired for hope.
And hope may be the most contagious strain of all.