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).