1. There is no power, except God’s power 

Just when many of us believed that the worst of the pandemic was over, the virus mutated. Despite being two years since the first outbreak, governments across the globe are still dipping their nations in and out of lockdown and experimenting with manifold public health strategies to somehow curb the virus.

Then, at the close of 2021, NSW triumphantly emerged from its 5 month-long lockdown, only to have its hubris exposed in the face of the unexpected Omicron variant.

Even if every single person on Earth simultaneously willed for the COVID-19 crisis to cease (which seemed to be the case as the holiday season approached), unquestionably, the virus would remain.

Any claims of humanity’s self-subsisting power are hence, in vain. 

As a Muslim, I understand this to be because humanity’s power is in submission to One, Almighty, All-Encompassing will – the will of God.

Surrendering to the knowledge that the apparent chaos of this world is in fact orderly in God’s plan, provides an immense serenity. If the pandemic has reminded me of anything, it is that the only predictability, is that tomorrow’s unpredictability rests with the Best of Planners [Quran 8:30]. 

2. Screens: the sinister saviour 

While social media conglomerates have discovered how to dazzle people into hours of thoughtless scrolling, the toll on the heart and mind is yet to be reckoned with. My own experiences have taught me that excessive screen-time suppresses the natural palettes of emotion, reflection and creative expression.

A walk in the park is immensely more revitalising and inspiring when not reduced to an Instagram story or shared with bouts of haphazard texting. Whilst the convenience of the digital world has proven crucial during the pandemic, nothing parallels the meaningful stimulation of a paperback novel, or an afternoon alone with nature. 

The pandemic plunged humanity deeper into its faux-connection crisis. From clips of rioters storming Congress, to heartbreaking photographs of wounded Palestinian children – the inundation of ‘bad news’ has numbed us.

The true tragedy is our ability to flick from one calamity to the next within seconds, unfeeling and detached.

After the lockdown I met with a friend, she began to tear up whilst sharing some news with me, and after months of sanitisation and social distancing, I reached out and touched her arm in reassurance. We both began to cry.

Our humanity remains anchored in voice to voice, eye to eye, in touch and less so, in the shortcuts that the digital world offers to express sorrow, empathy and love. 

3. Nothing beats matriarchal recipes

My final, albeit more light-hearted, takeaway of 2021 is that it’s virtually impossible to rewire your taste buds.

During the lockdown, I dared to cook beyond my own cultural cuisine; a culmination of recipes handed down from my great-grandmother to my grandmother, to my mother, to me. And though I surely appreciated the novelty of new cuisines, dinners felt incomplete without the aroma of Arabic spices.

My friend said the same of her traditional Indian cuisine, and another of her mother’s Afghani cooking. I suppose that some generational chains are not yet ready to wither.