Paranoia, Practicality, and Prayer

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Well, here we are.  Still here.  Still wondering what’s next.  So while we’re wondering I thought I’d share some practical suggestions with you.

A friend intimated yesterday that it was foolish of me not to be afraid of this virus.  I told her it was more foolish to fear it, and there was a great difference between being afraid and being practical.  “Practical” in this case doesn’t mean rushing around town looking for isopropyl alcohol or it’s next-best substitute, Everclear.  (Ugh!  Bad memories of terrible post frat party hangovers!)  It means keeping clean—in our homes, our cars, our work-places (if we’re not working from home).  It means really doing the Google Five:

1HANDS Wash them often

2ELBOW Cough into it

3FACE Don’t touch it

4FEET Stay more than 3ft apart

5FEEL sick? Stay home

It also means being aware that we live in a capitalist society, which pushes people to instinctively be the “bestest with the mostest.”  So a tiny 1-ounce bottle of Everclear which normally costs $1.99 at your favorite liquor store is suddenly $8.  Yes, the local drug store does have a miracle potion you can buy—at $45 for a 2-ounce bottle.  Yes, it’s good to have extra supplies on hand, but you won’t survive this particular virus (or the Zombie Apocalypse) by hoarding.  After all, what about the folks who live in small apartments, those on monthly paychecks, those who are elderly or infirm and can’t afford to hoard, not to mention those who are homeless and living hand to mouth anyway?  Survival depends on cooperation and care for others as well as one’s self. 

Now, about those practical suggestions—First and foremost, boost and maintain your immune system! 

Herbs, vitamins, and food supplements:

Common Sense Practices: 

  • Drink lots of water
  • Take it easy with alcohol or sugar
  • Eat a good balanced diet that works for you (fruits, veggies, grains, meats, dairy – vegan, vegetarian, paleo, etc.)
  • Get regular mild exercise (walking is still a great idea!)
  • Get good rest

Anti-paranoia Practices:

  • Take a news break.  We don’t need every detail of every virus-related development all day long.
  • Avoid doomsayers.  You’ll recognize them—they’re the folks who meet your every hopeful comment with all the reasons why you’re wrong and the worst news and speculations are right.
  • Again, mild exercise helps raise endorphins—those friendly little critters in our brains.
  • Meditate (you don’t have to sit on a cushion in a cloud of incense to do this!).
  • Cook something tasty for yourself or your family (cooking requires attention otherwise available for worry and other negative emotions).
  • Watch funny movies, kids’ movies, or chick flicks on Netflix.
  • Read a good upbeat book while listening to peaceful music.
  • Reach out to family and friends on the phone or an online conference app.
  • Don’t give in to despair.  There are days and moments when each of us feels like we can’t keep going.  Yet, here we are, after all the many challenges we’ve faced in our lives.  And we’ll make it through this one as well.
  • And last but not least, if you’re a spiritual person (or even if not), pray.  There are events in life for which we may have no explanation or understanding.  And there are sources of solace greater than ourselves, whose perspective is far above our limited view.  When all else fails, we can turn our troubles over to Spirit and ask for a different way of seeing what distresses us.

Photo courtesy of Mariska Miller, Berkeley, CA

No Fear!

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
 Frank Herbert,  Dune

This day began early – before breakfast I was on the phone with friends and health practitioners. The theme that kept raising it’s head was this: COVID-19 may be a virus– and a dangerous one, true. But the real virus is FEAR.

Those of you who may remember Frank Herbert’s famous sci-fi series, Dune, may also remember the litany-against-fear taught by the Bene Gesserit – the spiritual matriarchy and eventual rulers of the planet Arrakis, or Dune, and trainers of Paul Atreides, or Maud’Dib, who ascends to the throne of power. The litany (reprinted above) came back to me yesterday during a conversation with a friend.

Fear is indeed “the little death.” I have watched animals frozen in the face of whatever they fear. Most of the time it’s nothing in particular– only instinctive reaction to a perceived threat. But sometimes the danger is real, and being frozen is the worst thing to be.

And so it is with us. If we think about it, FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real) is more about loss of control than anything else. We fear losing control of the present, the future, the past– all based on our concept of control (which nobody has, really) and our misinterpretation of various stimuli. Stimuli is the important word here. We are being stimulated by the media (including social media), our political leaders, our neighbors and friends, our families, our co-workers–everything and everyone around us advises us to be afraid. But what are we actually afraid of ?

With the proper information, our perceived threats are usually reduced to something manageable. And one of the main sources of this global fear is misinformation. We don’t really know what’s going on “out there.” So our minds are filled with questions to which there seem to be no answers. How could China have allowed this virus to escape? How could nobody have foreseen it and begun work on a vaccine? Why are viruses now a seasonal event? Why is our government so slow to act? Why are the vital services so necessary to a society’s well being so hard to attain in the US? Universal health care, social security, housing for the homeless, maternal and paternal leave at the birth of a child, counseling and rehabilitation for returning veterans, etc. — all available to citizens in many other countries, all downsized or obliterated here. Why?

There is really a rather simple answer to these questions–one we’ve been pushing under the collective rug for a very long time. Follow the money. Who benefits by stealing welfare from the poor and social security from the elderly, by withholding care for our war-wounded and those unable to pay exorbitant medical fees, by opposing a well-rounded education for all our children? While our streets and schools are falling apart, where is our tax money going? Why do life-saving medications cost so much? While our water table is being contaminated by fracking, whose pockets are stuffed with our dollars? Where are the children of immigrants, torn from their parents’ arms at our southern border? Why are they not being reunited with their families? Why are the prisons so full– especially with non-white prisoners? (The US has more prisons in operation than any other country at this time, with new ones being built every day.)

These are the questions we need to be asking. Tough questions, yes. But questions whose answers will shed light on this virus called COVID-19– its source, its spread, and its purpose.

So rather than stay frozen in fear, or respond to this particular threat like cornered animals, let’s get proactive. Let’s memorize the litany-against-fear. Let’s say it to ourselves and to each other, and when we feel overwhelmed by the flood of misinformation out there, let’s just quietly ask the question, “Who benefits?”

As it’s been said, the truth will make you free– but first it’ll piss you off. And pissed off is what we need to be right now– not fearful, but angry enough to begin to look at the real reasons behind the threats to this society. That anger, that red energy, will give us the fuel we need to move forward and make the changes that need to be made.