Surface and Depth

 Surface and Depth

Last week, for the first time since March, I was able to go to my Tai Chi class in person.  There were only 4 people there; we kept distance and were masked, following the official pandemic protocols.   Even so, being able to do the form along with other people in real time, to talk in person, unmediated by machine, and to simply sense each other’s presence was a poignant reminder of something slightly suppressed but not forgotten and for which most of us long – being in community with other people in the way people were created to be. 

The sudden advent of the virus, the avalanche of change in reaction to it, and the subsequent rapid chaos has made the apparently mutating virus and the responses to it difficult to understand.  Even though we may understand the opportunities the virus has opened by unmasking the need to make social changes, even though we are cognizant of the relationship between the virus and our own part in the increasingly rapid progress of the death of the planet, even though we have observed the continued predilection for war and concern for individual benefit when many others suffer – even though we may be aware of the connectedness of all things, there is something not quite right about the way this virus is being handled.  It is hard to finger exactly what, but the sense is there.

Most obvious is that people are being asked to change their behavior into patterns for which humans are not designed.  Humans were never meant to exist distant from each other, masked as if the other might harm, not trusting and out of fear putting social pressure on each other to conform.  How are we expected to cooperate with each other (such as agreeing to wear masks as a communal practice) if we are told to stay apart, peppered with fear from media, told our very surroundings may make us ill, hampered in communication, and, basically held in isolation?  Fear is being used to make sure the majority comply.    Something is fishy here.   Is fear not the means used to keep populations stable under a quite different kind of government than we have assumed is ours?  So, we have first required unnatural behavior and next, rule by fear.

We hear a lot about staying healthy by wearing masks and avoiding each other, or by frequently scrubbing any available surface.  We hear that we have hope of health because a vaccine will soon be readily available.  It is good to maintain hygiene, and people do need hope even if there are questions about time for testing of new forms of vaccines and questions about related topics such as the effectiveness of related flu vaccines, given that those viruses tend to mutate, too.  However, where is the information on how to strengthen the innate human immunity or to use the plants found in nature for immune support?  They seem mutually supportive approaches with the masking, distancing, scrubbing and prospective vaccines.  Do those in authority not want us to know about those, or do they want us to consider them inferior to the approved and supported approaches?

There is also a strangeness in the response to economic effects created by requiring people to stay apart.   Small businesses are the most effected.  Small businesses are the lifeblood of a free, cooperative, and resilient population.   Yet, which businesses are going under, some perhaps unable to open again?  It is the small businesses; the corporations are somehow getting enough bailout support to carry them through the crisis.   It is the poor and the small who seem to be getting a choice between death by virus or death by economic decimation.  It is though the destruction of existing society (including major social institutions) were a goal, in favor of an order favoring even further the entrenched privileged.    Yes, the social order we have had has major flaws and needs re-structuring; but is the vectoring towards the upper few the direction in which we want the change to go?

Then there is the prolongation of the situation.  Yes, there is the explanation that it is because of the people who would not comply, and because of incompetent political leadership, even because the virus itself is mutating and re-infecting people.   Those would seem to be reasonable explanations, except that it is highly suggestive of scapegoating – the effort to point the finger elsewhere so as to not have to look at what really is.  Notice also that the fear in the media is increasing – the virus is reported to be more and more deadly and contagious, something we need to fear even more deeply, as if we were not already enough afraid.  Yet an equally dangerous, if even more deadly situation is not even being mentioned – the rapid increase in climate change and direct destruction of our planet, as pollution, soil destruction, CO2 emissions, and waste continue.  The response to the virus is even exacerbating them, such as the increased use of single use plastics.

What we are encouraged to trust is communication technology – internet, social media, email, texts, smart phones, and the like.  Marvelous as the technology is, it is certainly not the natural way to be, human communication mediated by machine.  Many, though, have learned to consider it as natural, to even be more comfortable communicating that way than in person.  The attitude apparently is to not question the situation because we have the technology to turn to.  But is the technology as trustworthy as it seems we are supposed to believe?   There are the scammers and hackers which prey upon the users of technology, targeting the unwary and those not up to par on computer security.  They may be criminals, and they may also be those who want to know what we are thinking so that they may target ads to us.  They are the surface.  Artificial intelligence has made it far easier for our life’s data to be collected, stored, and used to entice, manipulate, or perhaps even punish us.  Use of sophisticated technology is being considered to ensure that we all get vaccinated, whether or not we feel the vaccine itself is trustworthy; in addition to being vaccinated, it is proposed that we be tracked.  Ostensibly, the tracking is to ensure vaccine compliance, but such systems are certainly capable of following people wherever they go, watching with whom they associate, what they say, and perhaps what they think or feel.   Is this the society in which we wish to live?

