Oliver's BlogTuesday 31st March 2020
What Can We Learn From The Covid-19 Pandemic?
When I first started studying macrobiotics and the Oriental view of life, I heard a statement by the originator of macrobiotics, George Ohsawa - we should welcome difficulties in our lives. This was shocking to me. Why would we want to have difficulties in our life?
He reasoned that difficulties give us a great opportunity and stimulus to study life more deeply to find the source of our difficulty or pain, and from this we become stronger, wiser and more deeply happy. After I got over my initial shock, I have done my best to live by this, and I have found it has had a profound affect on my life. When we are faced with a challenging difficulty it is easy to go into fear, feeling a victim of the universe, or to blame others. The trouble with this attitude is that it does not change anything, so we stay in our misery. In contrast when we ask the question “what do I have to learn from this situation?” we come into a more positive state of mind. Despite the pain, there is something good that can come out of our situation. As the old saying goes, “every cloud has a silver lining”.
Stage two, we look into ourselves and at life to understand why we are facing a difficulty, and we find there is much we can learn. I have to say that from playing with this way of approaching difficulties, that we have something to learn from every difficulty that we get in life! Sometimes I wish it was not true, but the reality I feel is that this is always true! And I have learnt so much and grown so much by being willing (most of the time!) to learn from the times when I am struggling and suffering the most. The same goes on a global scale, what do we collectively have to learn from the difficulties being presented to us by the coronavirus? Many people I talk to are asking this question, and hoping that some good will come out of this world wide emergency. I am sure that many lessons will become apparent as time goes by, but here is my list so far.
1. Become More Humble
I reflect on the fact that this pandemic started with one single minute virus, that then multiplied and has now spread around the world. One third of the world is in lockdown, how can it be that one tiny organism can cause all this? My conclusion is that we need to be humble in the face of nature, we may think we are big, but whole societies have been brought down by such a small thing. Lets listen to nature better, rather than thinking we can override it, manipulate it, continue to take from it and not consider what we are giving back. Lets me humble in the face of nature.
2. Prioritise Our Health
The world needs to learn to look after our health much better. The people most seriously or fatally affected by the coronavirus are those with existing health problems like high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular and lung problems. Of course there will always be illness, but all these diseases are primarily caused by our diet and lifestyle, and are largely preventable. Surely our health is a higher priority than many of the things people spend their life pursuing – fame, money, status, expensive material possessions etc?
One of the central aims of macrobiotics has always been to teach people how to take care of their own health and live a long and vital life. This understanding is needed just as much as when I first came across it 40 years ago!.
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3. Stop Eating So Many Animals
The coronavirus is thought to have come from bats in a ‘wild food’ market in China. Ten years ago we had the swine flu pandemic which probably came from mixing different breeds of pigs in the United States. In 2003 we had bird flu from a virus in chickens, in 2002 SARS from horseshoe bats. In 1968 Hong Kong flu which also came from birds. The breeding and close contact with large numbers of wild and domestic animals certainly contributes to flu and coronavirus epidemics and pandemics. So changing to a plant-based diet is going to reduce the chances of new viruses spreading through humans.
4. Take Better Care Of Nature
Going outside I sense that nature is taking a deep breath of relief. With greatly reduced pollution from planes (look up and see how empty the skies are now!) and from cars the air is cleaner, and all of nature is expanding into the places that humans have withdrawn from. When things start getting back to ‘normal’ lets consider carefully how much do we need to travel. In the last few decades we have taken for granted that we can fly to Bali, India, anywhere we like in the world. Now we are becoming conscious of the cost of this travel in contributing to global warming and polluting the air that we and every single other organism breathes.
5. Replace The ‘Constant Growth’ Economical Model With A ‘Steady State’ Balanced Model
Yin and yang teaches us that any big expansion is followed by contraction, any great contraction is followed by expansion, just like our heart beat, our inbreathe and outbreathe, and the passing of winter and summer. It is blindingly obvious, even to a child, that the world cannot sustain more and more growth based on higher consumption of limited resources like water, energy, earth metals etc. How can the economic ‘experts’ still think this model can continue to work forever?
What we need to learn is to consume less, and to find a balance between what we take from nature, and what we give back, that is sustainable for millennia.
Are countries like the UK and other European countries, north America and maybe other countries not rich enough already? They are, yet there are also many people struggling to afford the basics of life because of such unequal distribution of wealth – what we need is redistribution of wealth not creating more wealth.
Personally, I think that with the global financial crash of 2007-08 and now the affects of coronavirus setting back economic growth again, we may be seeing humanity being forced to acknowledge that the world cannot take any more continuous growth – this period of history may be the end of this phenomenon, and we may be forced to find a globally sustainable way of living quite different from our present way of living.
6. Develop Our Global Consciousness
This event is showing us how all peoples and nations of the world are connected and depend on each other, we share not only trade but also health and disease. The dream of early macrobiotic pioneers who experienced the second world war was to create global peace through biological and personal evolution including the affects of eating a plant based diet which can profoundly change our consciousness. Lets reach out to people around the world, and overcome any enmity we feel towards strangers and people of other cultures and peoples, and again realise we are one people.
7. Value Our Communities
Many people are being forced to depend on their family, neighbours and communities at this time, and are finding a richness in strengthening their bonds with their local community. Didn’t someone say a long time ago, “think globally, act locally’?
And lets value everyone in our society, I am loving seeing people praising the food growers, lorry drivers and supermarket shelf stackers at this time, some of the lowest paid people in our society, who are now seen as being far more important than the workers of many more highly paid jobs. Lets value everyone in our society (Isn’t that what a society is?) and also share out our society’s wealth more evenly. We need the carers of the old and sick, mostly on minimum or near minimum wages, just as much as the bankers, CEOs etc. earning 20, 40 or 60 times more money. We need a change of values to create a healthy society good for all.
More good learnings come to mind, but I think that’s enough from me, what do you feel you are learning through these times, and what do you feel the world needs to learn? When we come out of this, lets stand up for the changes we want to see in this world, and make these changes happen.