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  • Jeffrey Bates

Corona Virus - some reflections from inside the Bucket.

It's hard to think that the current situation in our world could be anything but a curse. With the amount of life lost and the grief and fear that many have gone through, and in which they are still finding themselves, it is just plain hard to see through this vail of present and future tears. I have not yet been touched by the virus personally, but I do know people who's siblings, friends and in one case, mother, have tested positive for it. It might be best to just stop right here. Not ponder any more about it. Not write any more about it. Just be and breathe into what's happening all around us. But I have a little more I'd like to say.


WE ARE CAUGHT UP


The curse of this pandemic is troubling to say the least. Argumentative politicians and leaders complain about who dropped the ball and what we can do about it now...that things were handled horribly. A report yesterday came out and said that the evidence of the virus showed up in the United States as early as February. Thousands of cases were reported around the country, but they were not linked together or understood. With the elimination of the council for pandemics that happened a few years ago in our country, we were unprepared for this onslaught. The officials whom we elected into power chose to, like an ostrich, put their heads in the sand. Outa sight outa mind. Not necessary. No wonder we were caught off guard. And to think of the millions upon millions of us that this ignore-ance has impacted, in both outward and INWARD ways, is incalculable. Social distancing has its positive effects (keeping us safe in our bodily health), but it also has its negative effects in taking us away from the assumed life, socially connected life, which we very obviously took for granted. No one can escape, no adult or child, the impact of this new life into which we are now being thrust. We are caught up in this together. We will feel the collective grief of this event long after we have been given the green light - if that can ever happen in the foreseeable future. Life will never be the same...


It was about time. It was about time that we all took a break. We have experienced a loss for sure. The virus is rearranging us both externally and internally. We weren't "ready" for it. But the question I have is - "When would we have been ready for it?" You only have to think for yourself for a minute, whether you were benefitting from the way things were or you were not, that our society, our world, has been on some kind of "kick" for a very long time. We've been on a roll going into the future. With the internet's impact on us in its ways of connecting us to each other, the human mind has become something different since 1995. Why do I say 1995? Well, if you'll remember, that's when Microsoft Windows was released into the home. That's the year the the computer became personal. That's the year when we were asked, "Where do you want to go today?" and told "You've got mail!" We didn't have to physically "go" anywhere to "go somewhere." We didn't have to walk outside to our mailbox, open the door, and look inside to see if we had "mail." Suddenly, it was all there in one place. Unconsciously, without realizing its impact, we were ushered into a new world, a virtual world, through which we could see things we never imagined possible. There was a shift in 1995 that took us to new vistas and new opportunities to connect while, subtly, without our knowing it, something inside of us was sacrificed.


I was working in a little town in Kentucky when what I call "the tsunami" of the internet hit the shore of our consciousness. I had ordered my computer from a company in Washington state and had to wait two weeks for it to arrive. I remember feeling the anticipation and the excitement of what would happen when it came! Some of the friends I knew already had their computers and were "surfing" the internet. The "internet"...we were just beginning to say the word. One morning I was watching the Today Show. Katie Couric and Matt Lauer were the hosts. One day, as this new phenomenon was just breaking into my awareness, Katie asked Matt, "Matt, what is 'internet'?" She didn't even say 'the internet.' because the concept was so new and ambiguous. I remember Matt fumbling for a minute, and then he explained that it was like all of the computers in the world could be connected through it and that it had been pioneered for many years by NASA. Bill Gates had created a system, an operating system, through which personal computers could be connected throughout the world.


While living in this little town, one afternoon before my computer arrived, my friend Jimmy Spencer invited me to come over to his house so see something spectacular on his computer now connected to the internet. I got there and he invited me into his office where he said, "Watch this." He typed for a moment and hit enter. The screen changed and a slow process began, of a picture being 'carved', line by line, across the screen. I watched with amazement. Slowly, the picture began to appear. It took about a minute, but there on the screen was a vase. He explained to me that this vase was in China and that someone had take a picture of it and "put it on the internet!" The questions began to race in my mind "How did they put it on the internet?" "How does one get a picture from their camera on the screen?" (This is before I learned about scanners and the newly emerging digital camera) "How did that picture get from China to this little town in Kentucky!" I was as blown away as my friend obviously was. It was the world of digital information come to roost. I had just been introduced to the digital world. He sat back in his office chair and pointed at the screen. A big smile appeared on his face that seemed to say "look what I can do!"


What I am about to say might sound a little strange. But what I think began back there in 1995 was kind of like a virus. We went from thinking in analog terms to thinking in digital terms. This virus began to infect us in ways for which we were not prepared. It instigated a change in the world of our minds that have affected us up to the present day. Today we are ONE with the internet. But I think that there are healthy side-effects and unhealthy side-effects. Ya think? The biggest impact has been because of the tsunami of information to which our brains have had to adapt. My thinking is that we have not adapted well. Maladapting, or not adapting, to these changes, persistent in each moment, have made it possible for our experience of this change to take on the characteristics of a virus. We are infected but we don't understand it or think of it in this way. We have become addicted to what we think of as good for us. And in many ways, we can't help it. We are now in the thralls of facing our addictivity - our tendency to be unconscious about how we relate to the digital world, to substances, to the internet, and consequently to our planet and to each other in order to cope. The pattern is changing. And in all of this change, there is the possibility that we will learn something.