There are more questions than answers.   Yes, there is a virus pandemic, and precautions need be taken.  Even with consensus on that condition, however, there is a sense that more is underfoot than a pandemic.  It is worth paying attention to.  While we are dealing as best we can with the virus and attempting to stay afloat as we navigate the extant chaos, we need also to maintain an awareness that more may be going on than obviously meets the eye.  Maintaining awareness is the price of retaining choices.  May we all learn to touch the deeper consciousness of the gathering forces and processes endeavoring to change our world, so that we may be able to choose between them and grow to realize our ability to use our choices to shape a world in which we wish to live.

Peace, Diane

Coronageddon

Like most everyone else this weekend, I have been experiencing the shock of the expected changes in lifestyle and perception of others that the new coronavirus has precipitously thrust upon us. The virus, a yet unknown and incompletely understood member of the larger coronavirus family, has become a worldwide urgent health concern.  Although its effects can be mild upon the otherwise healthy who become infected, it is deadly to the frail or immunocompromised.  Although its incipient sources are variously reported (official and other theories), the source of the virus is irrelevant.  It is how we respond to it that matters.  It is also concerning that despite all we hear on the media, some of the responses, official and popular, to which we are all supposed to agree, do not make sense.   There is a lack of thinking through.   We have certainly had time, since the initial appearance of the virus in China, to create planned responses.

I realize that those of us who speak out not fully on the bandwagon are likely to become anathema to some extent.  That phenomenon itself is another issue.  However, we need to complete the thinking through, and for that to happen, disagreeing voices need to be heard.

There is a need for reasonable caution and increase in the frequency of habitual hygiene, both in keeping the areas around people clean and in the frequency with which we wash or sanitize our hands.  What is unnecessary is the complete panic which leads people to anticipate infection at any moment and dire consequences, up to and including death.  Most of us are afraid both of death and of the unknown.  I see this fear being exploited into a general public panic, one which not only guarantees public submission to official directives but also ensures ostracism of anyone who is viewed as not in line with the public fear.  At least on the surface, most of us agree with how horrible this all is (and it is most certainly a threat) and how necessary and correct are all the official directives.   One of the directives is to make sure one stocks up in case of restriction to homes, i.e., quarantines.  Public panic is added to this, and hoarding and barren shelves are the result.  We need reasonable precaution; we do not need fear, hysteria, and battles in the grocery stores.

Then there are the issues of preparation.  Apparently, we do not have enough respirators, masks, hospital beds, or protective gear for caregivers to ensure proper care for those who need it.  If we listen to the news, that would be most of us.  However, this intensive care is needed for only a few of those who become infected.  Why have we not anticipated the need and prepared before the rapid spread of the virus took place??  We do not even have sufficient home tests so that people who are uninfected or mildly infected can definitively determine whether they are a risk to others.  Instead, we have a directive to mostly stay home and be sure we are six feet away from another human being.  Infected people need to stay away from others, and let people know they are infected; uninfected people should be allowed to do their business as usual, because we need people who can keep things together and running smoothly.  However, as it stands, no one really knows who is infected and who isn’t, which leads to the assumption that everyone is infected, and that other people are a threat. Why do we not have an abundant supply of tests? 

We need to focus more of our attention on the healing of those who are seriously affected.  The official count is that 80% of those infected with the virus will have mild or even no symptoms and will not need treatment.  The remaining 20% do need that treatment, and it should be available.  Instead we have focused on prevention.  Prevention, of course, is most valuable, although some of the measures directed to be taken are rather Draconian.  Prevention, however, does not dismiss the need for treatment.  If everyone who needed it (and I suppose that 20% of the population of the country is a significant number) could readily get treatment, much of the panic might be alleviated.  I do not hear reassurance that treatment will be readily available; I do hear intense insistence that all Draconian directives be observed.  If 80% of us will not need treatment, why is treatment inadequately available for the 20% who do?

