Updated: May 24, 2020
is staying sane even... a sane thing to do?
in a global pandemic - as the structures we rely on strain to the verge of collapse, as states of emergency worldwide might clear the way for all kinds of political abuse, as so many people, wise elders, doctors, choke to death, if we're confined to our houses with our livelihoods under threat or forced to work in danger, with no end in sight - is it appropriate to stay calm?
in some quarters i've been hearing a lot about the virus of fear and how this is the really dangerous thing. while acting out of blind panic or becoming addicted to news and stress hormones isn't helpful, it also seems to me that there's a certain demonisation of fear going on.
is it sane to not be afraid?
this is reality check, a moment when humans can no longer pretend they're not animals, not part of the biological world.
we're not somehow above it.
we're not entitled to exploit or abuse the earth, animals, natural resources, whether directly by plunder or by jetting around wherever we please. that has to stop.
animals are afraid when they're in danger. they react appropriately, they do what they can.
in our case we have to focus on what is important, health, survival, spirit, those we love - and in fact, everybody.
interconnection is no longer something you hear about in dry buddhist lectures. it's right in our faces. we're one organism.
groundlessness, impermanence - we're faced with them now, viscerally, full on.
isolation might be a time of retreat and reflection for you, or quite the contrary, you might be thrust into action. risking your life on the front lines, rushed off your feet along the supply chains, or faced with the sudden disappearance of income, and/or the need to care for others full-time.
even the conservative government in britain has realised that people need support, that our individual psuedo-freedom has been killing us.
fear is a natural reaction and you need it to mobilise. however, nobody and nothing can be in a state of mobilisation all the time. constant activity, the yang drive, eventually leads to collapse. as we see all around us. the continuous drive to expansion, consumption, to get more and more, that rampant global capitalism, has left us vulnerable now.
if you're isolated at home and not acting on the frontlines, this is no time to be holding yourself to a blistering self improvement schedule. it's the time to restore your nervous system. that means doing whatever feels nourishing, instinctive, in the direction of fresh air. it might not look positive, constructive or sane. in fact, acting as if no-one is looking is very good for the nervous system!
or you might wonder if it looks 'too positive'. after all, the earth is breathing easier as the planes are grounded, and so are we. this feels good.
creating new structures to support our neighbours, focusing on what really matters, being forced to drop invented worries, endless external distractions and entertainments, displacement activities to disperse the grief we've felt as the polar ice melts and the amazon burns, or the deep seated unease provoked by knowing that there's something wrong with the way we're all living - this can feel like a relief, it can feel strangely calm, deeply good.
these new structures, forced out of the crucible, might usher in a new way of living.
there might be a sense of hope.
out of destruction - creation? out of isolation - connection?
as we're all one organism, any sense of nervous system recallibration, in our bodies and in the earth, is also contagious, and it spreads without physical touch.
all sides are here at once, fear, grief and the strange sense of calm, new energy and focus, creativity. death and life, inseparability and isolation, shoved right up next to each other by a force no-one can control. letting all the sides and feelings be is the only way to regulate your good old animal nervous system - and without that you won't be any good to anybody.
and we do need to be good to each other now. it's the only thing that will keep us sane.