Anugyan on love and awareness in the time of covid (part 1 of 2).
Others are clear and bright,
But I alone am dim and weak.
Others are sharp and clever,
But I alone am dull and stupid.
Oh, I drift like the waves of the sea,
Without direction, like the restless wind.
– Lao Tzu
At some point between lockdowns, someone asked me how X-Dimensional Theory affected my perspective of the pandemic and the varied responses to it. It was a good question, and reminiscent of one that I kept hearing when I was a teacher. At the school in which I taught there was a young boy from northern England whose favourite and oft-repeated question was, ‘What’s so good about…?’ This was his question regardless of what was being discussed e.g. ‘What’s so good about physics? What’s so good about peace? What’s so good about healthy food?’ etc. I have no doubt that were he to hear me now, he would cry out, ‘What’s so good about X-Dimensions?!’
When challenged with how awareness of X-Dimensions affects the way one deals with the pandemic, I reflected on the timelessness of the extra dimensions, the awareness that civilisations rising and collapsing are but a dust mote in the eye of eternity. The detachment this brings about allows one to distance from histrionics and drama, to become a witness even to one’s own life. In short, meditation takes effect.
But there is more to the answer, and this is highlighted by how events have unfolded globally.
Even before the pandemic, there was a worrying division all around. A pressing and ongoing one is the increasing gap between the 1% who are wealthy and the 99% who are not. Research (cf. The Spirit Level by Wilkinson and Pickett) shows that at the heart of many of society’s ills is not poverty as such but the huge gap between the rich and the poor. A poor state like North Dakota has fewer problems per capita than a rich one like California where the income gap is so great. (Ibid.)
Then severe dichotomies started to manifest politically; in Britain as Brexit, but this is going on worldwide. Even when last in Mallorca I came across a group keen on kicking out anyone who ‘didn’t belong’, which I inferred also meant the Spanish. Campaigns in the UK for or against Brexit were woefully short on facts, with slogans and emotive phrases the order of the day. Similar stratagems were employed regarding Scottish independence. Then I had the misfortune to see some of the election debate in England between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn. I’m not a supporter of either party, but was dismayed to witness how Corbyn attempted to engage in civilised debate and Johnson just responded with slogans. Johnson, of course, won. Other countries have their own versions of this, America being the most obvious.
Long before all this, I was aware of division being encouraged unwittingly by environmentalists who invariably ended up left-of-centre. In vain I attempted to point out that there was good material also from the other side of the political divide. Another dichotomy flowered as climate change believers and non-believers, when in science it should not be about belief at all.
So what is the solution? Well, after that brief segue, I come back to one of the basic principles of X-Dimensions – that in order to understand them, you have to employ the rare bed-fellows of Art, Spirit and Science together. Let us look at the last, first.
While I listened to the arguments of those both for and against conventional government and medical responses to the pandemic, I was struck by the intransigence of those on either side of the debate, for this was strongly redolent of what I had experienced with the Brexit referendum – the insistence that you are ‘either for us or against us’. I tend to go for third options, but nobody was allowing any of that. This duality was emphasised in countries like Brazil and America where, with a near-comical reversal of roles, the ruling bodies blocked any mainstream scientific advice.
BBC2 did a two-hour documentary on the pandemic in Trump’s America. I have considerable doubts about anything the BBC puts out these days, often finding it full of soundbites and devoid of content, but this was an exception. What was of most interest to me was how the Center for Disease Control, presumably pro-science and apolitical, got drawn into politics by Trump’s government despite themselves. There was a flashback to when the CDC interacted with Obama’s government over the SARS epidemic. What struck me here was the body language between Obama and the advisors, for it showed a president who was prepared to listen. A nostalgia swept over me, for a time when ruling bodies paid attention to their scientific advisors, even when I have doubts as I did regarding Obama’s government.