The largest of the more Draconian directives is the conglomerate subsumed under the title of social distancing. Included in this category are some categories of quarantine or limitation of movement, closing of schools and businesses, the designation of six feet as the distance that needs be between people, cancellation of events which many people attend, such as sports events, weddings, concerts, and places of worship, and the instruction to not touch each other, except perhaps by bumping elbows.  People are advised to communicate mostly via mediation by machines, e.g., computers.  There are two major effects of this directive.  One is economic; the other is the way in which people view each other.

Economically, the closing of schools and businesses, especially those that do not lend themselves to working virtually from home, throws an already unequal and fragile economy into chaos.  Most working people do not have a few months of savings on which to live; many also have no leave and are paid only for the hours they work.  Closing the businesses or requiring that people work only from home means that a great many people may well be en route to joining the homeless; they will not be able to pay for rent, food, utilities, on even a basic level, unless they work.  Closing the schools and daycares only further exacerbates this.  In families (most of them) which require the income of both working parents, the income of one parent will be lost because one parent must stay home with the children who are not in school or daycare.  The recommendation is that family (i.e., grandparents) not be called upon to babysit, as those people are at higher risk from the coronavirus.  Cooperative daycare also violates the principle of social distancing.  Add to this that the schools are where many kids get their most nutritious meals of the day, and the special services that some of them need.  These resources are lost when the schools close, putting further strain upon the already strongly disadvantaged families.  This kind of economic breakdown can seriously exacerbate the advance of a virus.

When one is required to keep six feet of distance between other people and oneself, and is told not to touch others, especially not to hug family and  friends, because doing so is not only the way to catch the virus but also to endanger others, the basic perception of others is changed.  Instead of being a support in times of stress and change, people become the threat.  One is psychologically isolated, taught to look upon others as suspect or at oneself as harmful to others.   People are genetically constructed as communal animals; we need to live together, trusting at least in our own groups and nourishing each other with touch.  The results of insisting that people distance themselves from others cannot be fully known in the present, but I cannot see that the changes will be positive or constructive, leading us to cooperate and create a constructive future.

One of the most traumatizing aspects of social distancing is the forcible separation of families from their elder members who are living in nursing homes.  Billed as protection for the elderly, this in fact neither protects nor solves anything.   Many if not most of the elders in affected homes are infected with the virus.  Staff are also affected by the virus.  Some of them become ill and cannot work, resulting in shortage of care for the elders.  Others have no symptoms but are carriers.  They are not screened but come to work and leave in a normal fashion.  Relatives of residents, who are banned from visiting them, attempt to comfort their elders via telephone and gestures outside their windows.  Many of those elders are ill or dying.  They are left to recover or die alone. This has been on TV news, in particular but not limited to a nursing home in Washington state.   What is the problem that causes them to be separated from their families to die alone, often inadequately cared for?  If they are ill already, they cannot be re-infected by their families.  Families may catch the virus from them but are unlikely to be as severely affected.   If staff is short, cannot families volunteer to cover at least some of the care of their loved ones?  There is no reason to forcibly separate an ill or dying elder from his or her family.  No virus is slowed thereby.

The suggestion that social distancing is not a problem because we can communicate adequately via machine mediation (computers, phones, devices) is basically untrue, unless the goal is to have all people living online instead of in the world, where, of course, they can be more easily influenced and monitored.  I am not suggesting that there is a conspiracy to that effect, simply that the suggestion that human communication, which requires touch and presence, is adequately achieved via technology, marvelous though technology may be, is a falsehood.  Humans communicate differently from robots or computers.   Robots and computers are wonderful and useful, but humans cannot become them.

Most of the changes suggested to prevent or slow the virus have already been implemented in other countries.  There have been no sustained studies of their effects, but also no reports that the implementation of these directives has resulted in slowing the virus.  There are absolutely no reports that it has prevented the virus’ spreading.  One wonders, for such small return, why such widespread change and sacrifice are so insistently required.  Is it to distract from basic truths about the virus – that it runs its course and is little if at all slowed or stopped, that it is mild in 80% of the population but severe and/or deadly in the remaining 20% unless treated soon and thoroughly?  Or??

