I finally surrendered and painted my toe blue. I wonder if that line has ever been used to open a piece of writing before. The little voice of negativity that tries to stop me from writing says that is frivolous and unimportant, but it’s a little more than that to me. To me it represents that I have let go of the idea that this entire situation with CV is going to be over soon. You first painted my toe for me back in November, and then you repainted it in December, and you were going to repaint it again when I was supposed to arrive March 17th. But that trip was cancelled, and there is no replacement itinerary on my calendar. I simply have no idea when I will be back in Bahia. And so I surrendered. Tata painted my toe blue, and it now measures the time since I was supposed to be free to travel about the world.
And so here we are, separated by thousands of miles with unknown barriers between us. I wonder what it would be like if I were to try to make my trip. Who knows. Maybe it would be the easiest trip ever, but we will not be finding out anytime soon. And so here are some streams of thought about how I am coping with all of this. Maybe some of this will be helpful to you, or maybe it will inspire you (or someone else) to share something that might be helpful to me.
There are two very distinct topics of conversation around our house and family. The first is a sort of debate about what our society should be doing, and the second is a more personal conversation about what we will do ourselves. I’d like to put my two cents in about what we should be doing as a society, at least in Miami, anyway. Here we still have very few confirmed case, but we have been shut down now, with all businesses closed, for two full weeks. This ability that we have to confine ourselves to our homes is like a weapon in a war, and it feels like we are firing off all of our ammunition while the enemy is way out of range on the horizon. Remember the battle of Bunker Hill and “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes?” Having the entire city languishing away indoors for weeks before things develop is wasting our ammo. Here we have been for two weeks and we have not made any progress through this situation.
I understand that social distancing can slow the spread of the virus and that this can alleviate some of the stress on the medical system by reducing the rate at which people are infected. There are some social distancing measures that are common sense and cost nothing, and others that are very burdensome and not particularly effective. For instance, for no cost everyone can avoid shaking hands, cough into their elbows, avoid touching their faces, and wash their hands frequently. For a small cost, people can be very careful to stay home if they are sick. For a larger cost, those who are particularly vulnerable can be isolated. We can also shut down festivals and large gatherings and night club dance parties.
But a blanket prohibition against working makes no sense at all. There are many many people who have jobs that are not a danger at all. Why could an accountant not go to his office? Why could a receptionist not go to her desk? Why can I not get a massage if I am healthy not at increased risk?Each practice has a cost and an effect. Some are free and have very beneficial effects, some are very costly and have very little impact. My complaint is that no one is considering this. Instead our government is reacting and shutting down everything without any thought of the cost or effectiveness.
Locking down the entire society does not accomplish anything. Imagine if you were able to put everyone in Miami Dade into suspended animation like science fiction space travel. Imagine we could perfectly isolate everyone in the entire county of Miami-Dade for a month and slow the transmission rate to ZERO. Sounds great right? But after a month we would not have changed anything except to wreck the economy. The entire city would remain Virgin territory for the Virus, and as soon as the lock down ended, we would be exactly where we started in that the virus would still be out there and our community would have no immunity. The lock down does nothing to cure the disease.
The lock down only serves a purpose if we use the time to accomplish something. It could give us time to position medical supplies, or build ventilators or to develop a vaccine. But here in Miami, none of that is being done. We are like 2,000,000 ostriches with our heads in the sand. The reality, is the only way OUT of this is to go THROUGH it. Until we have “herd immunity” we remain susceptible to the epidemic. So the way forward, like they are doing in Sweden, it to pass through intelligently. If we were to allow kids to go to school and people to go to work, and then sure, people would get infected with the virus and it would spread, and as people recover, we would develop herd immunity. Sticking our heads in the sand is not a solution. It’s just a reaction.
This is where I often get into trouble. People say “how can you put the economy over human life?” But that’s a false question because our actions are not doing anything to cure the disease. Nothing. The only thing that might be happening is that we may be slowing the speed a little. But it’s still not going to end until the majority of the population is immune, and that only happens when people develop immunity, and that only happens when they get infected. That’s it.
