Another Systems View of This Virus and These Times

Each year at this time, I marvel at the first sight of Crocus. This photo above is from the weekend, near my front door — while other plants remain a few steps behind waking to spring, the Crocus burst forward with intoxicating purple. I marvel at the delicate flower that seems to act as a bold scout, the first to arrive, to signal to the others, it’s OK to start growing and blooming. Where I live, Crocuses are brave bad-asses of the flowering bulb world. 

So, these times…. Like many, I’ve been trying to make sense of things. I’m not a doctor or nurse (though I often consider my work with groups to be about health). I’m not an economist or political figure (though I often think of my work as about creating growth and sustainability). I’m a group process person, that comes from an orientation of living systems, and that has particular interest in how the humanity of things plays out in a world in which everything is connected to everything.

I’ve been afraid. Yup. Worried. Yup. Trying to offer clarity to those near me. Yup.

Here’s some of that clarity, a few headlines, from my systems brain and heart as I try to follow things.

The Biological View — this is a robust flu and cold. It’s not the first of history. It’s not the last either. Living systems adapt and mutate and insist on expression. That’s true for people and for a virus. CoVid doesn’t have a cure. No vaccine possible at this point. It’s novel. If left on it’s own (no social distancing and no systems shut down), I’ve heard estimates that 50-70% of people would become infected, perhaps over a 3 month – 1 year period (though with the infection pace of this virus, a year feels way to long). It’s a lot of illness, confusion, and death — and yet, some natural immunity that would likely grow too.

The Economical / Financial View — it seems that the powers that be, I think political leaders in conjunction with world health officials and infectious disease experts, have chosen, in a very difficult and gutsy way, the projected lesser painful impact of two very punishing economic realities. The strategy is social distancing, closure, etc. so that we might have a more fighting chance once this wave of virus, infection, and illness passes. The alternative strategy is to let it ride. Don’t shut down anything in this “flatten the curve way” that is currently implemented, surreally, at global scale. Strategically, “let it ride” would have resulted in mandatory shut down anyway.

In my mind the Biology and Economy / Finance are two circles of a Venn diagram. But rather that just slightly touching, they almost completely overlap. The biological has massive impact on the economical. That’s all in play right now.

I would suggest that a third circle in this diagram (and yes, it’s all oversimplified — these are just symbols to represent larger dynamics) is the Emotional / Psychological / Spiritual View. This is the one that requires us to come into relationship with fear, with death, etc. 

The EPS circle is the more neglected one here. Because it’s not something you just snap up at the grocery store. In the Emotional / Psychological / Spiritual, there isn’t a hand washing or social distancing that works. EPS requires a commitment to dive deeply with self and others into truths most often avoided or denied.

These three circles go together. Each is impacting the other — not in a just barely impacting way, but rather, in an almost entirely overlapping way. 

Here’s a few truths that grow out of this work to me, that matter now, today, with human beings everywhere:

  1. We are not in control, no matter how attractive the illusion has been for centuries, but particularly amplified in the industrial age. This is such an offense to so many of the western world and its traditions.
  2. Things are uncertain; they always have been. CoVid19 is not the first messenger to shock us. Uncertainty has always been part of reality — it’s just one of the favorites to deny. Again, offense to western world, yet at the heart of many spiritual traditions.
  3. There is much unknown; there always as been. See truth #2. I’m most fond of stating with groups that there is always “more unknown and unseen than known and seen.” It welcomes more truth telling.
  4. We are, and can be creative. That’s one of the things that defines us as humans. We have choices, some very bold, that can feed and nourish who we are in these CoVid times. Lots going online. I applaud the gumption to try things. Doesn’t have to be perfect.
  5. We are, and can be, resilient. This is not the first human test of resiliency. This is one that has amplified scale and intensity. But human beings want to be resilient. Bad-assed, like Crocus.

* The above post is also available as a podcast (9 minutes).




Well, these are quite the times, aren’t they.

Lots of stuff happening on the inside — fears, worries. And on the outside — closures, cancellations, postponements. 

There is pain, let’s be clear. I tell myself that there will be more. Infections are spreading. The math is rather stunning.

There is need, let’s be clear on this also, to be calm. This is something that many of us know. Being calm (yet not blind denying) can also be infectious, with stunning math.

“Social distancing” is recommended approach. Yes. As is true with other forms of flu and cold, it’s best not to share. That’s what health officials and infectious disease experts tell us. So, we do our best. Wash hands. 

I want to name as additional recommendation how important it is, in these times, to spike together kindness, consciousness, and perseverance. “Community” isn’t newly important. It’s always mattered. How we express it might be different, but I want to stand for each of these — kindness, consciousness, perseverance — as inner commitments and attitudes.

This isn’t a zombie apocalypse. I suppose I don’t know that for sure. But I’ll guess that it isn’t likely.

What’s being revealed, in this times, I would suggest, is a dynamic of “everything is connected to everything.” It can rather fry the circuitry of our brains, our plans, our routines to be so “interrupted.”

Some people are dying. Yes. There are particular demographics of people that are most vulnerable. Yes. Lives are being changed. Yes. Some people are really confronting fear and worry. Yes. And pain. Yes.

Perhaps one of the things that will be birthed is in all of this is a different relationship with “normal.” Perhaps — and I’m suggesting this is a good thing — more of us will embrace inherent uncertainties and unknowns, that will grow us into a kinder people together.

“Everything is connected to everything” isn’t new. We humans are just seeing it in a unique way, and seeing it everywhere on news programs and in social media, whether named that way or not.

“Inherent vulnerability” isn’t new either. We humans are seeing it in a rather robust way, in these times.

Friends, “perseverance” is also not new. These times call for us to remember what we know, to not increase heroic denial, but rather to increase honesty and good listening — with ourselves and with others.

Prevention and “flattening the curve” are real. Because people are dying. People are getting sick.

I want to continue to invite in myself and with others, some of the most important and needed medicine in these times, coming to relationship with our own vulnerabilities. It’s waking to some of our denial patterns. It’s expanding our choices of response beyond numbing and fear. It’s growing. And turning to one another, with other people, who are also trying to figure that out. It’s not perfection to demand of each other, in these times. It’s willingness to approach the new, and perhaps, remember it as old.

There is a teacher here. It just might be a very different teacher than we thought. There is learning here. It just might be different than we thought it would be. There is humanity growing.

Here’s a few CoVid resources that I’ve particularly appreciated.

The Whidbey Institute’s (a retreat center) initial announcement — I loved their offering of practicality, and a call to “generous response.”

Tomas Pueyo’s Medium article (thanks Amanda Fenton for sharing), Why You Must Act Now — lots of projections and statistical conjecture that names the truth and robustness of living systems.

From GirlTrek (thanks Quanita Roberson for sharing) — this naming that there are people among us that have persevered before, and there are grandmothers that remind us of who we are.

This BBC article, 11 Questions Answered — Because I want to be informed enough, fierce enough, and discerning enough to know when to seek help, and when to take care of self.