People are tired of hearing about Covid-19–How many are dying, who is being hospitalized, which states are closing down again, whether we can send our kids to school, and who’s to blame for this tragedy. There are three common reactions: (1) Forget the virus. Get on with our lives, Sturgis, here I come. (2) Stay safe, keep our families close, and wait for a vaccine. (3), Give up on humanity and prepare for the afterlife. I’d like to suggest option (4), Learn to live with this Coronavirus, prepare for the next one, and help humanity get back in balance with the natural world so our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have a future.
The Chinese character for crisis includes the ideas of danger, along with opportunity for change. With a virus we can’t see or touch, it’s easy to focus on the dangers. But there are also positive opportunities for change if we’re willing to understand what the virus is trying to teach us. If this Coronavirus had a voice it might share these truths:
- We’ve been on this planet for 3.5 billion years, nearly as old as life itself. Like all life forms, our goal is to survive and reproduce. We’re not your enemy we’re just one being among many. The only way we can survive is to get into other life forms and use their cellular machinery to reproduce. According to science journalist Sonia Shah, you’ve bought into a story that “contagion is a problem of microbial invasion, a foreign incursion into domestic bodies to be repelled with military might. It’s time to tell a new story about Coronavirus—Our lives depend on it.”
- Humans seem to have this notion that you are the top-dog species and others must do your bidding or die. Your arrogance is killing you. We don’t care whose cells we inhabit, but you have made it very easy for us to inhabit you. Colin Carlson, an ecologist at Georgetown University, says, “Our species has relentlessly expanded into previously wild spaces. Through intensive agriculture, habitat destruction, and rising temperatures, we have uprooted the planet’s animals, forcing them into new and narrower ranges that are on our own doorsteps. Humanity has squeezed the world’s wildlife in a crushing grip—and viruses have come bursting out.”
- Its lunacy to make us your enemy and vow to wipe us out. With that attitude you may not be here much longer. Your historian of religions, Thomas Berry said of you humans, “We never knew enough. Nor were we sufficiently intimate with all our cousins in the great family of the earth. Nor could we listen to the various creatures of the earth, each telling its own story. The time has now come, however, when we will listen or we will die.”
Some people want to believe that the arrival of Covid-19 was a total surprise. Nassim Nicholas Taleb has devoted his life to problems of uncertainty. In his book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, he describes Black Swan event this way. “First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility and second, it carries an extreme impact.” But Talib is clear that the arrival of the Coronavirus was not a Black Swan event. “It was wholly predictable,” he said.
Many experts have been warning about this kind of a pandemic for decades. In her book, The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance, published in 1994, science journalist Laurie Garrett detailed the science and told us what needed to be done. She also, correctly, recognized that we must deal with “a world out of balance” if we were going to survive and thrive.
More recently, infections disease expert, Dr. Michael Osterholm and Dr. Mark Olshaker, in their 2017 book, Deadliest Enemy: Our War Against Killer Germs, said another pandemic was a certainty and they offered a “Battle Plan for Survival.” They concluded “We have no illusions about what must be done if we are to make our world a safer and healthier place for our children and grandchildren, where pandemics do not threaten our way of life on every level imaginable.”
So, we have two choices to make now. We can put our collective heads in the sand and pretend that the virus will magically go away, and we won’t ever face another pandemic again; or we can prepare for the future.
For those who would like to get into action and prepare, here are some things you can do:
- Listen to the experts that have been warning us and are offering guidance for what we can do now.
Check out Laurie Garret, read her books, and listen to her guidance.
Dr. Michael Osterholm heads the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRP) and offers up-do-date information on the current pandemic and what we can do now and in the future.
Check out Sonia Shah’s article, “It’s Time to Tell a New Story About Coronavirus—Our Lives Depend on It.”
- We are likely to continue to face unexpected change and uncertainty for many years. Learn to deal with it.
In his book, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, offers guidance that can help us not only survive, but thrive. In the prologue to the book he offers these powerful images: Wind extinguishes a candle and energizes fire.
He goes on to say,
“Likewise with randomness, uncertainty, chaos: you want to use them, not hide from them. You want to be the fire and wish for the wind. We don’t want to just survive uncertainty…The mission is how to domesticate, even dominate, even conquer, the unseen, the opaque, and the inexplicable.”
Most people feel fragile and afraid when they look forward to the future. A few of us feel strong and robust. Talib guides us beyond feeling fragile or robust. He wants us to become antifragile. He says,
“Some things benefit from shocks. They thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”
- Training to become antifragile and help people embrace the stressors and uncertainties of the world we live in now.
For most of human history, we lived under a partnership model where we saw ourselves as an integral part of the community of life. Over the last 6,000 years we’ve become “civilized,” a move biologist Jared Diamond calls “the worst mistake in the history of the human race” and historian Yuval Noah Harari says in his book, Sapiens, it was “history’s biggest fraud.” Humanity is being called to return to our partnership roots.
In my recent article, “Why The World Needs More Good Men and Women Who Are Trained Healers. Could That Be You?” I say, “For the first time in my fifty-year career I’ve decided to train, certify, and mentor 25 men and women who are ready to help more, earn more, expand their careers, and change the world for the better. Beginning September 10, this unique program will begin, and it will be the only one I will ever offer. I want to spend the rest of my career supporting and mentoring this group. Might you be one of the men and women I’m looking for? You can learn more here.”
Instead of trying to dominate the Coronvirus and prepare a military response to the next virus whose animal hosts we continue to invade, we will do well to develop a new kind of healer, who helps us mend our fearful and angry hearts and supports us in finding real partnership with the community of life. If this resonates with you, come join me.
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