Showing Reverence to Life in the Face of COVID-19

By Lin An-wu (林安梧)
Illustration by Ling Wan-qi (凌婉琪)
Abridged and translated by Chang Yu Ming (張佑民)
Rosalind Chang (張薰云)

Showing Reverence to Life in the Face of COVID-19

By Lin An-wu (林安梧)
Illustration by Ling Wan-qi (凌婉琪)
Abridged and translated by
Chang Yu Ming (張佑民)
Rosalind Chang (張薰云)

As the world plummets into chaos, it is all the more imperative that we show reverence to life. Find out how we have brought the virus upon ourselves and see what we can do to turn the situation around.

Praying is a form of showing reverence, and it can be done by everyone and anyone.

Amidst the escalating threat of COVID-19, the famous Albert Schweitzer quote, "Reverence for life," came to my mind. When the Mandarin word for "life" (生命) is taken apart and looked at separately, the first character represents "creation", while the second character suggests "limitation". Creation is unceasing, but it is forever limited, and that is indeed how life continues on, pushing forward slowly despite being bounded.

The concept of having reverence for life was not only brought up by Schweitzer, but was also mentioned by his religion of Christianity, for instance in the phrase, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." The Analects of Confucius also state, "The gentleman stands in awe of three things. He is in awe of the will of Heaven. He is in awe of great men. He is in awe of the words of the sages." In addition, Buddhism emphasizes that we should care for those in suffering with great compassion, which can be further explained as having reverence for all living beings in the world. In Taoism, there is the concept that we should fear what all people fear, and that those who are not afraid of being afraid will survive. We can see that these concepts all emphasize on the same idea when talking about the topic of life. Having reverence and fear for life induces love, thus making the world what it is.

Schweitzer states in his book, The Philosophy of Civilization, that civilization is in a state of decay and that war is simply a sign of this process. When humans have no reverence for life, wars and pandemics ensue, the latter being an even more serious man-made disaster than the former. Indeed, the COVID-19 pandemic is a natural disaster that can even be considered to be man-made.

The COVID-19 pandemic first began as a consequence of people's greed to satisfy their appetite for meat. People's desire to conquer nature and their arrogance over other living beings, along with their disrespect for Nature further caused the spread of the disease. Bats, which have been around for millions of years, are carriers of many pathogens. Yet, instead of having respect for them, some chose to hurt and devour them as delicacies. The virus causing COVID-19 thus took the opportunity to spread among animals and humans.

When infected with the virus, common sense will urge that we seek immediate medical treatment in order to prevent the spread of the disease. However, some people choose to hide their conditions, leading to even bigger problems. In short, people tend to take their chances because they lack reverence for life.

We must note that "being aware" is the most genuine form of reverence. To be aware is to realize and to take charge of oneself. Be it on systematic, structural or organizational levels, we must do what needs to be done to prevent what needs to be prevented in order to stop what needs to be stopped. If we can return to the fundamental values of being a human, we will be satisfied with our food, clothes, dwelling and ultimately, life. Since we are all part of Nature, we should show reverence to it as only then can everyone truly live in safety.

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©Tzu Chi Culture and Communication Foundation
All rights reserved.
2 Lide Road, Beitou 11259, Taipei, Taiwan
Email: 005741@tzuchi.org.tw