COVID-19

Opinion: Can the trials and tribulations of coronavirus lead to a more just society?

By Rick Haltermann
Posted 3/26/20

In Greek mythology, Nemesis was the goddess of retribution giving punishment to those who were arrogant, had come into undeserved fortune or committed crimes with impunity. She restored balance in the world though justice.

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COVID-19

Opinion: Can the trials and tribulations of coronavirus lead to a more just society?

Posted

In Greek mythology, Nemesis was the goddess of retribution giving punishment to those who were arrogant, had come into undeserved fortune or committed crimes with impunity. She restored balance in the world though justice.

The modern version is that of an archrival. At the moment, the current pandemic is being viewed as the nemesis to our very survival. Often when we feel threatened, a war is then declared against the unknown including viruses, people or even through the subtle and overt ways that we are in conflict with nature itself. Sometimes this works as with cholera and plague but oftentimes it doesn't - like with cancer, poverty and drugs.

The anthropologist Gregory Bateson said, "The major problems in the world are the result of the difference between how nature works and the way people think." How does nature work? Through cooperation (even in the midst of what appears to be chaos), adaptation and continually bringing itself into balance.

The crises in the world are evidence that we are no longer in harmony with nature and ourselves. With the melting of the ice caps, wildfires and record-breaking weather events, the result is the loss of over 150 species a day along with regular flooding from Venice to Miami. Add to this the failing of those institutions where we once put our faith.

Anxiety, stress and depression have now become the norm.

The old paradigm is collapsing, which seemed inevitable since it has become a runaway train coming off the rails. That train carried unbridled economic growth producing more business and leisure travel, the resulting environmental harm, loss of civility both personally and politically along with the countless distractions provided by our electronic devices and entertainment. We have become a culture that no longer knows what it needs but only what it wants.

Nature thrives through expansion, which can only continue on for so long before it's time to go to seed, come to rest then allow for the creation of new life.

I had been wondering recently how that old model of doing things might change and make way for something new. Along comes COVID-19 and the world has been quickly put on hold. Part of the train has crashed through economics via the stock market and job loss. Part is the reality of how those on the front lines will fare in dealing with the sick and dying. And part is in the pause mode hopefully reconfiguring what the next step may be.

The virus itself has no boundaries or discrimination, which makes it a perfect parallel to our consumptive way of living. There is an old idea that the things which go wrong in our lives are actually here to help us. So blaming anything loses the opportunity for growth that a crisis presents.

The challenge is not only with the physical but to the emotional, psychological and spiritual bodies. Viruses need a host to survive so they're just looking for a home. Where do vagrants go? To the nearest abandoned building. Perhaps this disease is illustrating the extent that we have abandoned ourselves and will take up residence accordingly. This is not to say that the precautions in place concerning social distancing, washing hands and general vigilance should be ignored. Prudence is in being attentive.

But life is always asking us to go deeper. The goddess Nemesis would offer humility as the cure to our arrogance as a species in relation to the rest of nature.

There is an old saying that anything we resist, persists. Now that the pause is in place, hoping for the quick fix to go back to the previous lifestyle might be reconsidered. Keep the things that work but it's time to change the things that don't.

What have any of us done personally to confront our anger, prejudices, griefs and inner wounds? This is part of the salve. Maybe the pandemic is trying to show us viscerally how interconnected we all are. Washing our hands of the things that no longer work is part of the mix. And that placing a few boundaries around our seemingly unlimited desires would be a way to curtail the addictions that create our lives.

Yes, take care of yourself and your body. But the less tangible antidote taking us to a new future might be found through a deeper, authentic loving and, in turn, with the world around us.

Rick Haltermann is the author of "Curriculum of the Soul" and lives in El Prado.

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