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Michael Levin: After coronavirus, how will you answer this important question?

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The states are reopening, quickly in some places and cautiously elsewhere, which creates a new level of soul-searching for each of us: who will you be after COVID-19?

For some, this has been a period of intense tragedy, as they witness the illness or death of loved ones and friends. For others, it’s been a time of deep economic uncertainty, because their businesses are closed or their livelihoods are curtailed.

For most, though, this is a strange and frustrating period where routines are disrupted and patience grows thin, even though the risk of illness or death due to the novel coronavirus is limited.

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Which group are you in?

If you’re in the first two groups, you have my empathy and prayers. I lost my dad just weeks before all this began. So I’m no stranger to recent or sudden loss.

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But if you’re in group three, and this whole thing is a big fat annoyance as opposed to something life-threatening or life-changing, my question for you is this: who will you be when it’s over and they blow the all-clear?

“Every adversity brings with it the seed of an equivalent advantage,” wrote Napoleon Hill in the granddaddy of all self-improvement books, “Think and Grow Rich.” So how will you benefit from this experience? I don’t mean benefiting financially. Instead, I’m asking, how will you be a better or different person as a result of this unique period in our lives?

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I like to jump on planes and go places and see people and run around and do stuff. Right now, can’t do that. So I’m spending a lot of time sitting and thinking. Not staring at the news or sighing at the Dow. Instead, I’ve been using this time to think about the kind of human being I’m trying to be, how I relate to my wife and children, how my business runs, and how I serve others.

I’m taking online courses on Buddhism and the Alexander Technique. Not planning on changing religions or going into acting; I just want to use this time to learn some new things.

But most of all, I’m spending considerably more time with my family, since all six of us are here under the same roof. And that’s been great. Not perfect, of course, but great.

Yes, this is a period of illness and death, of economic uncertainty.  But it’s also spring, a time for renewal and rebirth. 

We’ve been through crises before, you and I, personal, physical, geopolitical.

And we know that problems have a beginning, a middle and an end. Sooner or later, everyone will go back to work, to school, to camp, to restaurants, to the ballgame, to Disney World.

When that moment comes, will you be the same old you or will you have taken advantage of this time to grow, to better, to be more grateful, to be, well, whatever you want to be?

These days, people involved with helping others are having a much easier time of it than those who are wrapped inside themselves. That’s because when we’re all wrapped up inside ourselves, we make a very small package.

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Yes, this is a period of illness and death, of economic uncertainty.  But it’s also spring, a time for renewal and rebirth.

So that’s why I ask:  when you emerge from the chrysalis, the sabbatical period, of the COVID-19 shutdown, who will you be?

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