It seems clear that the pandemic of the Covid-19 virus is amplifying a pre-existing condition; the pandemic of fear and anxiety that has already spread across the world. In times of crisis, we tend to look to the established powers to help guide and support us. These powers – local, regional, national and international –are formed through political processes and informed by the various methods of scientific inquiry. A difficulty we now face is that both our political and scientific thinking is dominated by an old paradigm of reality that may have reached the point where it can no longer be effective.
Something that the modern political and Western scientific mind fails to take into consideration is that we humans are not alone. I’m not simply saying that we have community among and with other humans; but that as humans, we are part of a much larger family of beings that also have a say in the future that is unfolding. I’m speaking of the jaguars and lions, elephants, geckos, condors and eagles, whales and dolphins, to name just a very few of the multitude of animal creatures. There are the rainforests, boreal forests, tulips, banisteriopsis cappi, and mushrooms of the plant world. There are the great mountains and oceans. There is Mother Earth. And there is a multitude of tiny bacteria and viruses all over and inside everything. Who is to say that they don’t have a say concerning the future?
Indigenous people worldwide, including the ancestors of Europeans, saw not only life, but consciousness, intelligence, in all that is listed above. Only in the last several centuries have humans, especially in the West and North, considered humans to be the only intelligent life form on Earth. During this period, using that very special human intelligence, we have brought ourselves to the brink of self destruction while also destroying myriads of other life-forms. Now, just as it seems the our situation couldn’t get any scarier, some tiny agent from the natural world comes along and is shaking the very foundations of our civilization. Broadway is shut down. Baseball, basketball, football and hockey – down. Concerts, schools, community gatherings – down. Gatherings to protest what is going on – down.
Nature works in mysterious ways Her wonders to perform, (to paraphrase from the Christian hymn). Are we going to start paying attention to Her more respectfully, more intelligently, more empathically? Or are we going to continue down our fear-based and arrogant pathway, trying to control what is infinitely more wise and powerful than us? She could dispense with us with a giant hiccup. She wants us here, or we’d have been gone long ago.
Beliefs, (which form the cognitive basis of our paradigm of reality) die hard. But pressure and pain from forces outside ourselves are sometimes a catalyst for reconsidering what we think is true. Quite a few years ago, I led a group of folks on a wilderness quest in the high desert of Southern California. On the first night, after we had all settled some distance apart, each under his or her tarp, a fierce lightning storm struck. There were Joshua trees and pinion pine scattered like lightning rods all around us and we were surrounded by ridges of stone. The lightning struck every few seconds and the roaring thunder was constant, seemingly interminable. In the morning it was quiet and we shared our experiences of the night. Even the professed atheists confessed to praying during the night to something or someone that in that brief moment seemed to really be there protecting us. There is an old saying, “There are no atheists in foxholes.”
I’m not predicting what will happen. I don’t know and I’m ok with that. Maybe this one moment of worldwide fear will turn out to be a bump in the road. Maybe it will be a catalyst for positive social, economic and political change. But I do sense an awareness growing in us as people that goes beyond the political ideologies that justify and perpetuate so much human conflict. I feel it in myself. As I let go of my sense of certainty and open to the counsel of the life all around me with a humble and open heart, two things shift: I feel the possibility that this will all turn out ok; I recognize that in this moment, I am OK.
There is and will be pain, and it behooves us all to pay attention, be wise and help those in need. At the same time, for our own sake and for all life, there is a need to step back and open to a new frame for seeing what is happening on Earth. We need to stop treating nature like a tinker toy or as a simple child that knows not what s/he needs. She is more than what we are in our little body/mind selves; she is wiser and more powerful. Perhaps there is a blessing in disguise of “social distancing.” We will take time with nature in the quiet and solitude that allows us to listen to Her, ask for guidance, and align our lives with the family of life.