Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | TOI Blog | Sep 5, 2020
The present Covid-19 situation has thrown a big challenge not just on the health and the emotional front but also in a much bigger way on the economic front as well. People all over the world are working hard to reconstruct their lives while facing Covid-19 challenges. Facing such a global crisis one might imagine that it would be very difficult to rise from the ashes. However, let us remember that God has made this world full of opportunities. There is no room for despair.
Thinking along these lines I thought of how Japan rose from the ashes after their WW II defeat in 1945. Two of their great cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were reduced to smouldering mounds of waste by the dropping of atomic bombs, leading to their humiliating defeat. This was an extreme form of challenge for the nation. However, Japan, rose from the ashes to reconstruct its nation within twenty years to become an industrial super-power.
How was Japan able to do this? The secret of their success can be attributable to ‘challenge-response’ mechanism presented by Arnold J. Toynbee in his 12-volume, Study of History. In the epic work, Toynbee examined the rise and fall of 26 civilizations through the course of history. He has pointed out that nations (like individuals) must inevitably face challenges, for challenges serve as stepping-stones to progress.
Toynbee has divided challenges into two types: crippling or insuperable, and non-crippling or quite surmountable. When a nation (or an individual) faces a non-crippling challenge, it sets off a brainstorming in the minds of its people, which enables them to rethink and re-plan to respond in a better way and make great progress. Therefore, non-crippling challenges, if taken positively can serve as stepping-stones to progress through the challenge-response mechanism.
The same is true of individuals. God has created man with infinite potential, but it remains hidden under normal circumstances. This potential is awakened in the face of extreme challenges. Adverse situations unfold one's potential, and make one an intellectually awakened person. Challenge transforms one from a non-creative to a creative person.
Had the Japanese succumbed to a sense of loss and frustration, and frittered their energy away, their country would have not have risen from the ashes as it did. Similarly each and every one of us in the nations of the world can rise from the ashes of the Covid-19 pandemic. We should just not allow despair and adversity to set in. We should take it positively. And one who gives this kind of positive response to shocks and challenges, will be enabled to initiate a new, great struggle in one’s life. If, in the pre-shock period he was just an ordinary man, then in the post-shock period he will become a superman. Shock treatment is obviously an unwanted occurrence, but it is this very shock treatment that leads to the kind of superlative creativity which can be of immense benefit to humanity at large.
If we take this positively, this will serve as a spark which ignites the fuel of our souls to drive us onwards during the reconstruction period. It can be the source of our initiative and the force which drives us forward to greater goals.
In life, the most important thing is the will to act. If in this challenging situation, we have the will, all our hidden potential will be brought to the fore. We will be able to think better, plan better and make greater efforts to reach for the stars in our efforts towards post-covid reconstruction. In situations of hardship, all our hidden potential is brought to the fore to enable us to reach such heights as we have never dreamed of. Remember: Per ardua ad astra, that is, ‘through hardship, to the stars.’