According to the Smithsonian Magazine, diamonds are formed deep within the earth, about one hundred miles down in the upper mantle. As you might imagine, it is quite hot in that part of the planet, and there is a tremendous amount of pressure bearing down in that location. The brutal combination of pressure and heat is what it takes to form diamond crystals.
Now, we can’t actually travel there or even adequately sample the earth at that depth, so how did the diamonds that we mine today get brought to the surface? The Smithsonian tells us that huge, violent volcanic eruptions, like none we have seen in our lifetimes, carried the newly formed diamonds upwards in channels that made cooled lava formations called Kimberlites, and that these conduits ran at 20 to 30 miles per hour.
Why is that important?
Because if they had transported the diamonds any more slowly to the earth’s surface, once they got here and the eruption cooled, all that would have been left was lumps of graphite. The diamonds had to be rushed from the fiery pits of hell to the coolness of the surface rapidly, and the changes that they endured created some of the loveliest crystals that man has ever seen.
Formation may have taken forever, but transformation, ah, that happened very quickly.
By moving quickly, these diamonds got locked into their crystalline structure, and there was simply not enough energy available at their destination to ever turn them back into graphite. Diamonds are made of carbon atoms that bind to each other extremely strongly, each carbon atom joined to four others. Once they have made the turn and become the diamonds that we know, there is no turning back.
I have heard many stories over the last ten months. I have heard the lamentations of those who feel downtrodden, alone, forgotten, with moods as dull gray as the graphite one hundred miles below the surface of the earth. I have heard the stories of the white-hot heat of grief as a loved one is lost to COVID-19 or another illness. I have heard the stories of the volcanic eruption that occurs with the loss of a job, the loss of income, the loss of a home. I have listened as someone describes the tectonic shift of being displaced, turned out, evicted, downsized. I have heard and witnessed the rapidity with which one can be faced with the loss of a business that took decades to grow. The people of our planet have been forced to deal with rapid, forceful, painful, monumental change in the short space of ten months. Ten months. We did not even know exactly what COVID-19 was this time last year.
Like diamonds, the most marginalized and ostracized and forgotten among us have been thrust upwards on a hot wave of change that threatens, if it goes on too slowly and too long, to reduce us to nothing but gray ash. The upside of the pandemic? We have been forced to change the way we see our world, our work, and our worth as we think outside the box, learning to be teachers, learning to conduct meetings online, learning to find new income streams by learning new skills. We have been forced to change so rapidly that we have found new bonds, strong bonds, that no virus can break. We have been transformed into shining examples of resiliency. We have lived and loved and mentored and supported each other.
Some of you may even now think of yourselves as gray, sad, and worthless. No. As you have been carried along by 2020’s volcanic wave of change, you have been made stronger than you think. Those four bonds, six bonds, a dozen bonds that you have nurtured this past year have transformed you into something bright, shining, and capable of surviving anything that COVID can throw at you.
Use those bonds.
Be strong for yourself and for those around you. Polish yourself any way you can so that when this ends, and it will end, you will no longer be a diamond in the rough. You will be clear-eyed, look toward the future and know that you have survived the fastest and most challenging medical threat in a hundred years, and that you have emerged with a clarity that nothing can ever take away again.
Greg Smith is a psychiatrist who blogs at gregsmithmd.