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  • Writer's pictureRishika

An intelligent contagion

Let me tell you something I wouldn’t otherwise say out loud: I am a little in awe at the intelligence of the COVID-19 virus.

Let me also quickly add — for anyone who has contracted the virus or whose loved ones have gotten sick or died — that I in no way mean to diminish that suffering or shrug it off as somehow “part of God’s plan.” But the God of my worldview doesn’t pick on individual humans for punishment, or reward for that matter. It’s never really a question of “good” and “evil”; sometimes we are simply enlisted to play a particular part. Some of us end up being casualties, and that may well include me at some point.

The ongoing manifestation of physical reality requires both saints and villains to drive its unfolding. We are all subject to the full range of human experience, which must include not just triumph and joy, but also deep pain and, eventually, the death transition.

The remarkable thing about the coronavirus is that it seems to have arisen as a response to the world’s imbalance and collective pain. We find ourselves in an era not just of horrific (and worsening) wealth inequality, but the insidious creep of authoritarianism around the world.

It was never sustainable. And from that perspective alone, this can be no accident.

Some saw disaster (if not the contagion) coming. Naomi Klein, in her book “The Shock Doctrine,” described in 2007 how the emerging model of disaster capitalism (a system whose practitioners both manufacture and profit from chaos) would eventually lead to an obscene concentration of the world's wealth in the hands of a few, who would use their resources to finally insulate themselves from the rest of humanity by means of gated communities, private security forces, and the like. The picture she painted was almost “Mad Max” in its bleakness. As the dynamics she described gained traction, especially since the installation of Trump, we in America have been edging close to a tipping point toward that reality.

Since the 2016 election, I’ve had the strong sense that some deus ex machina would have to arise to rebalance the “body” of the world, because from a holistic standpoint the ultra wealthy and leaders who enable them have been behaving like a cancer in it, hoarding nutrients and starving the rest of the organism. In the past, starving and oppressed people often rose up using revolutionary tactics — a hands-on, mostly local correction. This time, because the imbalance is global, I assumed we would endure something like a full blown world war.

But war alone would not have been fully effective; the privileged have always been able to ensure that war does not touch them very much. This is where the intelligence of the virus comes in. As an assailant it respects no boundaries, and can not be obliterated with guns or rockets. We are literally its human shield, regardless of our station.

The coronavirus can cross undetected into the otherwise protected territory of the privileged few. It can infect them directly, or others with whom they identify and presume to be untouchable. But even if it didn’t, the outbreak of contagion can affect them profoundly via their cash flow, their property values, their access to medical care, their ability to travel and to otherwise pursue a familiar lifestyle. And even if it were possible for any privileged human to avoid all of the above, some element of soul searching, and reality questioning, would be unavoidable, because this event is unprecedented to all but the very oldest among us.

If God really were a white haired father figure in the sky, you could almost imagine Him putting on His thinking cap to dream up the most profoundly, devastatingly efficient way to make the point that all were created equal -- and coming up with this.

I do not mean to pick on the very rich. (Wealth in itself isn’t a bad thing, but harming others to get it, and then fearfully hoarding it at others’ expense, is a detriment to the whole.) All of us are learning some deep lessons as well, such as:

  • How interconnected and interdependent we are.

  • Whose work is truly essential, and whether their pay grade reflects that.

  • The tragic consequences of media spin.

  • The flimsiness of soothing narrative.

  • Why ego must be transcended, especially in times of crisis.

  • The real meaning of money.

  • The utility of private vs. public industry.

  • How challenging it is to be alone with our thoughts.

  • The strength and nature of our relationships.

  • The competence and criminality of our leaders.

  • Why our distractions and addictions compel us.

  • The wisdom of (not) using animals for food.

  • Whether and how we’ve made our peace with our eventual death.

  • The uselessness of panic.

  • The true meaning of surrender.

That’s just for starters. It can also be no accident that this tiny virus commands our attention at a time when the ecosystem is wobbling wildly out of balance in response to the overexploitation of Earth’s resources and other factors listed above. When the history of this time is written it will no doubt include some profound revelations of the way humanity evolved itself out of this crisis and emerged as something more whole, more united, more aware. Perhaps even more peaceful.

All because of a virus, we’ll say. We stopped pretending we were immune. We began to understand who we really are: a rainbow collective, a talented species, a spectacularly variable tribe called human that covers the globe.

Nor is it an accident that so many people have begun to awaken from the dream of maya at this time. A higher collective consciousness will be needed to heal the whole of humanity and the world when the crisis has passed, and just as the virus emerged to ignite it, we who are awakening have emerged woozy and blinking from our own dreams to discover our true talents. Intelligence is sparking in us just at the moment when great Awareness is needed to help with the healing.

This tiny, nasty virus; this improbably invisible, villainous speck of protein: It arose from Nothingness, as have we all, and its role on this planet is both blind and of deadly precision. It is teaching humanity some excruciating lessons, but even in our distress, we can be grateful for them. And as it scorches the face of the Earth we can still remind ourselves that some very necessary seeds only germinate in the aftermath of a fire.

The virus “knows” that, and behaves as it does because it is the direct expression of an Intelligence greater than the human mind can comprehend, or its language can explain. In ways both hidden and devastatingly visible, it is forcing us to finally clean up our mess.

Namaste, Rishika.



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