How to Find Meaning in the Age of Coronavirus

Written by on March 30, 2020 in Conscious Living, Inspirational, Thrive with 0 Comments

By Lyn Lesch

The coronavirus is now a concern to us all. We’re facing the possibility of diminished health and possibly mortality on our front door. It’s understandable to want to take stock of the meaning of what is occurring in relation to our own lives.

Yet this health crisis is happening in the digital age, when the Internet and our obsessive use of digital devices may be not only shrinking our attention spans but also negatively affecting our long and short-term memories. And they may impede our capacity to conceptualize important knowledge and information. As a consequence, we begin to lose our perspective on what the world may be teaching us, assimilating these lessons only through isolated, atomized facts with little or no relation to one another. With much of the information we experience being transmitted visually on the Internet  — from youtube videos to photos on social media — we don’t have the chance to consider words, language, and complex ideas in depth.

These dynamics mean that at a time many of us are seeking a greater sense of meaning and purpose, we’re less capable of doing so. A search for meaning requires a capacity to dive into thoughts and words, not simply pictorial representations. But there are three approaches that can help us circumvent the visual overload, and find the information we need to truly think:

Focus on written information, not the photographs.

Visual illustrations can skew our interpretation as well as our understanding of information. For example, you’re reading an article about the current coronavirus that is discussing progress being made on reducing contact and discovering a vaccine. But the accompanying photograph shows somebody riding in a subway car with a worried look on her face, standing a foot away from someone wearing a mask. The impression of the image is far more cynical than the article itself — and as you process the photo you’ll be reading with a far more jaundiced eye. But the article has been carefully written and researched — presenting a valuable and thoughtful discussion. Best to overlook the tone of the photo, and focus on the article itself.

Put information in a broader context.

That means taking the time to conceptualize information in order to do so. When one receives information and knowledge within a limited context, we can’t glean all of its meaning. For instance, there is a great amount of fear and uncertainty about the coronavirus, which has led to panicked reactions in some people. But in order to fully understand information we need to set it against a backdrop of related events and circumstances. Charles Mackay’s Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds explored this back in the 19th century; the Scottish poet explored how self-deceptions and delusions originate in times of crisis. He looked at things that had once seemed reasonable to people at the time — alchemy, haunted houses, and fortune telling — that turned out to be entirely fictitious. Consider this as you take in information and disinformation about the current crisis. Setting the information in context, you can see delusions more clearly.

Read those who think deeply about certain issues.

To fully grasp the level of tenacity involved in defeating a dangerous virus like COVID-19, read (or attend) AIDs activist Larry Kramer’s play The Normal Heart. Kramer was the one who pushed Dr. Anthony Fauci (now a familiar national face) to develop the AIDS cocktail that has saved many lives. Fully understanding information means seeking those who have pondered it, explored it, written about it. As one realizes the full context in which certain unsettling situations have existed over time, they become exponentially easier to comprehend.

As the late, great writer Susan Sontag said in 2004, “Love words, agonize over sentences. And pay attention to the world.”

About the Author:

Lyn Lesch founded and directed his own democratically run school for children ages six to fourteen for twelve years, one that received widespread attention in the Chicago area as a unique approach to education. He has written four books on education reform, all of them emphasizing the importance of what occurs inside a young person while they learn. He has a lifelong interest in pursuing a larger consciousness. His new book is Intelligence in the Digital Age: How the Search for Something Larger May Be ImperiledLearn more at

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