It seems I have become obsessed with numbers, movement, self-isolation, symptoms, etc. etc. Watching the pandemic spread around the world and now to Alberta with 70 cases in Calgary. We have done well here in preparing for the arrival of the virus, but it is here now. I am 76 and my wife and I have decided to nearly self-isolate. Our church, Hillhurst United Church, has cancelled all in-house services, meetings and activities and we had our first on-line worship service Sunday, March 15. I have attended two zoom church groups: one on spiritual nurture and the other a 7am group meditation. It’s a good way to stay connected and still stay at home.
I went from thinking “This is still far away and I am a healthy person; it won’t happen to me” to “It is now around town and maybe around me and I am still a healthy person and I want to stay that way”. It has finally sunk in that my immune system can not protect me from catching COVID 19 because it is completely unfamiliar to the human body. None of us has built up any immunity to it. Depending on our health we can, of course, recover from it easily or not so easily. I am not panicky, haven’t bought toilet paper yet; nor am I fearful. But I want to be careful, take this threat seriously and do my part to flatten the curve and keep hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
My mind wanders to why this is happening, besides the fact that many governments did not take this seriously to begin with. Sometimes I wonder if there is a message in all this – Kind of like a parent and a child. We parents give our children warnings when there is danger. “If you do that you will be in trouble”. Is God, the world, the universe warning us, “If you keep living the way you are living, life is going to change dramatically on the planet. Get your priorities straight. Live your life based on your values, not what you can get away with”.
It has been evident to me for decades that belief in the growth economy, based on consumption as the way to live and measure our value, is contributing to our decline. I remember 15 years ago reading Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman that identified problems with the consumer based economy and happiness as the purpose of life. When there are so many human problems: poverty, homelessness, refugees by the millions, and a climate emergency we, as a world community, still focus on making more money, throwing a few dollars at immediate dire problems while having a good time. Maybe the message/opportunity here is self-isolate and think about your life and your lifestyle.
John Pentland, lead minister at Hillhurst United, made a good distinction at the on-line service on Sunday. We do need to physically distance ourselves from others, but we cannot socially isolate ourselves at a time like this because we need each other. We need to keep each other safe and we need to help each other get through this pandemic. I hope we can learn something about community and the oneness of being – we are all a part of one world and are all spiritually connected.
On Monday evening, an on-line meeting of a Spiritual Nurture group featured a YouTube video by Rabbi Sacks called How We Can Face the Future Without Fear. His solution was moving our mindset from “me” to “we”. A crisis is likely to do this for people. I have seen the best and the worst arise in a crisis, but more so kindness, compassion and help for neighbour, actions that inspire hope.
Yet I am not hopeful. Long term thinking is not in our genetic makeup. In the ancient cave society, it was quick focus on combating immediate short term threats that was crucial to survival. Those who succeeded in doing this passed on their genes. Long term thinking was not very important then, and we don’t tend to prioritize it now.
Expanding our consciousness takes a lot of discernment, contemplation, commitment and sacrifice. We are really getting the sacrifice lesson right now with the cancellation of all group events, school classes and ability to move around freely and without worry. But when the crisis is over will we change our ways? Will we choose love over self-interest, sharing over buying the latest toys? Will we finally commit to giving up selfish pleasures to save the earth? Time will tell. An evolutionary faith perspective is particularly expressive of the “me” to “we” perspective and the understanding that the salvation of the world rests with ALL of us working together to care for one another.
I am thinking about my friends and acquaintances all the time right now and wanting everyone to be safe. I hope you are well as I post this today.