There has been so much swirling in my head over the past weeks since, what is in effect, the world shut down began. Like most humans living through this pandemic, I have had to deal with it on a very personal level. Concern for my loved ones', my patients' and my own health. Concern for what will become of my small business and my home the longer we have no income (as both Hubs' and my livelihood come out of the dental practice). How will I return safely to doing my job? Work which by its very nature, in most clinical situations, produces aerosol which would transmit Covid-19, if it is present in an infected but asymptomatic patient. These are overwhelming considerations enough. But I truly believe they are just the tip of the iceberg which is in danger of sinking the ship of humanity as a whole.
It struck me like a thunderbolt when I saw that Covid-19 is the seventh corona virus. That is when a lot began rumbling in the deepest layers of my consciousness. This is by no coincidence- and there are teachings and warnings here, if we will only listen deeply. This is a long read, and our attention spans have become so short in this era of texts and tweets. But I am asking you to bear with, and journey with, me awhile.
The number seven surfaces across many traditions and is associated with a deep mysticism. The very first one which came to me was from my Catholic background: the biblical story of Creation, in which the world was forged in 7 days. And next, the teaching of the Christ, when asked how many times one should forgive a person who wrongs you: “Seventy times seven”. There are countless others, from many other paths. However, what follows are a few which have presented for my deep consideration, that I am compelled to share.
The number seven in yogic wisdom represents the auric body, a protective electromagnetic field which surrounds all living things (to varied extents). It is associated with the archetype of “The Healer” and its vibration is one of upliftment of Self and others.
There is a beautiful Native American philosophy of “The Seven Generations”, which asks each human to consider the effect of every decision on seven generations hence. So, decisions which impact society and the earth's environment are taken with the good of not just the one person, but keeping the good of all “relations” (human and non-human), seven generations thereof, in mind.
This teaching has a reverberation in the yogic philosophies also, in that it is believed that the connections are so strong with seven generations back, and seven generations forward, that each of us, based on our choices and behaviours now, can heal or harm our ancestral line.
In Egyptian mythology, seven is held to be a feminine number, associated with The Mistress of Measure, Sheshat- whose gift to humanity was Time. It was governed by the female cycle and it was ovulation which began the process of rebirth of timespace in the cosmic womb.
There is an Anishinaabe prophecy which speaks of Seven Fires. As I read it (see below), I am convinced that it speaks of this time now, our time, on this planet. Please remember that this came as a vision to a people who were not 'light skinned' and so the wording is simply descriptive, not intended to be 'racist'. “It is this time that the light skinned race will be given a choice between two roads. One road will be green and lush, and very inviting. The other road will be black and charred, and walking it will cut their feet. In the prophecy, the people decide to take neither road, but instead to turn back, to remember and reclaim the wisdom of those who came before them. If they choose the right road, then the Seventh Fire will light the Eighth and final Fire, an eternal fire of peace, love brotherhood and sisterhood. If the light skinned race makes the wrong choice of the roads, then the destruction which they brought with them in coming to this country will come back at them and cause much suffering and death to all the Earth's people.”
In Chinese medicine, the lung meridian is a yin or feminine organ, associated with the emotions of grief and loss. In a healthy flow of the meridian, it infuses the human consciousness with the virtue of Gratitude. This meridian also manages the water channels of the body. Water- without which life cannot be sustained on this earth. I do not believe it is a coincidence that the virus of this pandemic, Covid-19, has an affinity for the human lungs. Those organs through which we begin our interaction with the Breath of Life and though which we will exhale our last sigh as we reunite with The Beloved. Air/oxygen- another thing without which human life on this planet is non-sustainable.
In general, the majority of humans have not acted as good stewards of this planet. We have failed to hold our elected governing bodies responsible when they have legislated in a manner that is destructive to Mother Earth. There are countless historical examples of american industry spewing toxic by-products into the air and water and even now, when we know better, we have not done better. If the “Flint” travesty is dimming with time in our too-short memory, we have only to look back as far as 2017-2018, at DAPL and the shameful events at Standing Rock, to know that the wave of destruction based on profiteering marches forward mercilessly. One of the earliest acts of the current administration was to push the pipeline forward, freed of any restriction for further environmental study prior. Once again, treaties made with the Native Peoples were broken, their lands, waters and sacred burial grounds were violated and the pipeline came to be. After only 6 months in operation, there were 5 spills. Just as The People knew would happen, there was and continues to be, contamination of the water and soil from this fey and politically-motivated project.
