As I attempted a short walk today I was contemplating the overload of information that has poured into me these recent days. I’m calling it corona brain syndrome (or CBS). Many people are writing about the different opportunities that are coming with this pandemic such as slowing down, getting outside, spending time more with family, and getting in shape. Do you really need a pandemic for this? I applaud the people who are on the optimistic side of this thing. Yet there is an even more fundamental opportunity here – to deeply examine long held patterns and beliefs around attachment, health, self and other. I hope to use CBS over the coming days and weeks to explore these themes for myself.
Today I was contemplating the difficult choices that governments and individuals are making and the trade offs between these choices. In today’s news that ranges from lock it all down to live life as you always have and everywhere in between. Only time will tell who made the best choices with the limited information we have. We will analyze our individual and political choices for years to come. YET, what I am asking now is slightly more subtle: Wherever we fall on this lock down / isolation spectrum, WHAT is it that we are protecting, saving, etc. though the locking down, isolating or quarantining?
I think the default, unexamined answer is simply physical life. Being alive is assumed to be better than dying or being dead. I agree with this, most of the time! However, is this physical organism really the most important thing to protect? It’s an old question that our illness and death-averse society has avoided for a long time. Now I’m not arguing against the plans of those who can stay home alone or with their families for a week or two. This seems like a prudent, wise choice right now, one that is rather selfless and in the interest of the greater good. On the other side, I have one friend who advocates for letting the elderly and immunocompromised fare for themselves- Darwinian warfare!
But what if, our government’s decree that we need to isolate for a month, for two, for four… Let’s assume in a perfect world we didn’t have to consider financial concerns and this was possible for everyone. Then we might have to ask ourselves what does it mean to be alive – is breathing and eating and procreating enough? Or might we need some meaning in our lives? Let’s not wait until we are forced to ask this question. I will leave you with a hypothetical choice to grok: You have a near-death experience and and your guide at the end of the tunnel tells you that it’s not your time yet, you need to go back to the world but you have a couple of choices for your remaining time:
CHOICE 1: 5 years of life, healthy, routine, unexciting.
CHOICE 2: 1 month of life, also rather routine and unexciting – but touched by one very particular moment of ecstasy – be it falling in love, seeing the divine, experiencing a union with cosmos.
I’m not sure if this is a fair question – but your answer may say a lot about your current state of mind!