April 24, 2020
The weather has been very wet and the clouds hang low creating a dark and gloomy time. News coming out of Wuhan, China in January alerted me that a pandemic was coming due to the size of the outbreak and China’s global connections. How do we see the moment at the start of blooming? Thinking of the virus, as it rapidly mutates by taking bits of genetic material from its human hosts, I wonder about its ecological relationship in the world and universe of innumerable galaxies.
In our understanding of virus it is common to degrade and undermine its position–it is all very demeaning–a negative cloud of disdain. The current scientific position is that a virus is not a living organism. Another is the description of its behavior as a parasite–needing to live off a host organism. The current attitude regards virus as a disease. Discussion focuses on mitigation, prevention, treatment, equipment (ventilators), services, vaccines, pharmaceuticals–our human response as being superior over nature: we will win/we will conquer this threat! Indeed, this is the cultural world view in the postindustrial and developed world. Those lacking the means to “fight” it are fatalists. Even in the postindustrial world, world religions encourage fatalistic world views of being in the hands of God, and the almighty dollar is more important than life itself. Alarming how clearly focused viewpoints become at at time of crisis.
Presenting another view: Virus is not a single entity. It is always a plural entity-a mass noun. This perspective is new and has developed from ecological sciences, based on the approach that all is connected–a view of ourselves and the world that evolved during early Hinduism and Buddhist times (500 BCE with written records). Just as when we used to view a single Aspen tree as only one, today we know ecologically that the single Aspen tree is indeed intrinsically part of the whole Aspen forest. The forest is one–not a collection of individual Aspen trees. The health and vitality of the whole is necessary. We could expand this concept of ecological health in many ways, and many have described the ways and means, dating to Rachel Carson’s effort to stop the pollution by pesticides and chemicals, but even more importantly to see the beauty and wonder in nature.
So let’s begin formulating a vision of the world and our understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic on these ancient and modern perspectives. Can we view the virus without rancor? Virus are one of the of the oldest life forms here on earth. They are life itself because they have nucleotide codes of RNA or DNA, which undergo replications and mutations with the aid of host cells. This relationship with the host is the key for understanding our interactional world. All living organisms have relationships with other life forms. Without this relationship, life cannot survive.