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Competition runner-up: 'Envisioning the Invisible'

To build a new normal we must strive for the things that bring us together. Keri Hui's essay is a runner-up in the Visions of a World After COVID-19 competition.

Keri Hui
5 August 2020
Artwork courtesy of David S. Goodsell and the RCSB PDB, CC-BY-4.0

Are you bitter about the hands who execute oppression, baffled about the dulling of sensibility and sense? Truth-speakers have been named rumour-spreaders; doctors and journalists have been shamed as traitors and prisoners. He’s gone missing? Let him be gone missing. She’s been locked up? Let her be locked up. They have been forgotten–wait–who are they again?

Are you discouraged about the feet that tread a global health crisis into a geopolitical game, dejected about the neglect of scientific advice for the erection of national, ethnic, and racial barriers? Let even the local families divide among themselves, say the manipulators, and let the discussion for common good become the devil that tears communities apart.

Or are you overwhelmed by the loss of loved ones, grief-stricken by the sudden absence of your most intimate companions? Yet the virus does not stop there: as the corpses pile up, even funerals are denied or delayed, leaving no opportunity for a dignifying remembrance. Or are you crushed by the economic collapse, perplexed by the uncertain future where the provision of bread and shelter is no longer guaranteed? “I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is,” you lament like the prophet.

Or are you tired of everyone doing what is right in their own eyes, exalting individualistic living over collective concerns and forsaking their identities as social beings whose actions can either preserve or endanger the other? Yet as you mourn, you realize you are also guilty of being part of that “everyone”–that “everyone” who prefers shouting across mobile screens “you are the problem and I am the solution” instead of “we are all in this together.”

Mankind can go on stage and talk about big visions, of having superior dreams of a “new era” or a “great tomorrow.” What nonetheless is a vision? A vision is how we see, perceive, recognize, discern, and imagine. A vision that crawls inward puts reputation, revenge, and repression above responsibility, remorse, reparation; it seeks control of conducts, corporate collusions, and would rather cripple the legs of critics to secure crowns over characters, care, courage, common sense, and credibility; it favours ignorance of the heart, indoctrination of the mind, and injustice of the body over integrity, innocent lives, and the implementation of changes.

But there is a vision that, quite paradoxically, is often invisible and gives life in places that are least expected to be seen; it does not look to be witnessed or praised but carries a sense of shyness to serve. It mourns, groans, and waits with a cost; it finds, while still weeping, the cracks and scatters seeds of hope among them. It holds tight to the edges and rises above grudge and despair even in the midst of struggles. It desires not violence and vengeance but honours dialogues and debates. Where the soil and its fruits are completely rotten, it uproots and tears down to rebuild and renew, for it knows the new normal is not a naivety that longs sentimentally for the past or somehow begs things to go back to the previous state; the new normal is a navigation that bears, individually and collectively, the consequences of our own behaviours while inhabiting the same space–with a different seeing.

So gather up your fountain of tears, filter out the resentment, and flush out the irritants and suspicions for an eyesight that sees beyond faces and races and traces places where justice, mercy, sympathy, forgiveness, hospitality, peace, and truth can be sowed. Distil out of these tears a stream of hope and healing–one that posits itself as a neighbour not just locally but also internationally, decentralises by not swearing allegiance to a single person or power but by committing oneself to common humanity with humility, and spots and seizes possibilities and potential not for the sake of consolidating power and pitching nations again nations and people against people but to acknowledge and protect one another, paving ways for the days that are yet to come.

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