The academic rebel Jane Jacobs in her last book Dark Age Ahead, identified five indications of any dark age approaching, one of which is when governments pay no heed to their experts. This has been on the increase for a long time, climate change being one example; another is when Sir Ken Robinson advised Tony Blair’s government to focus on child-centric education rather than attainment targets and exam results. They chose to ignore him, and to this day the British school system remains stuck in the Victorian age. Jane Eyre would feel right at home, just not a very happy one.
Science as we know it is the science we choose to accept. Two very diverse scientists, Jane Goodall and Zach Bush, have been emphatic on intense deforestation being at the heart of the pandemic, whether altered along the way in a laboratory or not. Essentially, humans going into areas that have been undisturbed for aeons, is releasing viruses with which our immune systems have not evolved to cope. Bush was so clear about this long before the pandemic, he predicted its coming, and that it would be the first of many.
The implications therefore are that we are addressing the symptoms rather than the root cause; and this is probably the most common accusation from alternative health practitioners against mainstream medicine, that the latter focuses almost exclusively on the superficial. This is borne out by the constant media feed, barely touching on the environmental picture, and politely ignoring pleas from highly qualified individuals such as the above. It is all about fire-fighting. The science I would fully endorse would be, among other things:
- Apolitical and independent of corporate bias
- Aware of its own shortcomings
- Address sources of illness rather than symptoms
- Open to alternative ways of thinking
While alternative medicine is not necessarily synonymous with spirituality, more often than not it is – particularly with the inherent emphasis on self-knowledge. The BBC (yes, really, they are capable of proper journalism, and I do pay attention to them sometimes) did an article on the difficulties the alternative medicine crowd were having by finding themselves allied with questionable groups and individuals such as Trump. The article ‘Does yoga have a conspiracy theory problem?’ gave the background to the issue, and finished with a heartfelt plea for common sense by a yoga practitioner Seane Corn on Instagram, including the lines “Please don’t tell me about the ‘great awakening’ or a ‘paradigm shift’. That comes from within. I understand that some of you may ‘unfollow’ me. I’m okay with that. My self-worth is not determined by follows or likes, but by integrity and truth. That is why I am sharing this message with you. I must. I care deeply about the yoga and wellness communities and don’t want to see anyone exploited or manipulated by an organization that has its roots in white supremacy culture.”
I noted the reactions of various people to this article. Those from the alternative health community often found it offensive and another reason to distrust the BBC; whereas those from the orthodox side of medicine heartily endorsed it. I found both reactions puzzling. How could anyone from the alternatives find Seane Corn’s words ‘offensive’? Yet, how could most people from mainstream medicine accept wholesale her obvious heterodox emphasis? It is as if people are subconsciously looking for a fight, and through only perceiving what is on the surface, we have a forced, rather strange, duality instead of nuance.
Corn’s line “That comes from within” deserves repeating, because that is where I feel those opposing the official line often go awry, they miss this emphasis, that spirituality is inevitably about what is within oneself. It is the ultimate rebellion against the state, and has always been so. Thus, a healthy questioning of assumptions and of the status quo is part-and-parcel of anyone with a deeply spiritual outlook on life. However, that scepticism needs to be self-directed as well, provoking an honest look at why one might be drawn to certain ideologies rather than others.
It may be inferred erroneously by now that I endorse fully the scientific model as regards the pandemic, even if it does side-step the bigger issues. Not entirely, but it is true that I appreciate civilised debate, and respect the scientific process.
Again and again I have been sent video links where doctors ‘disprove’ the pandemic or vaccination or anything that mainstream science supports, yet when I check the credentials of those doctors and experts I nearly always find links to religious, dogmatic and far-right groups. This is not always the case by any means, but it takes time and effort to examine these links and statistics.
It’s an exhausting process. I was looking recently into accusations of exaggeration regarding the reporting of covid-related deaths by the CDC, which a few people sent me. The accusers seemed to have good credentials, but when I was researching them I came across scientists calling them ‘quacks’ and ‘cranks’. This is a common state of affairs with mainstream science, a reduction to name-calling when someone refuses to toe the official line. Despite my scientific background, I ended up none the wiser after this research, and at the end of the day faced with the decision whom to believe, when I prefer not to believe anyone. As a ten-year-old once pointed out to me, the word ‘belief’ contains the word ‘lie’.
