“You know why animals die in cages? Their soul dies.” – Joe Exotic
It’s late April as I write this, and week six for me in the great COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and despite the obvious humor in starting this piece with a quote from our beloved Tiger King, there is some hidden wisdom in his words as we sit in our houses and wait for permission to live normal lives again. During this time, I’ve personally found it difficult to sit back and be a bystander as the chaos of the world unfolds. Since my time serving as an Infantry Officer in the Army, I’ve had trouble transitioning from a role that had a clear sense of calling and purpose to one in the civilian world that exists primarily to make money. And now, as the entire planet is quarantined and a virus is causing yet-to-be determined amounts of physical, financial, and emotional damage, I feel like an animal in a cage, stuck inside with no ability to affect the outside world.
Six years ago, I was forced to retire from the Army due to a combat injury I received on my second tour in Afghanistan. Since then, I’ve worked in the manufacturing sector in various leadership positions and while leading teams and executing operations is in my blood, doing these tasks in an environment where your goals are to drive down costs and increase efficiency with the end state of maximizing profits isn’t that fulfilling to me. I’m currently in a logistics role and overseeing the shipments of computer equipment isn’t as sexy as the time I was a Company Executive Officer in Kandahar and was given two weeks to plan and execute our Infantry company’s move from one area of operations to another to relieve another unit.
I was certainly no hero in the military and in the grand scheme of things my influence on the Global War on Terror was extremely minimal. But the sense of purpose, mission, and brotherhood that you possess while serving is a feeling that is difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced it themselves. It’s a dopamine hit that I’ve been searching for since getting out and have not quite been able to find. I have a sense that those who are out on the front lines of this pandemic battle are experiencing some of that same purpose, despite all the stress and trauma that inevitably comes with it.
Some of you reading that might be aghast at the thought of a person getting pleasure in a situation where people are suffering. I’d argue that that is a misreading of the situation. It is inevitable that suffering will happen in our fallen world. The pleasure and purpose come from being in the position to alleviate that suffering and serve those who need it. I don’t believe there is such a thing as perfect selfless service. Even the most altruistic people in the world still do the things they do to gain something for themselves out of it- it’s human nature. It feels good to serve others and feel as though your talents and skills are appreciated.
Many of us who joined the military did so for those very reasons. The idea of willingly placing yourself in danger to protect and serve your family, your country, and your way of life is an honorable endeavor that all cultures have esteemed since the dawn of time. Even Jesus himself said “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). It’s not about saving the world or trying to be a hero. It’s about serving others. In times like these we all should be asking ourselves if we are doing enough.
Personally, I’m not content with being considered a “non-essential” employee. While I’m thankful to have the ability to work from home, it doesn’t feel great to sit on the sidelines and have zero influence on the game being played with my family’s well-being on the line. It feels selfish to sit inside my suburban home and day drink while I watch the numbers climb on the news and see good people suffer. Someday I’ll have to tell my grandchildren that my only contribution to society during this time was that I stayed home as much as possible in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I’m not sure if that will be something that I will be proud to admit.
My assumption is that many will have similar thoughts. The world has slowed down, giving us extra time to think about what is and is not important in our lives. Some may enjoy the time at home and the ability to catch up on Netflix and sleep, and that is okay. But many others will reflect on what is happening and hopefully it will spark a desire to do more and to live more purposefully and outside of the self-absorbed mindset that our world has become.
If we come through this without any changes then I think it will be a missed opportunity. I don’t know what the other side of this will look like for myself. But I do know that I will find a way to be more intentional in my actions. For one, I will find ways to be more self-sustaining and self-reliant. But more importantly I will find better ways to serve and help. That is something that we all should be looking forward to doing, whether we are fighting a global pandemic or homelessness or veteran suicide. There will always be suffering in the world. Don’t allow yourself to live your life in a cage, waiting for your soul to die. Embrace the world and its inherent risks to make a difference.
Quarantine Contemplations, guest post by Cody Ford
*The views and opinions expressed on this website are solely those of the original authors and contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of Spotter Up Magazine, the administrative staff, and/or any/all contributors to this site.