In the midst of this new pandemic, the company Gilead applied for “orphan drug status” for Remdesivir, an experimental drug which has shown some early promise in treating Covid-19. What this meant was that they would be granted tax breaks, FDA fee waivers AND exclusive rights to manufacture and sell the drug. A shameful move on their part, intended to build the company's wealth on the backs of the ill, no matter how they tried to spin it. It was granted, people- it was granted! It seems the company only very recently asked to have the designation rescinded when it faced a veritable tsunami of public condemnation. Likely only because that was deemed to be worse for their bottom line in the long run. I am not hopeful that big business will fail to be involved with profiteering from any Covid-19 vaccine which may be developed. I have, in the past two days, become acquainted with the term and premises of “Disaster Capitalism” and its made me physically nauseous.
I read today that the Trump administration is, effectively, allowing companies to break pollution laws (ha! such as they are!) during this pandemic, by disbanding any EPA enforcement of regulations. In simple words: Big Industry can fuck with the air and water as much as they wish during this time, while ordinary citizens aren't watching and many are fighting for their homes, livelihoods and indeed, their very lives in some cases. Despite the now common knowledge that this virus goes for the lungs and any existing lung compromise, such as would be seen from breathing polluted air, pushes prognosis is the wrong direction entirely.
Believe me, I am not a political person. And I don't mean to imply that its only in this country that poor leadership is maiming our planet, (though America is a world leader and as such has great responsibility and it is said that when there is a cold here, the rest of the world sneezes and coughs). Jair Bolsonaro, the current president of Brazil is “pro-business”. This translated, has meant that he pushes policies which weaken environmental protections, thereby encouraging ongoing deforestation (began by his predecessor, who was of like ilk). He took office in January 2019. Fires raged in the Amazon, incessantly this past summer. The Amazon rainforest is known as the lungs of the earth. A collective (human Covid-ravaged) lung for a lung (of The Mother)?
An estimated 906 thousand hectares of forest was lost in 2019. The impact of this on the biome of the Amazon has yet to be reckoned. Not to mention the negative impact on the indigenous Amazonian tribes who hold an ancient wisdom we cannot afford to lose. Just as we cannot afford to lose what precious little remains of the wisdom of our Native American Peoples. Hearken back to the Seven Fires prophecy. It is a shame on all of us US citizens that we did not protest in support of Standing Rock in every city across every state- knowing the way in which the People have been treated in our history. Our conjoined voices could have stopped that pipeline by shutting down the economy. Wow, ironically, just what has been forced upon us now. I have my own guilt that I personally did not do more.
Which brings me to say that in our day to day lives, each of us, ordinary humans- we are not free of blame. We have allowed ourselves to become avaricious Consumers. We are obsessed with acquisition, in all its forms. We take too much. We give back too little. We do not express our gratitude to this earth which sustains us, in all the small ways we can, never mind the big ways in which some of us can (policymakers, industry heads). We can recycle, we can reuse, we can vote with our dollars, even if we live in big cities and cannot grow some of our own food (which we should be doing in at least some little way, if we can). We seek convenience above all else- we want everything faster- have we even considered the environmental impact of 5G on the navigational systems of insects and birds, who are crucial to the food chain which maintains us too? We want everything constantly newer and better. We thoughtlessly use fossil fuels, complaining actively only when the cost at the pumps rises too high. Incidentally, it would be my vote that at least 2 out of 4 weekends, even when restrictions are lifted, we choose to not use our cars at all. That we buy only what we need, and make conscious purchases which help local farms and businesses. That we choose to spend dedicated time with our families, nurturing our homes and growing a small food garden, planting a tree, cleaning up a public space.
Gratitude is only the start of rebuilding our relationship with the Earth. Taking that relationship back to the level needed to ensure our survival as a species on Her back, requires reciprocity. Just as both gratitude and reciprocity are needed for our human relationships to flourish. We need to give back, to nurture this earth, to refuse to elect leaders whose policies will harm the environment and be willing to stand up and hold our leaders accountable.
I have had enough. I have found myself both grieving and angry, in equal measure, in this past pandemic month.