I think of the landing of the Internet on the shores of our world as a kind of metaphorical tsunami. I like metaphors because they bring light to help me understand. The changes in our brains were secret - there were subtle shifts in how we thought, what we taught, what we began to think was important when it began. We experienced it as the wave of the future! I bought a computer and then an XBOX. We put in a virtual sound system in our basement so that we could watch movies like it was movie theater in surround sound! Everyone did this! Everyone had / has a movie theater at home! Why go to the movies anymore?


My first video game, Dark Forces, a Star Wars game by LucasArts, was a first-person shooter! I no longer had to find an arcade to play games, I could play them right in the comfort of my own home on my computer! And I did! I couldn't believe it. I felt myself floating in space and landing on a new planet as Kyle Kataarn. The weapons sounded just like they did in the movies! I used my lightsaber and blaster against Imperial Stormtroopers. I solved puzzles and found keys to unlock doors to get to a new level. I moved around with my mouse and keyboard. But I only moved on a screen, sitting in front of my computer. This change in movement, in participation, in experience, is what I think the tsunami of the internet began to change in us. It gave us the feeling of doing something. In this case, it wasn't online yet, but only through the virtual, dreamlike, space on my screen. The subtle, but huge, paradigm shift was initiated. Online gaming was coming which would only initiate deeper changes in consciousness.


THE TSUNAMI


When the internet hit, it was with the force of a tsunami. The form it took on a screen, with the input, and the experience of sitting in front of our computer screens took us by surprise. It was a viral effect and suddenly everyone 'had' it. Though it put us in touch with vases from China and games from LucasArts, it also created a new kind of consciousness and new experience in the mind. In the mind is where the virus lives. In our waking and un-waking consciousness. It has changed us. People today experience not the presence so much of each other, but are perhaps more present to what they just saw on Facebook, or a reaction that they just had from reading something on Twitter or saw on YouTube. It seems that our minds can be caught up now and wander in seemingly endless directions depending upon our level of interest and contact. The people with whom we have lunch (when we can do that again) can be off on a completely different tangent than we are.


It wasn't long after the cell phone came out that I remember hearing people talk about a table of friends, sitting there, not talking with each other, but just staring at their screens. It was amazing. The virus causes us and gives us warrants to be distracted even when we're with each other. If we don't like what someone is saying, we might stop and look at our email. If they ask us about it, we can say that our phone just vibrated (lie) and we needed to take a look. We quickly and easily change the subject. Our devices give us that power. Instead of listening to someone, we can just go off into our own reality - whenever we want! The true nature of the virus is that it gives us permission, without our being aware of it, to scoot off into our own mind, instead of be present to what is happening right in front of us. Our mental health, because of this virus, is incalculably at risk. We are all off in different realities because of our affinities and aversions for what we have experienced in this Internet generation. People know things that they think they know because they read it on Twitter. And so we have permission to have more arguments and disagreements.

Think of what I am talking about like this...if 1995 was the year when the tsunami of 'internet' hit us and the computer became "personal," then we have been drowning, underwater, gasping for air, since then and we haven't known it. It's a sobering thought. And to complicate matters, we have been drowning willingly. Gug gug gug! The drowning occurs in the pace and tirade of life riding what it thinks of as the wave of new information and connection. These unconscious actions are actually what have been, on some level, killing us. The corona virus is actually raising consciousness and causing its own change in the consciousness of the planet. It could very well be that Mother Earth is teaching us a lesson. We need to take care of her and each other in ways now that are unprecedented. Our trajectory, instead of bringing the world together, has actually separated us, further and further from each other which was the very thing that 'internet' was supposed to do - that is, create a more connected world. You may dispute what I am proposing. That is fine. These reflections are only my opinion based on my experiences and thinking. I could not write these things if I thought differently. I think that considering these ideas might bring a new urgency to the conversation of what is happening in our mental, social, cultural, planetary and global health.


What I really think has been happening since the corona virus has visited us, is a shift, a change, a calling attention to the pace of life and our unconscious participation in it. We are involved in an unprecedented Paradigm shift. It really does seem as if the virus has swept us all up into itself - the urgency to stay isolated, to socially distance ourselves from each other. But really, what it has done is to call attention to the fact that that is exactly what has been happening since 1995. We were already separated. The virus is no respecter of persons. It is isolating in its impact. Many will die alone. Hospital workers, emergency workers, first responders are now wearing space suits. The virus has its own agenda. It may very well be that we caused the virus because we have been so unconscious in our living and relating to the world and each other. Mental health comes at a price. We have been separated from each other in our minds, in our conversations, in our inabilities to bridge this gap that we have felt deeply in our hearts.


We have been drowning and gasping for air. Is it any coincidence that this virus causes pneumonia, respiratory issues, a gasping?


It's time that we bob up to the surface.


*For an interesting read please look up David Houle's book The Shift Age. He suggests that we are involved in a global change where the new paradigm flows to the individual and flows to the global. The old social, cultural systems have become anachronistic.



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