Despite the grief, anxiety and disruption, there could also be an upside to the virus if it made people realise what matters and is essential and what is froth.  During lock-down, the carbon foot print will shrink.  Life becomes simpler.  Although there is fear and anxiety about the virus, many other worries disappear or are put on hold. 

I live in a remote spot and do most of my work and communications from home on line.  The current situation thus does not impinge much on my lifestyle.  It is a little odd to know that the rest of the world have been forced into doing what I do all the time.  Although my place is a little paradise, very few people ever come here because it is primitive.  This kind of simple life is not the modern style.  Nobody, it seems, wants to live like this.  Therefore, in all probability, as soon as the virus scare is over, people will quickly try to return to a frenetic pace of “business as usual”. 

I wonder how possible that will be.  Governments and experts all seem to be assuming that this crisis is a brief temporary interruption of things and that there will be a rebound, perhaps as soon as the second half of this year.  They might be right.  However, it is also possible that this crisis is a harbinger of things that will be forced upon us by the growing ecological crisis.

The people who are most at risk of getting the virus are the millions of poor who live in slums and ghettos around the world, as well as refugees in crowded camps and prisoners in jail.  All those groups can hardly escape infection and even if a serum comes along, they will probably be the last to get it.  Their plight may not even be reported.  However, those people - the ones that well-to-do people prefer not to think about - also have the smallest carbon foot print.  As a very recent report points out, it is the rich who are responsible for global warming.

Voluntary poverty is an aspect of the spiritual path.  Buddhist monks and Franciscan friars have practised it for centuries.  Without going to the extreme of three robes and one bowl, there is enormous scope for the simplifying of life if people so choose.

Society is nowadays organised on the premise that increased economic activity is an inherently good thing.  As a result we all own vast amounts of stuff that we do not need, consume far more than is good for us, fill our minds with cravings that have no real meaning, and spend our lives trying to cope with the resulting stress, just in order to keep the financial wheels going round ever faster.  As a result the debt mountains get higher and higher as we sell the future to pay for the present. 

Really this is a species of madness - a psychological virus that does more damage than corona.  If we were to get used to a simpler life, there could be an up-side, but it probably won’t happen.  Nonetheless, those who are of a more religious disposition, who have, in one way or another, been seized by Amida, will savour the possibility.

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  • I am late in finding this post, but I’m aware of a lot of progressive organisations bringing forwards political and economic ideas, such as Green New Deal, Universal Basic Income, Job Guarantee, Tax Justice, Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), New Social Care settlement, so on. Many of them appeal to me and give me hope. But Naomi Kline warns of the tendency to use a crisis to bring in another set of social values - highened security, Increasing nationalism, profiting off share fluctuations and futures speculations, a political elite supporting Economic nepotism. These fill me with dread.

    Your comments remind me of a Lev Tolstoy’s quote (I forget where from) which is that many people think about changing the world, but few people think about changing themselves. And voluntary simplicity poverty and ecological awareness are surely a part of our personal response. I so agree and practice these, and veganism too.

    And yet, the personal can’t be separated from the political, and I am wondering how these relate. How can our individual minuscule actions help change the political landscape and resist the vested interests of money and power?

    Incidentally, in response to your comment ‘As a result the debt mountains get higher and higher as we sell the future to pay for the present. ’ MMT would remind us that for sovereign economies (with national currency issuing banks) Debt is not a problem and need never be repaid. It is not inter-generational debt, but intra-generational, leant by the bank (which the state owns) to the state. Inflation is the issue, but that is no threat at the present.

  • You invited me to winter alone at Amida France when we were assembled at Sahishnus home for the 2012 order meeting. The primitism was desirable but the isolation seemed unimaginable.
    In the last year or two I have tended far more towards solitude. The mania that seems to drive modernism is increasingly unbearable to me. As I am on day four of home isolation and ponder where this is going.
    There is much criticism of lay people suddenly having their own theories of virus behaviour. That's an invitation I can't easily resist.
    China cases to date are about one infection per 14,000 people. While it is far more virulent in Italy there is still to date about one infection per 700 people. So globally and regionally we haven't scratched the surface of herd immunity.
    China has resumed production now to the extent that pollution is again blocking those recent clear skies. As new epidemics surely return there will inevitably be cycles of production followed by the only available cure.... Severe lockdown, testing and tracking.
    This situation is the new normal globally until an effective vaccine is developed at scale. Assuming a vaccine can even be developed. We will have a long time to develop our capacity and enjoyment of solitude. It doesn't auger well for the much vaunted economic recovery that is assumed to be coming in a few months.
    Best wishes David and many thanks for helping turn my mind towards acceptance of solitude. Am finally practicing it.å

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