Don’t Count On It

I think back on all the people I have known or rather I thought I knew and how quick I have been to judge and now I realize that it was all an illusion because in my selfish way, I was not able to simply accept that I don’t know much about my own motivations and actions, let alone those of others. It’s just so much easier to delude myself about so many things.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had that nuclear effect of shaking me to my roots, it is nature’s way of screaming in our collective faces, “Don’t count on it.”

For those who think they have figured it all out, don’t be so smug to believe that you can control your destiny, because you can’t any more than you can stop the world from rotating on its axis or turn back time. You can open your eyes to see and that, in itself, is a seismic challenge.

The pandemic is a wake-up call, an alert, a warning, a cautionary tale and a reminder in the harshest and most dramatic terms that there are forces that we cannot even sense, that always there are unintended consequences but also that we are a stubborn lot that will not be defeated that easily. Don’t be mistaken that it will all just work out because it will not and the only chance we have of dealing with tomorrow’s crisis is if we act and not count on some magical interference into fate. And never again will we be able to sink back into our false shells of security that it will all turn out fine.

It’s nature’s clever way of rejecting anyone’s claim that they have heard it all, been there and done that or what else can you show me? Whether you are aware of it or not, whether you believe it or not, everything is always changing, including ourselves and our atoms which are in perpetual motion though we can delude ourselves that we are at rest and we can fool ourselves into thinking that we can see what is happening, when we can’t. That cement block may seem to be quite inert but a close look reveals that the elements of the block are in constant motion and only our perspective changes. Our senses tell us that the daylight may seem to be of one color but it is all the colors of the universe.

And in the same way that everything is always changing, every one of us is unique in the universe and there may be others who are similar but never the same and to assume differently is to shortchange the very quality that makes life amazing.

Even if you believe your life is a meaningless cycle of boring repetition, it is always new and that is not a paradox but simply saying that your body is always changing, your world is always changing, whether you like or not.

On a personal level, the virus is a reminder that we don’t know very much about anything and that in the wink of an eye, everything that we believed to be true could fall apart. We may think we know the person across the table from us, we may think we have figured out why the person we love does what he or she does but we don’t. Too often, we are quick to judge others when we really have no idea of what is going on in another person’s life but by judging we are cheating ourselves and others.

Even those life events that we think we understand are beyond our comprehensions. We believe that we die but our cells live on, our DNA does not disappear and we become nourishment for other lives. We cling to notions that will give us some succor about our futures when the only certainty is uncertainty about the future. The only thing we can count on is change.

We may think we are isolated souls but if the pandemic showed us anything, it is that we are all connected and that if we reject that idea, we are all doomed. We have always been connected, from the moment that the universe formed and the dust that magically combined to form life is the same dust that is in everything right now.

Nothing is ever the same. Don’t underestimate the unlimited possibilities for yourself or for others because while today may seem utterly without importance, it can suddenly become incredibly exciting and amazing.

We make choices all the time, even when we don’t choose, it is a choice. One moment may seem banal, the next is tumultuous and wonderful, but you never know when things will change, so always be ready and open.



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Phil Garber

Phil Garber

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer