Jakarta – This once-in-a-century pandemic has certainly tempted some of us to think that we live in the worst of times, if not the end of times. And with the ongoing climate crisis, it is difficult for many not to break under the weight of existential dread.
For two years now, we have all lived under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, which has now infected more than 285 million people and killed upwards of 5.4 million worldwide.
We have become familiar with the ebb and flow of the pandemic and have adjusted our lives and expectations to its surges and retreats.
Just when we thought that we were out of the woods, with cases in Indonesia in the low hundreds and almost 50 percent of the population having had two vaccine doses, the Omicron variant came, which not only disrupted our plans for the year-end holidays but may also scramble plans for reopening in 2022.
The only certainty about the coronavirus is its uncertainty, and many dread the possibility of going through another similar year in 2022.
Things are bleak, and if there's one comfort in living through a crisis, it's that sometimes the best of humanity is revealed in periods of turmoil.
From Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, who painted his masterpiece "The Kiss" while the Hapsburg Empire was crumbling around him, to American musician Jimi Hendrix recording "Purple Haze" while the United States was bursting at the seams with racial strife and social unrest in the late 1960s, great art is, at times, the outgrowth of deep turbulence.
Around the same time that Hendrix recorded that masterpiece, engineers at NASA used their ingenuity to send the first man to the moon.
This Christmas, while Omicron was raging, scientists and engineers at NASA managed to launch the US$9 billion James Webb Space Telescope after years of delay.
This contraption will, for the first time in human history, allow us to gaze back into the origin of the universe and perhaps even find deeper meaning about our place in the cosmos. Not bad for a species who came out of caves around 300,000 years ago.
Six months from now, the space telescope will come back to us with findings that may suggest our significance – or insignificance – in the universe. That may spark our sense of shared humanity and prompt us to address the real challenge of today: putting an end to the pandemic.
We're already part of the way there. In the space of less than two years, engineers, researchers and scientists have managed to provide us with vaccines, therapeutics and tools to deal with many facets of the pandemic.
With all these achievements, it's hard not to cheer for the triumph of humanity. Happy New Year!