Saturday, May 30, 2020

Corona Wisdom: glimpses of a world radically changing

NOW available in hardback from BookBaby:

UPDATE: In the meantime, this virus goes on displaying new tricks and devastating lives as it goes. Today the vaccine began to be delivered ... may it reach every one of you quickly and end this time of such stress and division. 12/14/2020

Eighty days ago I began a journey of trying to capture the essence of a pandemic in words and art. The expected 30 pages have mushroomed into over 100, so it is time to wrap up this project. I wanted to end the journal with lessons learned and expected a long list of inspiring takeaways from this time.

However, days have passed with little result. Closure eluded me as I began to review where we’ve been since late February when the first inklings that this might be serious crept into our consciousness.

Since then, we’ve reached 100,000 US deaths, and one thing is clear: the common refrain of “We’re all in this together,” reveals itself as a cruel joke on so many levels.


Deaths are clustered around old age and the lethal combination of poverty and contributing health conditions. Approximately 40% of US deaths were residents of nursing homes and assisted living centers, and people living in poverty are twice as likely to die as the middle class and wealthy.

A similar inequality exists on the economic side of this pandemic. The capital of the wealthy is actually increasing and middle-class professionals are working from home with little impact to their incomes or life-style, other than a few less exotic vacations and gourmet restaurant meals.

The working poor, gig workers, and homeless however, are being devastated, not only losing their incomes, but also their health insurance, and often, access to security programs such as unemployment. Endless lines at food banks are common and the token payment of $1,200, intended to help people through the financial crisis, isn’t enough to touch the needs of most poor families.

Peace Egret
So, what are my takeaways, from this time of crisis? One lesson relearned and three questions.

THE LESSON: Times of stress and crisis bring out the worst and the best in us.

    A few examples of the worst that made me despair:
  • Bazookas in a sandwich shop.
  • Spitting on people just doing their jobs.
  • Threatening the lives of anyone who disagrees with you.
  • Armed protests for the freedom not to wear a mask.
    A few examples of the best that have lifted my heart:
  • A man playing his grand piano from a gondola on the canals of Venice.
  • Anonymous donors paying off student loans.
  • Amateur pilots flying medical supplies to rural hospitals.
  • Health care workers risking their lives to treat patients.
Do all lives matter?

Do all deaths matter?

Does our planet matter?

It it easy to respond:
Of course!

However ...

Actions speak louder than words and I’m not sure our actions are consistent with those words. These are deep, complicated questions with no easy answers.

If the lives of our elderly truly mattered, would we house so many of them in substandard warehouses? Only the truly well-to-do can afford the price of top notch care facilities. Plus, the salaries of care workers in all facilities are abysmal, resulting in astronomical employee turnover and a revolving door of under-trained people caring for our elders.

If the lives of everyone mattered, would we have streets in every city in America where the homeless wander aimlessly, often sick mentally or physically, lacking adequate food and shelter?

If the lives of everyone mattered, would Native Americans be facing loss of tribal income, staggering unemployment, and inadequate basic services such as clean, running water?

If the lives of everyone mattered, would children go to bed hungry in one of the richest countries
in the world, and almost a third of our people lack affordable access to health care. 

If all deaths mattered, what would we have done differently during this pandemic? The United States is one of the richest, best educated, and most sophisticated countries in the world. The Department of Defense budget for 2020 is $721.5 billion. Couldn’t part of that budget be focused on protecting us from the ravages of a pandemic? 

There is a huge amount of technology focused today on extending our life expectancy, perhaps even removing death from natural causes from our concept of life. Most likely, these options will be far more available to the 1% than the rest of us. Is this what we want?

And, last but definitely not least, does our planet matter? We’ve seen amazing changes in the past three months … cleaner air, clearer water, animals returning to places they had abandoned. We’ve seen changes in how we work, how we do business, how we relate to our families, our neighbors, our communities. We’ve done what we previously thought impossible, because something we can’t even see said: STOP! Will we begin to treat the planet as our only home or go back to our self-destructive ways?

We need to have serious conversations about these very complicated questions. There is a huge bucket of blame for the loss in life and economic security from this pandemic, however, at this point, placing blame will not serve us well. There is enough to be shared by all of us since we’ve all played a role in creating the current state of our planet. 

Tree of a different time
The bottom line, for me at least, is the understanding that we need to decide who we want to be as a people and then create the systems, the institutions, the government that will take us there. 

How can we foster these conversations?

If you would like a free online copy of Corona Wisdom, please click here.

Corona Wisdom back cover
There is a limited edition print version of this work ... unfortunately, the price is limited-edition ridiculous ... $50 shipping (includes US shipping). Contact me if you would like to order a copy.