It is a confusing, bewildering storm in which we have been cast, and this is where spirituality really has something to offer. Ultimately, by way of meditation and spiritual practice, a complete detachment from histrionics and destructive ideologies can evolve, allowing kindness, awareness and compassion to flourish in their stead. A true intelligence and independence of spirit can arise.
There is little I can add to Seane Corn’s full statement, only a part of which is reproduced above. Nevertheless, I would like to suggest that those on the (any) spiritual path:
- Use their practice to show compassion to those who have lost someone, or are otherwise distraught
- Keep fighting the good fight by questioning accepted beliefs
- Question one’s own narrative as much as those of others
- Seek the deeper significance of what is going on right now
- Use the opportunity of lockdowns to go within
The artistic communities have suffered tremendously through lockdowns and the imposed sanctions, many theatres and events on the brink of collapse. On the other hand, creativity has flourished, people writing novels they’ve always wanted to write, art sessions being conducted via the internet, individuals like Patti Smith finding ways to give something to their fans despite everything, and so on. Jacobs in Dark Age Ahead talks about how the arts do often flourish during so-called dark ages, even if other aspects of civilisation may struggle. Further recent evidence of this is how the Harold Pinter Theatre managed to produce the play Uncle Vanya online, one of the best Chekov productions I’ve seen in years. Also against all the odds, between lockdowns, the Art Exchange in Penzance put on a superb exhibition by Grayson Perry.
There is a proliferation of streaming services, of course. Despite snobbery from previously established modes of cinema (‘It’s not really a film if made for a small screen’ etc.), these services have proved their mettle by simply going ahead and providing solace and nourishment for millions if not billions. People may point out that this is exactly what Big Brother wants – us confined to our rooms, behaving ourselves, locked into screens – but I for one, as someone partially involved in the business, have found myself really grateful for this resource. It is also interesting to note that at this time of increased nationalism, providers like Netflix operate with a global picture, exposing us to numerous dramas and documentaries from other lands with which we may previously have felt little connection. I know next to nothing about Finland and Estonia. Now, thanks to the elegant Finnish drama series Deadwind I am a little less ignorant. (One night I had a dream in Finnish and, to my surprise, understood some of it.)
For a writer, craving solitude and operating largely independently of other people, lockdowns – at least on the face of it – are actually not that much different from other times. Certainly, since this has all started I’ve completed two novellas, co-written a screenplay, created a new website, started venturing into the postcard business and written numerous essays of which this is one. I’ve also caught up with films too long on my must-see list, such as by Tarkovsky and Bergman, and got hold of books that had previously proven elusive.
The real problem is that a novelist needs psychic fuel, which is normally obtained by meeting new people, having adventures, experiencing different things. Snatches of conversation, a glimpse of a face, moments in other people’s lives, can be the lifeblood of fiction. I personally have plenty of fuel in reserve yet profoundly miss the spontaneous meetings travelling on public transport provides, and visiting places outside of my usual comfort zone. Yes, I have that reserve fuel but have to take care in preserving it.
This alludes to the true current absence of art: the ability to reflect on the world and our inner state, acting as a bridge between science and spirituality, or as an interpreter. Strangely, having been subjected to zombie films by a teenage member of my current abode, I can’t escape the sense that they provide an accurate reflection of another pandemic, the Serious Fear Virus sweeping the planet, about which more later.
For more in-depth reflections provided by art, I have come across few examples. To be fair, it is no easy feat to:
- Balance all the opposing views in an informed and meditative way
- Depict accurately the mental toll of repeated lockdowns and confinements
- Reflect on the sense of loss – of loved ones, of our lives, our hopes
- Convey a sense of what this means geopolitically and spiritually
- Be life-affirmative whilst doing so.
- Provide a bigger picture
I’m still waiting to see that movie, read that book and hear that album.
Image credit Greg Rakozy at Unsplash