Reflections on the Pandemic as a Means to Become Who We Want to Be
Mother Earth is a vibrant, living and breathing system. She is purely altruistic, providing us with every abundance we need to survive on the earth and to have lives of comfort and joy. Sadly, as we have created societies and industrialized them, we have lost track of her rhythms and flow. We’ve taken from her without giving back. And quite frankly, I think she’s pissed off big time because we have forgotten that within her is the template for our relationships with each other.
She’s been reacting for a long time now to our disturbance of her balance and harmony via enormous climate changes, perhaps shaking her finger saying, “Be careful. You are part of me.” A few months ago COVID-19 appeared among us. Unlike other reminders from our Mother, this one is global. This teeny, invisible bit of genetic material is now governing us, separating us from each other, persistently hanging on. We feel ourselves in a transition between “before” and “after” the virus.
Mankind in the 21st Century
It has taken millennia for mankind to create the before, and along the way we strayed from our place in nature. We lost track of the fact that any advancement among us must accommodate the common good. Otherwise, we harm nature, including ourselves. The 21st century is turning out to be a greedy, violent and egoistic one. The world is dangerous and we live in fear.
Globalization is viewed largely as an economic matter and our political and financial systems have created enormous turmoil among nations through this distorted view. Globalization is simply the end point of the advancement of humanity from clans to a global community. All efforts to build societies have required connections among us in order to survive and in this respect we have been in alignment with the laws of interconnection and interdependence that reside in nature. The collective ego of mankind, however, has pushed us toward a society where harming others to get what we want when we want it is considered normal, where greed is the motivator and where all of our major institutions are failing.
What we are seeing now during this rest from daily life that has been forced on us is very interesting. We are learning that our personal connections are more important than stuff. There is a grass-roots upsurge of altruism, helping each other to survive and to live with this virus, and more conversation about what is of value in life and what is not. And it is really no surprise that at the same time a filmed incident of police brutality has brought us to the streets, all over the world, demanding more kindness and compassion and justice. So what does this teach us about the after?
Lessons from the Caterpillar
The caterpillar has within it billions of cells existing together. Somewhat like in the human body, its cells have different function—digestion, motility, immunity, evacuation and so on. During its brief life cycle it eats. In fact, its appetite is voracious and it munches its way through delicious leafy things until it grows up to twenty times the size it was when emerging from its egg. There reaches a point, however, where it has attained its maximum growth and cannot eat another bite. Inside things begin to change. Certain cells die because they no longer have a function, others are seeking their place in a quickly disintegrating system. In the face of chaos and confusion, the caterpillar does an interesting thing. It attaches itself to a leaf or twig in a safe place, where predators cannot find it, and spins a shell around itself. There it hangs until it can emerge again into its new state.
So here we are, hanging out, living in a major human transition between what has been and what is to be. Social unrest is escalating and we are seeing a different tone in it this time. It is largely peaceful and purposeful and unlike past grass-roots movements, there is clarity is the goal—social justice, fairness, compassion, connection.
There is something you may not know about the life cycle of the butterfly. From the outside it seems that the caterpillar is taking a rest, but a remarkable flurry of activity is happening inside the cocoon. The caterpillar’s body is digesting itself from the inside out, breaking down its own body, until it liquefies. Old caterpillar body cells are broken down into what are called imaginal cells. They are totally undifferentiated which means they can become anything they want! Many of these imaginal cells join together to form a new body, the glorious thing we call a butterfly.
How many of us are imaginal cells within the intricate system of nature? Let’s assume that all who read this are, because of our collective love for and interest in nature. There are no limits to what we can become and we have a way at our fingertips to envision this more resilient and just future. We have seen what we don’t want, we are reflecting on it, and we can create its opposite.
To Know and Love Nature
We are lovers of nature, we study her, we write about her. Every field of science delves into her mysteries and each ultimately comes to the conclusion that there is a stunning network of separate and overlapping views of the science by which she exists. COVID-19 is starkly showing us what science now knows, that this network is an integral and deterministic one, that we depend totally on each other for our very survival and that we humans have within us everything that exists in the other levels of nature. Our deepening understanding of the micro-biome reveals that coronavirus has existed for millennia, probably longer than mankind, and the imbalance we have created within nature has unleashed it.
Our deep respect for nature cannot be whole unless we know intimately and are willing to be subject to her laws. Some laws are obvious, but there are many subtle laws that are just as immutable as gravity, but of which we have limited awareness. Violation of these absolute principles is causing the same kind of chaos in the world that we might imagine if the force of gravity disappeared. These laws are interdependence, altruism, balance, harmony, interconnection, unity, and other laws encompassed in these. Don’t take my word for this. Study any science and you will see the revelation of these laws. Consider your own human body as an exquisite example of these principles.
What we are learning is that the end does indeed justify the means. If the end is material acquisition, wealth and power, self-satisfaction, conquering and ruling, then we, through the exercise of our bloated and ever-growing collective ego, have built the perfect society for it. Mother Nature is enforcing the law of cause and effect perfectly, showing us how out of alignment we are with her.
The Expression of the Imaginal Cells
During the cocoon stage of the butterfly’s life cycle, the caterpillar literally liquefies. Its form disappears. The dramatic appearance of the butterfly is the expression of the creativity of the imaginal cells and of their connection with the truth of nature.
Nature, of course, is perfectly resilient. We are watching her recovery efforts now, as she shakes herself like a wet dog to restore balance. The scrutiny for us, the imaginal cells, is what will be the measure of our resilience. If it is to return to what is being called “normal,” the society we have created, we will not succeed. We have reached a state of oppositeness to the laws of nature, so to reconstruct ourselves into a world that works for everyone we must succumb to the melting of attitudes that do not support nature’s overall law of unity. We will not achieve justice in a re-formed world without connecting together on a global level to tend to each other. This is what nature asks of us. This is what COVID-19 is revealing. What we need to imagine is how we devise the means to attain unity among us.
Maybe we will decide that we don’t need so much stuff, so we don’t need all the polluting industry that creates it. Maybe we will learn to put value on every job that benefits mankind above jobs that are only for corporate profit. Maybe we will reorganize and re-brand the marketing/advertising sector so that urges us to serve one another rather than buy things we don’t need. Maybe we will demand that all of our institutions—education, government, economy, health care, and so on—will provide services to mankind based on loving another as ourselves. Maybe we will transform healthcare into what is meant to be, caring for people, not profiting from illness. Maybe we will view the food industry the same way. Maybe we will understand that global problems must be solved on a global level, so we begin cooperating and collaborating with other nations for change. Maybe the news media will highlight only kindness and altruism, not meanness and crazy behavior. Maybe we will elect only those who hold these values and hold them accountable to live them out. Maybe, just maybe, we can imagine all of this and more and connect together to make it happen.
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