30 March 2020

thoughts for a pandemic - a collection part 4

I have discovered that all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.

Blaise Pascal 

There are two ways this could go. We could, as some people have done, double down on denial. Some of those who have dismissed other threats, such as climate breakdown, also seek to downplay the threat of Covid-19. Witness the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, who claims that the coronavirus is nothing more than “a little flu”. The media and opposition politicians who have called for lockdown are, apparently, part of a conspiracy against him.
Or this could be the moment when we begin to see ourselves, once more, as governed by biology and physics, and dependent on a habitable planet. Never again should we listen to the liars and the deniers. Never again should we allow a comforting falsehood to trounce a painful truth. No longer can we afford to be dominated by those who put money ahead of life. This coronavirus reminds us that we belong to the material world.

George Monbiot

27 March 2020

If this vile virus can do any good at all, maybe it is this: that it will teach us to recognise our fragility. We think we own the Earth; we certainly think we can dominate it. It is salutary to discover that our dominance is based on a very wobbly foundation and that we can only hope to co-exist, carefully and thoughtfully, on this Earth, with our fellow-humans and our fellow-creatures, respecting and managing our environment and its ecosystems.
What this experience teaches us is that as humans, we can only survive in interdependence. The borders and divisions we have constructed to mark out our own territories, what we own, what we defend, are blown wide open by an experience like this – even as we seek to mend the problem by closing those very borders.

Stanislaus Kennedy (Sr Stan) 

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a wallydraigle is a lazy, unkempt or slovenly person.
In other words: me, working from home.
Next week, the boss wants to start telemeeting and facetime chats. I have already installed the tidy office background app and will wash my hair.

It's not funny, this life. I fairly hissed at my neighbours when they announced that they were off on a holiday as of now. This involves driving to the coast, crossing borders. Apparently the rentals for beach houses are unbelievably low and the owners desperate for customers, some of the restaurants promised delivery and as for shops, surely money can buy whatever. What part of "no direct contact, social distancing, only necessary trips etc." did they misunderstand?
They are both in their 70s and have health issues. I hope they come home safe and well and that they haven't transported the virus to polite Dutch seaside villagers.

Just to be clear: When you go for a drive, a day trip long or short distance, whatever, you could become involved in an accident, a traffic jam, a break down, and so on, or you may need a rest stop, get petrol. This will involve people having to get in close contact with you, in some cases even a lot of people.

And bear in mind: There will be a vaccine. It takes time but as far as vaccine science goes, the building blocks are in place. Let's just be patient until the system is up and running. Also, treatment for severe cases, it's in the pipeline. Definitely. The researchers are not looking for a magic cure, a needle in a haystack sort of thing, no, there are already a good few studies on the go, potential candidates. That's the beauty of global scientific networks, all these researches getting their heads together.

Also, it's time for music on a Friday, remember that guy?

23 March 2020

thoughts for a pandemic - a collection part 3


What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

Lynn Ungar 

21 March 2020

thoughts for a pandemic - a collection part 2

Hope is not optimism, which expects things to turn out well, but something rooted in the conviction that there is good worth working for.

Seamus Heaney

 As you move through these changing times… be easy on yourself and be easy on one another. You are at the beginning of something new. You are learning a new way of being. You will find that you are working less in the yang modes that you are used to.
You will stop working so hard at getting from point A to point B the way you have in the past, but instead, will spend more time experiencing yourself in the whole, and your place in it.
Instead of traveling to a goal out there, you will voyage deeper into yourself. Your mother’s grandmother knew how to do this. Your ancestors from long ago knew how to do this. They knew the power of the feminine principle… and because you carry their DNA in your body, this wisdom and this way of being is within you.
Call on it. Call it up. Invite your ancestors in. As the yang based habits and the decaying institutions on our planet begin to crumble, look up. A breeze is stirring. Feel the sun on your wings.

Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers 

Two more examples of leadership:

Jacinda Ardern:

Angela Merkel with English subtitles:

 And one of practical wisdom (Dr Mike Ryan, WHO):

And a message in music:

We are here, tucked up in our luxurious hideout, semi locked down. Bewildered, yes, but surrounded by entertainment and distraction. The experts tell us to expect this to go on until August, September, December, a year.
But first, spring.

Friends, readers. Now that we are in the middle of what we find so hard to define, let us feel it, how strange this time is, how sudden, how forced, how interrupting.  Let's see it as a collective encounter that calls on all of us.

Be well. And if you are short of tp, click here.

19 March 2020

thoughts for a pandemic - a collection part 1

You may have been told all your life that there were certain things you needed and certain things you needed to do, but it turns out that you don’t need most of those things and you don’t really need to do anything. In fact, nothing would be better for the world right now than if we all stopped trying to achieve things and said, “We no longer believe work will set us free, it is the opposite, in fact,” and behaved accordingly. There is nothing to achieve right now except to insist that the only achievement is caring for others, and not caring specially for family or friends, but in caring for every person as our family or friend.