I am angry because I feel myself so small and powerless to make the great changes I know in my heart are needed.
I feel painful longing for a vanished time, in which we humans lived close to Mother Earth and knew Her heartbeat as our own. A time when we saw ourselves as only a humble part of the web of life, which we deeply respected. A time when we cared as much for all others, in all forms, as for our own self.
Today, too many fellow humans have no idea where their next meal is coming from and they can't recall the last time they had a full belly. I have seen with my own eyes the abysmal conditions in which some live. Yes, I saw this in India and in Africa, but also right here in our nation's capital where one cold winter evening, I was shocked to see crowds of homeless jostling for sleeping space around sewer grates which expel warm air on the streets. So many are dying of deprivation across the world, and ironically, so many are also dying from diseases of vast excess. Obesity, heart disease and diabetes are off the charts in America. All of these happen to be co-morbid factors which help to turn a superimposed Covid-19 infection deadly.
What we have come to define as 'success' is how much one can personally 'get ahead'. Instead of our so called successes making us happy, they somehow only serve to drive an insatiable existential hunger, a veritable 'religion of lack', fear of loss and a deep isolation.
I grieve because of the damage that has been done, feeding this accumulative drive, raping and plundering the earth. I grieve for all the trees that have been logged, all the forests that have been burned, all the rivers and seas that have been over-fished or polluted, all the air that is now toxic. I do not want things to go back to 'normal' and to return to 'business as usual' because those precise lack of values are what brought us to this point. Greed and hubris will be our twin hallmarks, inscribed on tombstones no one shall be here to read.
I believe we are perched on the edge of our destruction as a species. I do not know if Covid-19 will be what tips us over the precipice. But, if not, I feel certain that this won't be the last germ humanity will face before the end of this century. We have pushed Mother Earth too far and She is pushing back, in defense of all her other children- the air, the water, the plants, the animals, the insects. How many times in the past month have we seen posts on social media about the effect that humans sheltering in place across the planet has had? The Himalayas are visible for the first time in many years. The stars can be seen again in the skies over Manhattan. LA, known for its legendary traffic and pollution, currently has extremely clean air for a city its size. Here in the Shenandoah Valley, where I live now, there is too-often a smoky industrial haze obscuring the gorgeous Blue Ridges. This March-April in the pinnacle of our human confinement, we have enjoyed the clearest skies and one of the most vividly beautiful springs I can recall. Those Blue Ridges made me catch my breath with their sheer beauty this morning.
* Above, a rare view of the Himalayas seen from the Punjab, 100 miles in the distance and a smogless LA
It surely seems that the Earth is better off without humans than with them. But its not the way it was meant to be. I know it. The joy I experience when I eat a fruit from a tree I nurtured is resonated by the tree itself- it is happy to nourish me as I have nourished it. There is a graceful balance and beautiful harmony in our relationship, a palpable energy fairly exchanged (though I think I get far more than I gave, actually). The love I feel when I interact with my plants and the bluebirds we house in our garden.....I know it is reciprocal. I can feel, viscerally, that they love me right back. I also feel certain that the Earth Herself is a Wisdom Keeper and She knows how to heal Herself. She has shown this to us in one short month and a bit. But we have to commit to allowing it, from this day forward. We have to promise, sincerely, to help Her healing process in considered, practical acts of symbiotic co-creation that will build the New Earth for which we long.
Please, please, please let us Awaken now and use our collective voices, our collective power, to make tomorrow different from today. What we have done for ourselves and each other with social distancing proves that we have the capacity to act in a manner that is mutually beneficial personally and for this wondrous planet on which we are privileged guests. We have to remember that all privilege comes with responsibilities. We are the ancestors of those newly arrived or yet to come. We hold the Flame of Life in our hands. Let us not snuff it out.
What it comes down to is Love. In the Beginning was Love. In the End, all we take is the Love we gave (sorry, Beatles). As Sting says, and I will echo in a perfect chorus of Sevens: Love is the Seventh Wave.
Every ripple on the ocean
Every leaf on every tree
Every sand dune in the desert
Every power we never see
There is a deeper wave than this
Smiling in the world
There is a deeper wave than this
Listen to me, girl (and boy!)
*Photo credit to Carla J- a beautiful Spring at her home in the Shenandoah Valley
I am a field of awareness. Any thing beyond that is identification with form...