Why this won’t work in the post-pandemic age
Paper Prepared for International Webinar on
“The Post Pandemic Global Scenario:
Historical, Political and Philosophical Perspectives”
Joni Dittrich, Ph.D. (Kalisara)
17 June 2020
The wounds in our world are deep. The coronavirus pandemic is causing death, illness and fear, exhausting our health systems and devastating global and local economies in one great unprecedented and dramatic stroke. And yet beneath the woundedness of the pandemic are deeper wounds that the world is still not collectively facing. These of course are the problems of climate change, global warming and the safe and fair distribution of natural resources, food and water.
As we try to understand the problems facing us in the post-pandemic world, some metaphorical lessons from the medical science of wound healing can provide insight. We have long understood that Nature has a way of healing herself. If you get a small cut, often all you need to do is apply a little soap and water, and that handy band-aid. Within hours, bleeding stops and skin that a little while ago was separated has naturally re-sealed itself. Physicians call this “First Intention Healing.”
First Intention Healing means that there is a natural inclination for skin that has been severed to re-unite and become seamless and whole once again. Nature has demonstrated again and again her ability to heal herself: forests that burn down are re-seeded and grow again, often more lushly than before: bodies eventually develop antibodies to certain invading bacteria: a surface wound is sealed over and everything seems good. But such solutions do not work for all problems, particularly those created by people without taking Nature into consideration.
When water runs dry in one well and we pipe in water from another well, is nature going to naturally produce more water to feed the second well? Problems in treatment arise when we don’t look more carefully into the wound we are addressing. How deep is it? Applying a superficial treatment to a deep wound can create an even deeper problem. If skin seals over too quickly, before deep tissue has been cleansed and sterilized, infection may fester beneath the surface and potentially spread more infection throughout the body. This is when “second intention healing” comes into play. In “second intention healing” each layer of the wound must be attended to from the bottom up before stitching together what was severed on the surface.
A patient coming into hospital with cuts from broken glass is at risk of systemic infection and excruciating pain if the surface wound is stitched up without first removing any shards of glass that were propelled beneath the surface. If bone or arteries have been lanced, emergency procedures are required. In such situations the treatment must begin from deep inside and healing only happens from the inside out.
I am sure you begin to see how we can apply the science of wound healing to our current global crises. We tend to first see problems on the surface, those that affect us most immediately. I am more likely to spend money and time on making sure I have a good air conditioner than thinking about global warming. By taking care of the “climate” in my own house I can easily forget that the machine I am using for my personal climate control is contributing to the alarming rate at which our entire earth is warming. I resist looking at deeper issues at the collective level when I have a superficial solution to my own problem. Of course it is much easier for one individual to buy an air conditioner than it is for one person to solve the world’s biggest problems.?? But by not addressing these problems our own individual problems are getting bigger and more difficult to solve. Eventually the systems that support billions of individuals will collapse.
Infection festering under the surface will eventually reach every cell in the body if not targeted and removed. If we don’t seriously contemplate our deepest issues, the surface solutions that we apply will create bigger problems in the long run. So how do we change our consciousness from surface healing to deep healing? I will use the current social upheaval in America as an example of how applying surface treatments to deep wounds is no longer working. And I will propose that the dejection that Americans are currently experiencing may be the beginning of a wake-up call resonating around the world. I am an American with the great good karma of spending lockdown in India at Satychetana Ashram with my guru, Sri Swami Atmananda, one of our key presenters of this webinar. From this vantage point I have been watching what I am seeing as the collective dejection of the American people.
Just as Arjuna experienced dejection on the battlefield of Kuruksetra when he saw friends and relatives on both sides bent to destroy each other in the great Mahabharat war, people in America are experiencing confusion, weariness, and helplessness. A long festering and untreated issue—systematic and interpersonal racism—is rising up to the surface in the form of both violent and peaceful protests.
The killing of George Floyd, a black man, by white police officers happened at a time when the American society and economy was already in chaos as a result of coronavirus. The fact that the devastating effects of layoffs and exposure to the disease have been disproportionately experienced by blacks and other minorities, along with yet another brutal police killing of a black person, has served as a perfect storm for upheaval. What we are seeing in America is the arising of the ugly infection of racism that has been brewing under the surface of American civility for two hundred years. Although many courageous attempts have been made by some American people and leaders to eradicate racism and police brutality, most “cures” seem to have been only surface treatments or band-aids.
How does this crisis in the US compare to Arjuna’s dilemma at Kurukshetre and what is the teaching here for the world? When Arjuna threw down his arms and said, “I will not fight,” he too was experiencing hopelessness, confusion, and an inability to take action. It was as if everything he had ever known and believed in suddenly collapsed and crashed in on him. Arjuna was ready to give up everything he had been trained to do and all he had been working toward in 13 long years of banishment. And what was the advice he got from his Divine Companion? Krishna, his guide and guru, told him, “Stand up and fight, Arjuna.”
In America and across the world people are listening to the guru in their hearts. They are recognizing that what they had previously accepted as status quo is no longer acceptable. Through protests and political action, people are standing together and demanding change. These demands are coming from a consciousness that compels them to look deep inside to the universal truth that every person has the right to safe, fair and equal treatment both under the law and in all social interactions.
Arjunas are waking up all over the world to raise their voices against racial and all injustices. Some of these Arjunas have suffered the indignity of deep prejudice and inequality for generations. Other Arjunas have never before confronted the reality of their own privilege and its contribution toward the festering wounds humankind is facing today. People are in the streets, risking contagion of disease, to fight for their own souls and the Soul of humanity. They are trying to end hypocrisy, oppression and sanctified murder by shining the bright light within into the traumatized world. America, the land of the free, is finding the courage to self-reflect and recognize how the freedom we are so proud to proclaim has never truly been freedom and equality for all.
What impresses me most about what I am witnessing from afar is that people from different “sides” are finally engaging in conversation with one another. People of privilege are listening to the victims of this privilege and asking for their stories, asking how they can change in order to make this world where we can love and live with one another. And the disenfranchised are courageously speaking out in ways that express both the truth of their anger and oppression and the extent of their and aspiration to love and forgive.
It feels to me like a new spiritual awakening may be happening in my country. My hope is that if there can be a new “spiritualization” in America that people everywhere will be inspired to their hearts and take responsibility for their own role in the global pandemics of greed, selfishness and inequality. Already the leaders of other countries, Canada, UK and France are addressing their own systematic racism.
If we can address deep wounds like systematic racism with awakened hearts and minds, perhaps we can also begin to apply this new consciousness to our other global problems of climate change and wealth distribution. When consciousness changes so that we think not just from the mind, but with the heart and soul of our shared humanity, then I feel we will know how to collectively tackle these daunting problems. I hope that it only takes a pandemic to incite this change of consciousness because I am certain that if we do not begin to look at our problems through the lens of the heart, and continue to treat our deep wounds with band-aids, we will only be inviting deeper systemic problems to arise.
By looking through the lens of the heart, humanity just might find the courage to truly wake up from our collective helplessness and dejection, and stand up and fight together like the enlightened Arjuna. Only then, when millions of awakened Arjunas are truly guided by the guru within, and become warriors of the heart, will we know what we need to do to rid ourselves of the infectious toxins of hatred, greed and nationalistic selfishness. Then will we re-configure our social and global structures in order to assure healthy survival and equality for all. In regard to the deep wounds of racism and climate change, never again should innocent people have to cry out, “I can’t breathe!”