Sarah Miller 

I cannot help but think that every injury and slight and pain, is what gives us value, that life well lived is an accumulation of such.

Louise Wareham Leonard 

And the people stayed home. And they read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And they listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.
And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live, and they healed the earth fully, as they had been healed.

Kitty O'Meara

18 March 2020

"we are with you"

This morning, three things happened.
My GP called and told me to stay home.
My boss, the top one, sent me an email telling me to work from home.
My father called to inform me of his bp and temperature readings.

I find all of that reassuring. Not sure what to make of th bp readings but so what. We are both aware of the fact that personal visits, incl. driving from one federal state through three others to a fourth is currently only possible in an emergency and who knows what can happen to a 91 year old not entirely healthy man over the next couple of months or whatever eternity this may take. At least he is in good shape, shouting his scientific insights (all spot on) down the phone.

We are fine tuning our gardening tasks - ah spring, thanks for coming at the right time - and who knows, I may even wash windows. But to be honest, I am just being lazy and useless, reading in bed. The fruit tree flowerting is gorgeous and there's laundry drying in the sun. My subconscious takes note that the patio needing a good sweeping. So what.

On Sunday, we walked in the woods for a while, ate our sandwiches sitting on a log, coffe too hot from the flask. It was lovely.

Here, it's a semi lockdown scenario, schools etc. are closed and shops have started to reserve special opening hours for people at risk, i.e. the elderly. The shelves are not empty for long, we have enough tp. We have had many offers from younger neighbours to do our shopping. The situation may get tougher, e.g. curfew like France, Austria etc. if people don't comply.
At times,  I do want to shake every single entitled know-it-all into submission. But basically, so what.

I went to the osteopath on Monday morning and panicked only briefly until we both had washed our hands thoroughly and she had donned her mask (you do know that hand washing with hot water and soap is more effective than hand sanitizers?). R had a brief meltdown when I told him but he has recovered. Anyway, all other appointments have been postponed. The word is postponed, never cancelled. 

Together with probably millions of my fellow citizens, we are listening to the daily podcast by the country's leading virologist  and yes, we feel informed and prepared. 

An example of leadership in these times (Happy belated St Patrick's day BTW). I am no fan of Leo Varadkar and his party but this is where it's at:

Also. This here makes me - almost - weep.

We have been debating what selection of tunes could go down well here and elsewhere.

Obviously, for the German air force, it would have to be Beethoven's Ode to Joy.

Any ideas?

13 March 2020

new territory

Greetings from an active member of the social distancing movement. We have set up our headquarters here with toilet paper and pasta in the cupboards and indulge in secret hand washing movements at the appropriate times.
As a well experienced social recluse I basically continue as usual and act unimpressed.

There are exactly five door handles I have to touch between home and my lonely desk at work where strict hygiene measures have always been in place anyway. I am waiting for the day when I will get the email telling me to stay home entirely. It will happen. (I am doing home office for most of my work anyway.)

The highlight of our (and the nation's) day is the half hour podcast at midday by one of the leading virologists here who patiently explains the latest findings and developments in words of science, reason and calm.

  • Fun fact no.1: the virus spreads via droplets and fomites during close unprotected contact but this is where all similarities with the flu ends.
  • Fun fact no.2: most transmissions at the outbreak in China have been within households. This means you are unlikely to pick up the virus just walking down the street or having casual contact with someone.
  • Fun fact no.3: there are no indications or science models that promise a slowing down of the virus come spring and summer.
  • Fun fact no. 4: known human corona viruses (seven of these have been around for a while) can stay on inanimate surfaces for up to nine days and there is a strong indication that this new one will be just as persitent (source). But remember, the virus does not jump from the surface into your face, it's your hands that bring it there.
  • Fun fact no 5:  if you wash your hands after touching a person, a surface, five door handles between home and office desk etc. and before you touch your face, your chances of not having infected yourself are high.
  • Fun fact no. 6: kids are not a risk group but can carry the virus to their grannies and granddads who are vulnerable.
  • Fun fact no. 7: we will all get it, or at least about 70% of us. I have never been good at maths but I am beginning to get a vague grip of exponential growth. Ever heard of the lily pond parable?

Regardless of how healthy you are, how much yoga you do, or how many smoothies you drink, you are going to be susceptible to catching this virus. If you get it, it could be a mild or a serious infection. The data so far suggests that severity increases with age and if you have other underlying health problems. So please, let's all behave like we could get infected and not be deluding ourselves that it couldn’t possibly happen to us. And instead of hugging and kissing, let's take care of each other by keeping a safe distance and helping out with practical stuff.