The year of perfect vision, part 2. Not going so well …. I guess we should have seen this coming. Pretty hard to see things clearly at this moment in time, as we haven't been here before. But when in a strange land, the first thing to do is get one's bearings, so that’s what I’ll be writing about here. It’s common when overwhelmed to move from panicked to numb, but this situation in particular requires us to plant our feet in a wide stance and gently rock back and forth until we find the plumb line, and do it soon.
After the first week of talking to people online, there are few themes that are emerging. The first is the awareness that we need to reach down pretty deep to meet this one, but people are feeling a sense of helplessness: we have the need and the desire to do something ... which is coupled with the disorienting request by the health authorities to do nothing, in an emergency! Just go home and stay there. Now, biologically, when in a crisis, our alarm system is attenuated to respond energetically: instinctually, we feel the need to DO something. Either fight or run away. So this is a big problem, feeling such a strong urge to do something, with nothing to do. Finding something to do is very important.
The second theme related to the neurobiological imperative to do something has got to do with the human need to be with other humans. As vertebrate mammals, we are pack animals, and when in danger we instinctively gravitate towards our pack. We are now being told to avoid the pack, do not touch each other; the implicit message is, don’t trust each other because you have no idea who might hurt you (because that person doesn’t know, either ..). And worse, you might hurt someone else and not know of your own danger … so stay away. And yet, now more than ever is a time when we have to try and help, and connect with each other.
The third emergent theme is that of being a good citizen. This means making a mental shift: from the individual to the well-being of the pack. I noticed that a lot of people this week seemed to be less occupied with personal problems .....
So what do we do with this unfortunate set of circumstances??? Clearly, the first item, which is the helplessness associated with the recommendation to do nothing, is a bad thing. The second, that we are pack animals who have lost our pack, is a bad thing. You put those two things together, though, and we might remember that we are human mammals who can THINK our way out of problems (as we often think our way into them). Meaning, the imperative to do something is instinctual, biological; but we can recognize it with our minds: what it feels like in our bodies, what it's doing to our mentalities; and then make a conscious decision to do something. I’m noticing that this doing something should have something to do with being a pack animal: acting for, with and out of concern for others; being good citizens. Furthermore, as human mammals, we have a deep need to connect to our own individual humanity, as part of the universe. Some call this need a “spiritual” imperative. But, in our compulsively busy society, it's hard to slow down long enough to look inwards.
Optimistically then, what could be a gift about this experience is the opportunity to slow down, reach down deep, and allow time to expand so we can remember who we are. We can do something by putting our creative juices to work: remembering how to cook a meal, plant some seeds, make a drawing, write a poem. Learn French. Take up sewing. Become a runner. And encourage each other’s interests.
To find the intersection between “me” and “we”.