We are living through an experience like none other in our lifetime. We face a massive pandemic that will have some impact on every human on this planet. How are we holding that in our bodies?
When I speak to friends about how it is impacting them, there is a wide range of responses. My Italian friends are living through the worst moments of the pandemic for their country. They are frustrated by the restrictions and also aware that they are safer than people in other countries. They have national health care, a government that is acting decisively, and are expected to Stay Home until April 13.
Italy is following the same measures that the Chinese had taken. These measures reduced the power of the virus in a matter of 5 weeks. My Italian friends mention a sense of national pride that their country is putting human life first, all human life, despite those who might want to leave out some people. I suspect the Chinese are proud of the efficiency of their government to act quickly, even in light of the high death toll. China is also supplying the medical equipment that Italy desperately needs to boost its treatment capacity. That includes 10,000 pulmonary ventilators, 2 million face masks, and 20,000 protective suits.
Matteo Renzi, a former prime minister, said that the Stay Home decree was necessary to save all of Europe. Both China and Italy have acted in the common good–for their countries and the world population.
When Common Good is not a Consideration
I live in NYC. The first measure that the city announced was that it found a place for 51,000 cadavers somewhere on a small island around NYC. Before the City hospitals will test someone, the patient must meet the need to be hospitalized. Without knowing if we are infected, each person is left to make their own decisions about how to respond to the virus with a few guiding suggestions of wash your hands, do not touch your face and stay away of crowds if you can. Every person who has not been tested is a potential carrier of the virus. As of March 10, only a quarter of one percent of the USA population has been tested.
Fox News, a main media outlet, actively supports the idea the COVID-19 is “hoax” whose intention is yet another attempt to impeach the president. President Trump did not want to transfer the Princess Cruise vacationers to land because he “didn’t want his numbers to go up.” There is also a federal censorship decree that demands that government agencies have their “message” approved by Vice President Pence before making it public. Each state is left to come up with plans without resources. California, for example, has a population of 40 million and has only received 400 tests for COVID-19. That is one test per 40,000 people. In the newspapers, there are more articles about the impact on the stock market than the human impact of the virus.
My friends and I debate what to do. My husband is in his 70’s and has COPD plus a compromised immune system. We are both in social isolation not only to protect ourselves but also to protect others because we do not know if some of the the physical problems we face have anything to do with COVID-19. Other friends are washing their hands and not touching their faces. Some are somewhat limiting their contact with others. One friend plans to go on vacation to another country. None of us know or have a mechanism to find out whether or not we have the virus. Our conversation is about our own risk. Sometimes someone mentions their concern about being a carrier of the virus.
When a Society Ignores the Common Good
It has become evident that the lack of common good in the US government’s reaction to COVID-19 leaves us to decide how we can protect ourselves and others. That will not save us from this pandemic. When governments do not act in the common good, citizens often lack awareness of their responsibility to think beyond their personal situation. The decision to act in a way that supports the common good becomes a personal one and not necessarily endorsed even by one’s peers. When I explained to a friend that we had decided to isolate socially, he asked, “Did you get your doctor’s permission?”
Holding Space for All That
Yesterday morning as I was practicing my Buddhists chants, a thought came to me. I needed to find a deeper connection with the chants. I decided to pause after each one to connect to the energy that it brought to me. When I paused, I found my hands moving, tears coming, and energy enlivening my body. I allowed space for this energy until it had wholly moved through me. A safe place emerged in which I felt was present and supported by the energy of the chants. I paused to give my body a chance to enjoy the connection to the power of the chant. I had an opportunity for a deeper relationship with my present self. I found the “self without content” that Addie van der Kooy talks about in his videos.
That chance to be with what is living in me now in a safe way helps me have more space for me after the chanting. It also gives me a chance for a good cry, which doesn’t come easily for me. It gives me space to feel alive. I also have space for “I am alive right now,” and what that means to me.
“Give space for your inner authority to come, let it be your home.”
As I interact with my friends over how we deal with COVID-19, the threat to our health, the health of our loved ones, and the future of our existence post-pandemic, I remember how l loved reading about Galileo and how he survived the multiple bouts of plague in Italy during his lifetime. It was a time of study, connecting with friends, other scientists, and loved ones via letters across Europe and parts of Asia as he remained his curious and amazing self by continuing his studies of how the universe unfolds.
This weekend our yearly St. Patrick’s Day gathering at our home will be via online conferencing so we won’t miss out on being with each other.