Relating in times of COVID-19

Relating in times of COVID-19

05 November 2020 827 views

by (Re)searchers

“I think COVID is really showing it’s not about the world, it is about how we deal with our own fears, our demons. It’s about us.” (Germany, 27)

After journeying through big questions of humanity such as “what is the purpose of life”, “what makes a human being human”, or “where has humanity gone?”, we have begun in our (Re)Search in Times of COVID-19 process, to delve into the subtle and wondrous connection between human beings and the world we find ourselves in.

Placing the concept of relationship at the centre of our investigations, seemed to be of utmost importance to the (Re)Search group at these strange and unusual times, since relating to one another has moved from being a “thoughtless” reality – in the sense that one simply entered relationship naturally, without putting much thought to it – to becoming an existential inquiry. Many people today encounter confusion, frustration and even fear, when thinking about relating to another in times of COVID-19. Many others long more than ever to touch, to embrace, to gather in the same space with others.

Never before have relationships been so under scrutiny in our lifetime, making their subtle and fragile nature obvious to us perhaps, for the first time. Suddenly, vulnerability is so present in our lives – our own and that of others – that we must ask questions instead of assume. And through questioning, we can begin to experience the extent to which prejudices or fear fill our hearts, but also a wish to heal, to care, to will the good in the world.

We all have a common reality now which is so existential for all of us, and I haven’t seen it before with other events in the world. You can say that it’s a huge chance to become conscious about the fact that we are all the time in a relationship to the world. If you denounce your neighbours or if you buy groceries for them, they are different answers to one same reality. So, what do you choose? It is striking the extent to which it is becoming more visible than ever how we answer these questions. (Romania, 32).

To be confronted with an imperative need to ask questions is not a light task for us, the younger generations, who have been brought up within a culture of mass-rapid-access to information, who have always felt like answers were easy and ready to obtain in order to apply to daily action. Within a new scenario permeated by almost total uncertainty as to how to relate with one another correctly, or how to deal with health and sickness or life and death, questions related to what constitutes an ethical act inevitably appear and demand to be posed.

How can I ensure that my actions are ethical in a myriad of contradictions and the unknown? How can I be right in my actions towards the other, who seems to be in such different place to me, of whom I know so little?

During our Research in Times of COVID call in September, we received an input from Constanza Kaliks in this direction, where “relationship” was put directly at the heart of an ethical life, for “an ethical act means to embrace the reality of the others”, and life:

“We cannot know if an act is ethical or not before it is performed, but we can orientate our deeds if we know that the goal of the action wants to include the reality of the others. He says that the main goal of an ethical act should be to support life, to stand for life. Life in a very wide sense, and yet, nevertheless, ethical acts are those that support and enable life.” Constanza Kaliks.

Our co-researchers have gone through different processes of questioning individually and in pairs. The questions they engaged with belonged to peers within the same group and were posed anonymously during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown time. Many agreed that being confronted with such questions can make one feel small, and that this can have the effect of halting a research process. Nevertheless, they found it possible to let go off of the pressure to find answers, and instead, “find it as an invitation to start thinking” (Germany, 22).

Responsibility to awake, to be conscious and act out of a comprehensive awareness appeared early in the discussions a key ideas when we think about our relationship to the world.

“We carry a certain responsibility not only to earth, but to the whole world and everybody who is in it. We talked about conscious choices and how people that don’t have everything that they need to fulfil their basic needs, might act out of fear or out of a certain emotion that does not allow them to make those conscious choices in their life. How can we help them through that, and enable them to make those conscious choices?”, (Netherlands, 19).

“I felt that the world is constantly asking me to think and act differently and that everything that comes my way, makes me think differently and act differently after I experience it, so my consciousness broadens. In an ideal world all these actions would make my consciousness so big that it would include everything. My conclusion is that challenges shape the relationship to the world. My dream is that the world grows big full of awakened people, brave and strong to follow heart and ideals, so that they can bring them into practice. That would mean positive changes to the world. It’s all about this being awake.”, (Netherlands, 25)

But, how does our relationship to the world look like now, since living in COVID-19 times? Intensified. Full of opportunity. Paradoxical:

Paradox maybe the most important word to describe my relationship with COVID. I want to do so much and in so many ways I’m not allowed to, but I will find a way to do it. All the time, when I try to find the way, most of the time is because of a connection that I have with someone else, through a good conversation or a thought which resonates in me. What the people are connected by, is the will to reshape things, although COVID is sometimes in the way and blocking, still, people want to connect. We speak of 1,5m of separation, but maybe we have 1,5m to connect with each other, to expand and include not physically, but from the heart. (Netherlands, 25).

The process continues until December 2020, when we will host on Saturday the 12th of December our annual (Re)Search Colloquium, both in person for those who can travel to the Goetheanum and online, for those far from Switzerland. At the event, we will present observations from the entire (Re)Search in Times of COVID-19 project, as well as the (Re)Search in Latin American countries. If you are interested in attending, please send us an email on