Our school teachers may be struggling with their online teaching but for preachers of all hues, the pandemic is truly a golden period. While spiritual masters have been talking to all and sundry from the celebrity to the common man, enthralled (truly captive and captivated) by mind control techniques and meditations, the lesser gurus (self-help and motivational speakers) are finding their niche through social media networks as people see the world through their homes (there is no other way as of now). Added on to one WhatsApp group after another with strange names and stranger icons, and of course too polite to leave them, we are subjected to write-ups about how to live and what to change about our lives (when staying alive is our only goal) in what could be a god sent opportunity and a phase that has come to allow us to redeem ourselves as humans (not a desirable goal as most animals seem more compassionate than this breed). Bored ‘at home’ and ‘work from home’  humans are sending forwards and videos of self-help gurus at the speed of lightning and we are all growing weary seeing these forwards coming back with equal speed from different groups. Unfortunately for us cleaning up our phones to let them remain reasonably functional has left us with little time to follow their advice.

I, however, have a different take on this. As we go through a major upheaval where economies are crumbling and people are coming to terms with harsh realities,  the ‘ learn new skills, look at new goals’ approach advocated by the new “preachers on the block” are certainly not teachings to be set aside but probably come later on the list. Rather than new learning, I feel this is the time for individuals, societies and governments to rethink their priorities and start de-learning. Now, what exactly does de-learning entail? This essentially means letting go of old ways of thinking and working and admitting that what was best in the past no longer works.

Tried and tested but no longer true approaches have to give way to newer ways that need not be mere flashes of brilliance but a balance between the old and new, between innovation and ways that have worked in the past. The pandemic has taught us that physical and mental health is the top priority as we need to have the fitness to pursue our goals. De-learning must be done with relation to our needs, social interaction, spending, lifestyle and every aspect of life in view of the fact that a small virus has made everything from the past seem like a luxury. As we make a list of all the things we lacked and survived without (like lavish celebrations for one), we can surmise that they are low priority items. Every aspect of our life when examined carefully can be a de-learning exercise which helps us relearn and prioritize to emerge stronger in a world where even life-threatening circumstances could not wipe out conflict.