So then consider this. We have shut down the economy and the Federal Cost alone is over $6,000,000,000,000. That’s what six trillion looks like. How many lives could we save with six trillion dollars if we used the money to stop world hunger? How many lives could we save if we used six trillion dollars to alleviate the suffering of refugees from Syria? How many lives can we save is we used the money to alleviate poverty? To stop separating children from their parents at our borders? With six trillion dollars what could we do? A lot more than pay to lock everyone in their apartment for a month to put off an epidemic that we are going to have anyway.
But being a private citizen, my ranting ends at the dining room table and does nothing more than ruin the conversation. So there really is not much point in debating what we would do if we were a society with real leaders, community, and courage. So the next question is what can we do individually.
And so here is my list of top ten things to do during the Corona Virus:
- Start a health regimen. The best thing we can do for ourselves right now is take care of our health, and what a great opportunity to initiate some good habits. Here is an opportunity to establish a routine of sleeping, exercising, and eating right.
- Go outside. I don’t know what it’s like there in Bahia, where you are probably outside and on the horses every day. Here in Miami, the weather is so pretty right now, and tons of people are enjoying the outdoors. What a great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, and being outside has really elevated my mood.
- Plant a garden. One of the biggest risks we have as a society is that we have lost our local food production. My father and grandparents during World War II had a “Victory Garden,” which was encouraged by the government in support of the war effort. Everyone was encouraged to grow a garden to ensure food security. We have lost this ethic as a society, but this is a great chance to take it up again. And it’s fun.
- Turn off the news. I have developed a bad habit of opening my phone and scrolling through the endless articles written about death tolls and quarantines and speculation about when this might end and what we should do. But the news really isn’t news at all is it? It’s really just a dive into this energy of fear. So Angelique, I’m going to put myself on a Daily news diet. I’m going to read the New York Times and the Miami Herald each morning, and then I’m going to put the news away. I don’t need to soak in the vibration of fear all day long scrolling through live updating stories that really don’t communicate anything new.
- Reach out to those who we have lost touch with. We are all so isolated right now. This is a great opportunity to call people we have not spoken to in a while. Stephanie is really doing a great job of this. She is calling people from Temple and also old friends.
- Look at the planets. This is one of my personal favorites. I have been getting up early almost every day to see Jupiter, Mars and Saturn doing their dance in the predawn sky. You can see Venus with the Crescent Moon in the evening right now too.
- Practice guitar. This has been a lot of fun! I don’t know if I told you, but I realized some time ago that it’s better for me to think in terms of learning hymns instead of learning guitar. For those who don’t know, we are part of a musical doctrine that has hundreds and hundreds of hymns. Instead of learning guitar, I have focused on learning the melodies of the hymns, and my proficiency on the guitar is naturally improving really quickly as I learn more an more hymns.
- Ride your Bike to take advantage of empty roads! Today I rode my bike to the River House to water the plants (see above re gardening), and then I rode by Whole Foods to pick up a few items from the list. There are almost no cars on the street, so this is a great opportunity to ride your bike.
- Pray. Every day we all have to pray because we are all in this together. There are many people alone and isolated in hospitals dying from lack of breath. There are mothers giving birth to babies alone because the hospitals won’t let their loved ones come inside. There are people choosing between paying their rent and buying groceries. Prayer keeps us connected in compassion.
- Give and forgive. If you have a tenant who can’t pay rent, let them use the money for groceries. If you have a housekeeper who can’t come to work, pay her anyway. If you see someone asking for a handout to eat, give them the money. We are donating as a family in large amounts to feed those in need of food in our local community, and we are paying everyone on all of our pay rolls. I thank God that my personal concerns are about riding my bike and watering the plants. But I feel that it’s a moral imperative to have compassion and give. Like Padrinho Sebastião says, some day things will be reversed and the rich will be asking the poor for help. So now if we have extra resources, it’s to share with those in need.
- Remember gratitude. My dear friend Serenity once shared some wisdom with me. She said “I don’t have to get myself to bliss. I just have to get to gratitude. If I can get myself to gratitude, then bliss takes care of itself.” Gratitude starts with the ability to breath in and out. If you have that today, then you have something to be grateful for.
My dear friend, I hope you are well, and that everyone there in Bahia is safe and happy. I can’t wait until things get back to normal, and I get to join you down there.
Peace Love Forgiveness