Another effect of the intense focus on the current coronavirus is that other issues that need attention are being ignored.  For example, the climate crisis is as much a threat to human life as is the coronavirus.  Nobody seems to be paying attention anymore.   Or, one can hope that the results of the current election will set a direction for the next four years.  The selection of a candidate seems to have dropped below the radar of attention.  Yes, the health crisis of the coronavirus needs attention, but not at the expense of other issues of equal urgency.  We can pay attention to reasonable precaution without panic at the same time as we focus on how to heal our planet and notice how whom we elect or do not elect can influence both issues.  The hullabaloo and panic are doing us no good.

The crises will not spontaneously go away – we will be faced with them during the near future.  Let us learn to not simply react in panic, but to think through the results of the ways in which we respond.

Peace, Diane

A New Decade

“There is no proof whatsoever for the story of three wise men, presumably astrologers, following a star to find a baby born in a stable and bedded in the cattle feed in a manger,” the speaker was saying in response to a mention of the New Testament account of that event.  “They could not have followed a star, because all stars – and planets, for that matter – rise and set like the sun, except for the North star.  The rising and setting stars are not always visible, and the North star always leads north, not into the Middle East.  It is constant and does not move to lead people.  That story was written by someone who hadn’t looked at the sky very much.”

The speaker had totally missed the point.  The important part of that recounting is deeper than the provability of its details.  Among other things, it tells of the ongoing search of humanity for that which is greater than humankind (called God by many), even though sometimes that longing is manifested in the denial that a greater aspect or entity exists.  It also shows the need to leave the focus on habitual, surface life in order to find the Infinite, and the dedication of one’s gifts (and each of us has a gift to offer) to that which is beyond self.

We are again at the beginning of a new year, and this time, a new decade as well.   It is easy, as we listen to the news and read the online feed on our phones or computers, to be aware of the innumerable chaotic, destructive, cruel and scary goings-on around us.  It is easy to understand, if we look at these happenings, that if we continue on these paths, the ultimate end is possibly our destruction – or at least the destruction of our civilizations and planetary support systems.  It is also easy to deny what we see and hear, and reassure ourselves that there is no proof of the certainty of these predictions and that of course, technology will save us and shield us from any ill effect that may – or may not – come.

The truth is that it is our reaction to events rather than the events themselves that makes the difference.  I would prefer to look on 2020 with eyes of hope.  That is not to say that I am blind or oblivious to the challenges of the times.  I am fully aware of the possibility of various kinds of disasters that may happen.  I do not deny the probability of some of these disasters if things continue as is.  I simply believe that these are not cast in stone, and that enough of us can hold the vision of a positive outcome to allow such a positive outcome to manifest.  It is said that one purpose of prophecy is to make people enough aware of current patterns that the patterns can be changed and the prophecy thus not occur.

However, to believe that things will improve, that all will be well, that the Earth will be saved from climate disaster, that people will live together in peace, respect and justice does not excuse anyone from the responsibility to act.  We are all one, and change, whether positive or negative, affects us all.    Each of us contributes, by action or even inaction, to the direction and quality of change.  The key is that our thoughts and actions must be in alignment with the change we wish to see.  If we wish to see more conflict between people, we will act towards others in hostile ways.  If we wish to see an Earth healed of the fever of climate change and extinctions, we will make sustainability an underpinning of our choices and speak for the value of renewable energy.  Our task is to hold the vision and act in alignment with it.

It is also important to recognize and respect the underlying Infinite reality from which our human story proceeds.  Put differently, we need to be aware when it occurs of the arrogance which says that humans are all powerful and control nature and living outcomes, that we need nothing but ourselves.  We need to set aside that arrogance, because it is only through connection with that primal energy which existed before the Big Bang that we derive our power.  When we deny it, we cut ourselves off from the Source of our strength.

As we enter 2020, let us each examine what it is we wish to create in the coming decade.  It is a complex question and requires complex answers.  Our answers in one way or another will support continued life, peace and joy or will support ongoing destruction and diminishment.  The choices of each of us matter, not in a legalistic sense, but in an artistic one, as a brush wielded to make a painting or a tool that helps to carve a sculpture.  What vision will we hold, and can we act in alignment with that vision?

Happy New Year!

Peace, Diane