The essential gist of this article was published in full in the ‘Readers’ Views’ of the Daily Maverick 168 (01-07 May 2021), the newsprint edition of this media channel. The headline DM168 chose at the time was, “Maybe Covid-19 is the spark that ignites our individual and collective minds, bodies and souls to news ways of being and doing in the world”. This title is fashioned from the content of the article I sent them at the time, so was quite appropriate then, and even now.
Labeling “Good & Bad”
I’ve come back to that earlier article now and chosen this blog to give it the deliberately evocative and provocative headline, ‘Maybe the Virus, not the Vaccine is the Elixir’. I feel this focus, suggested by the new headline, is what seems more relevant for us now, whether in South Africa or elsewhere in the world.
‘Vaccine-talk’, and language of ‘pro-vax’, and ‘anti-vax’ have become endemic in much written and spoken language. Mainstream media and social media are abuzz with this labeling. In enthusiastic and obsessive ways, this kind of labelling has come to define the ‘in-group’ and the ‘out-group’, the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’! Most appalling, disturbing and disappointing for me, is how ‘mainstream’ views, including those like the Daily Maverick (usually, pro-vax) have all but obliterated the views and voices of ‘alternative’ views, who are lumped together under ‘anti-vax’. This is a deliberate, intentional choice by mainstream media and supporters to vilify, alienate, demonise, criminalise, and even censor ‘alternative’ views. Essentially, the Vaccine has become the elixir! The Vaccine is the passport to lost human freedoms! The Vaccine is the only true and chosen pathway to health and well-being for all!
My view is directly the opposite
I guess, then, that I would be lumped with the ‘anti-vaxxers’, and vociferously shouted down as ‘conspiracy theorist’, ‘anti-human’, ‘religious fanatic’, ‘irresponsible’. With little effort for open dialogue and understanding. With little understanding that for many ‘anti-vaxxers’, the issue is not ‘anti-vaccination’, but rather an attempt to focus on these vaccines offered as the ‘elixir’ for Covid-19 and its variants.
Little effort, or thought, or serious investigative journalism goes into engaging with ‘alternative’ views, to understand, and then report fairly and respectfully on the facts, that these vaccines are released onto the global population as ‘emergency’ and ‘experimental’, and not grounded in sufficiently rigorous, effective and ethical trials, usually lasting many years. Too many unknowns and uncertainties still exist about these vaccines, and only time will reveal all. These are the facts, no matter what spin the ‘mainstream’ medical and scientific and media may wish to give it, to persuade us otherwise.
So, instead of going the ‘pro-vax’ or ‘anti-vax’ route, what if we changed the question and the focus. What if the Virus is the true elixir! Not the enemy! Not the curse! Not the demon to exorcise! Not the disease to vaccinate away! But the invitation to all of us to wake up to our true humanity, our real fragilities, and reveal our deep-seated fears of dying and death.
Moments of Pause
So the above is a new excursus that brings us back to the article I sent to DM168 in May this year and which follows unedited below. Please read it with the new headline in mind. And sit with the invitation and its possibilities.
The ‘Covid-19 pandemic’ has given the global community extreme moments of pause. Soon after its notoriety hit the airwaves, human beings everywhere were caught up in dis-ease, dread, and even despair. The fear of dying and death was among the strongest emotions being expressed by millions. Saving human lives became the watchword and overwhelming call – the virus and death were the enemies and needed to be defeated at all costs. The avoidance of death at all cost! And now, for many, the vaccines offer that elixir! That promise of life, at least a longer life, more free of infection and dying.
Perhaps, you shared much of these emotions and sentiments over the long months of this pandemic. And perhaps you still do.
Though what if dying and death are invitations to fuller life and living? What if a little coronavirus rampaging the globe is the spark that ignites our individual and collective minds, bodies, and souls to new ways of being and doing in our world? What if this is the elixir, the emergence of a new consciousness, and a new way of being more truly human in harmony with all that is? What if death is the gift for a new life? What if the practice of dying is the gift for the practice of living? What if this virus is the harbinger of a vital truth – that we as a species will need to die to our individual and collective egos, grandiosity, and reckless living, and embrace the urgent call to essence, grandeur, and recklessness in our love for all created being?
A Time to prioritize Life
“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”
- John 12: 24 – 25, The Message
As one author observes, “the point in honestly confronting death is not that we become depressed or resigned, rather it’s only in such an authentic encounter that we have a chance to really prioritize life. It’s only in looking at our lives from the end that we can begin to determine what’s really important for us and what is only distraction or waste. The sooner we begin to see life in this light, the better because at the end of your life it will be too late.” (James Flaherty 1999. Coaching: Evoking Excellence in Others, p 27)
Death can be a metaphor for growth rather than stagnation and human mortality, as is illustrated and documented in Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s Death: The Final Stage of Growth. And so one quote from the book is an incentive for wise rather than foolish living, especially when things are going well in life: “Do not frivolously use the time that is yours to spend. Cherish it, that each day may bring new growth, insight, and awareness. Use this growth not selfishly, but rather in service of what may be, in the future tide of time.” (p167)
Looking at the End to Begin…
This is not the time to live
and tarry in complacency,
The hour-glass is running down,
and it beckons for our death;
For too long, we’ve been shielded
and sheltered in our invincibility,
Puffed-out, we’ve felt controllers
Of all the vastness we surveyed;
Then, unexpectedly, imperceptibly
we find ourselves floored,
and grovelling in the darkness
of this long and eerie night;
In a trice, the life we thought we own,
Is plunged into an anxious uncertainty,
even our breath is taken away,
in a collective gasp for salvation’s air;
Even now, the conundrums are stacking up,
the stable ground totters and twists,
and life we know evaporates in mists,
our drowning frailties shout out and never stop;
And so now, my hope is that you die,
Die to all the falsehood of your pride,
Die to the avarice of your grandiosity,
Die to the ego on the pedestal of your soul;
Like a seed falling into welcoming soil,
Die to the make-belief of your wanton living,
Die to the old and worn out lies and unseeing,
Dare to live into the essence of your one true being.
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