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The Courage to Show Up

This is not the New Year’s message I might have chosen to share with you all, my beloved Wisdom community. But it is the only message that rings true in me this year, that speaks from my own heart to this forlorn and bewildered world in which we still find ourselves. Forgive me if I step on toes, but…

Enough is enough. It is time for us humans to collectively get a grip. It is not Omicron that is laying waste to the human race; it is our own massive panic and failure-of-nerve in the face of all it truly means to be human (like courage, hospitality, trust, and self-sacrifice, for starters) and in the face of what is now being asked of us.

The word COVID has by now become what Valentin Tomberg calls an egregore: a malignant thought-form which has gathered such toxic energetic force that merely invoking its name can create mass (and always manipulable) hysteria. In Tomberg’s time, Nazism was such an egregore; in our own anxiety-prone times, we first had “terrorist,” then “security”—and now “Covid.” Merely mention the phrase “Covid-positive,” and our imagination races right back to those traumatic early days of 2020, with body bags piled up in the streets of New York and people cowering in terror before an unknown assailant whose unstoppable trajectory was brutal illness and an odds-even chance of death.

But we are not there anymore. We are no longer defenseless. However you personally feel about vaccination, it’s a pretty much irrefutable from a public health standpoint that the vaccines seem to have a demonstrable success at strengthening resistance to the virus and mitigating its lethality. And from what we have been able to ascertain so far, Omicron outbreaks among the vaccinated and boostered seem to be overwhelmingly mild—one hesitates to call them “non-events,” but really, is it worth all the hysteria? I continue to feel that Mother Nature is meeting us more than half-way to step down the severity of the disease and help us assimilate it more fully into our collective human immune system. If nothing else, it’s potential third force if we work with it rightly.

So how do we do this?

I believe that the active players in the immediate next stage of this unfolding will be the vaccinated and boostered. I want to say this carefully, and without judgment. Many people have very good reasons for remaining unvaccinated, which in the long run may prove to have more merit than our tunnel-vision liberal establishment sees fit to admit. But for the time being, in the present configuration, the vaccinated ones are clearly the safer candidates for the Smaug-like job that now needs to be done: to walk directly into the Covid lair and begin to defuse this egregore.

Not by taking stupid risks. I am not advocating wild street parties, abandonment of all masking and social distancing, behaving like we’re in a bubble. But we ARE in a bubble in a certain way; when the vaxxed hang with other vaxxed, the risk of serious lethality is certainly manageable, and within this safety zone we can begin to do our small part to replenish those dangerously depleted reservoirs of the human spirit: to share joy, song, a meal together, even the eucharist, and to touch base once again with the common sap that flows through our human kind. We can also begin to defuse this egregore by no longer allowing ourselves to be personally or collectively intimidated by it. By essentially saying, “If it comes, bring it on. I am willing to carry a piece of it…on behalf of the whole.”

You can see why at least for this next round I would want to limit the players to the vaccinated; it’s essentially pre-damage control, creating a somewhat boundaried situation in which this work of reframing and relearning can start to go on. The unvaccinated are at greater risk, both to themselves and to others, and at least at the outset their presence increases the anxiety level in the overall mix. Covid has left us with a huge collective PTSD and it is this behavior that must gradually be unlearned, as we shift our strategy from controlling outbreaks to optimizing outcomes. It’s best to begin in smaller, more contained environments.

As a first step in this direction in this regard (and do I dare even mention this?) I would gently suggest that we might begin by backing down the now-obsessive proactive Covid testing among the vaccinated and unsymptomatic. As Covid testing facilities find themselves swamped with healthy vaccinated people needing instant negative tests for admission to parties, restaurants, universities, and travel—or simply because they are frightened that they may have been exposed— those really at risk can find themselves way back in the line. To my mind, this is not only an unnecessary overkill but in fact a counterproductive strategy, keeping us trapped in a hydraulic of fear. Remember the old energy work maxim, “Energy flows where attention goes.”

But of course, to step up to the plate with this new invitation and its attendant risk, one must also be able to look one’s own death straight in the face. Not that it is inevitable, let alone likely, but that it is possible and that one is willing to take the risk on behalf of a greater good.

And it’s exactly there that we’re all pinioned, I have come believe: the collective denial that Covid has finally, brutally exposed, at least in the entitled Western world. As a spiritual teacher, I see so clearly that this is where the gauntlet has been laid down, and neither as individuals or as spiritual institutions have most of us come through it well. I am still shaken and heartbroken at how quickly most churches and monasteries shuttered their doors, pivoted to zoom liturgies, yanked the common cup (and yes, there are ways to do it that are Covid-safe!), and seemed unable to access the kenotic teachings at the very heart of the faith. The mumbling has been deafening.

Perhaps, Gebser would tell us, this is inevitable. It is another tattered remnant of the disintegrating mental-rational structure of consciousness, to which the Church, like most the cultural institutions of the West, has long since sold its soul. Only the mental-rational structure is inherently skeptical and anti-religious; only the mental-rational, imprisoned in its own ego-castle, is terrified that death will be the end of personal consciousness. All other structures of consciousness merely shake their heads and quietly know better.

But since that ancient “first knowing” is still in us, still the deepest part of who we are, forgive me if I still hold out a stubborn hope that in this blessed year 2022, the Who and What that we truly are will wake up in us again, shake off its death robes like Lazarus, and move toward the banquet table which is even now being spread before us if only we have the courage to show up.

 

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Smaug by David Demeret

Smaug image by David Demaret, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 

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