COVID-19: Paving Our Way to Global Cooperation

By Lisa Capa

Introduction

In my previous blog on March 31, I wrote a letter to COVID-19 highlighting its impact on me and the importance of shifting focus from the negative thought patterns that can easily occur during this time to a thought pattern that is subject to positively affecting oneself and others. On April 6, our stay at home order was issued, intensifying the isolation and financial pressures people are feeling. In this blog post, I write about what I see occurring since then and how this might impact us on a global scale and then at a more personal level.

There is nothing constant in the universe.
All ebb and flow, and every shape that’s born,
bears in its womb the seeds of change.
–Ovid, Metamorphoses

The first part of this blog is a brief synthesis of discourse about the possible shape of what is happening during this time with a primary focus on COVID-19. Some readers may find this analysis depressing and think “Not another article on COVID-19!”, but I want to assure you that this is not a blog of despair but of hope for the positive seeds of change that is possible for all of us in this time of COVID-19 and other challenging events.

A Period of Uncertainty and Ambiguity

While some areas in the United States and throughout the world are seeing a decline in infections, a New York Times article on the pandemic predicts that the virus is not going away any time soon.

“Exactly how long remains to be seen,” said Marc Lipsitch, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “It’s going to be a matter of managing it over months to a couple of years. It’s not a matter of getting past the peak, as some people seem to believe.”

The article describes two recent studies that map out the possible shapes of the COVID-19 trajectory. Both studies similarly conclude that COVID-19 activity will be around for at least another 18 to 24 months and that “a single round of social distancing — closing schools and workplaces, limiting the sizes of gatherings, lockdowns of varying intensities and durations — will not be sufficient in the long term.”

Interestingly Richard Tarnas, cultural historian and professor of philosophy and psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, in a recent talk indicated that the astrological aspects for this year and next year, and possibly the year after, are influencing global events and that they support transformational changes on varying scales: globally, nationally, regionally and personally.

What I find interesting about the conclusions of the studies that map out possible shapes of the COVID-19 trajectory (a traditional scientific perspective) and the astrological aspects of this time period according to Richard Tarnas (an alternative science perspective), is that they both appear to agree we are in for 2 years of challenging times. The challenges of this time period may not be limited to just the impact of COVID-19, but may be triggered and feed upon other important transformational catalysts such as the social justice impact of George Floyd’s death, and the global threat of climate change. A perspective on all of this is to see that within these coexisting transformational catalysts are the positive seeds of a change that is possible for all of us.

What the recent studies, Tarnas’ talk, and other sources (a couple articles can be found here and here) anticipate is that with COVID-19 a public health and safety recovery to a new normal is most likely not V-shaped or U-shaped. What is meant by V or U-shaped is that a life-changing event happens, we bottom out, then we rise and recover (a U-shaped recovery means that rising and recovering take longer). Instead, recovery to a new normal could be more W-shaped (or multiple W-shapes strung together) where certainty and clarity could be short-lived followed by another bottoming out (because the virus infection rate gets too high and overloads the social systems we have in place), followed by another recovery period followed by another decline, and so forth, as we make our way to herd immunity with this virus. This second (or third or fourth) wave of the pandemic will be characterized by further uncertainty and ambiguity—Am I going to get the virus this time? Will our retirement savings be enough? Will I still have a job in the next six months?

A Potential Inspiration for Change

I would like to articulate a global vision that may inspire us to face a possible prolonged W-shaped recovery.

In early May, our governor has issued the Safe Start plan for a phased re-opening of Washington state’s economy, balancing between public health and economic health, an effort which requires heightened levels of cooperation and coordinated efforts among a population of 7.6 million. There is a Western States Pact among a group of states which have agreed on a shared vision for reopening, mirrored by other regional pacts reflecting similar cooperative efforts elsewhere in the United States. In other efforts to address the current crisis, countries around the world are coordinating travel plans: the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have collaborated on a travel plan, (and have since opened their borders to each other). New Zealand and Australia are similarly cooperating.

There is a pattern I am seeing here: intra- and inter-country cooperation. While cooperation at these scales may not be unheard of for reasons other than a pandemic (e.g. war), the things that make this pattern of global cooperation unique are that 1) it is truly global (i.e., usually even in a large-scale – e.g., world – war, countries are only cooperating with their allies) and 2) it is a response intended to save humanity as a whole, not just some segment of humanity impacted by a regionalized event.

Recently there has been a call for international efforts to reopen safely on a multilateral scale across governments, institutions and businesses. What I see happening as we are all being impacted by the effects of this virus is an invitation for cooperation not just regionally or between countries, but on a global level. (Here is an article on the importance of global cooperation to save the world’s food system during the time of COVID-19.)

This call for global cooperation is also being made in other coexisting transformational catalysts as the death of George Floyd reverberates around the world, and as an opportunity is available to flatten the climate change curve.

Everything is connected to everything else; therefore,
any aspect of our healing and development is related to all the others
(personal, social, cultural, political, economic, etc.).
When we work on any one part, the whole circle is affected.
–Four Worlds International and
United Indians of All Tribes Foundation,
An Indigenous Contribution for Building Sustainable and
Harmonious Prosperity in the Americas

This spectacle of countries cooperating across borders for the common good of all people holds the potential to transform what might be seen as a negative event into a positive one. It is as if what is happening with the virus (as well as other coexisting transformational catalysts), something understandably viewed as negative, is potentially a unifying force for all of us—a unifying force that we can direct towards the positive. We are being given a “crash course” in interconnectedness, a chance to witness, in real time, in our own backyards and across the planet, the ways in which the fate of one part is the fate of the whole circle.  In order to navigate this successfully, we are being called upon to take care of each other in ways we never considered before, in ways we never had to consider before.  The virus can be seen as inviting us to new levels of positivity and possibility.

Our Connection to Supporting Global Cooperation

Okay, so that is a vision about what might be offered on a global level. And now what might this mean for us on a more personal level, given that we maybe are facing a prolonged W-shaped recovery? Instead of reacting from a state of panic, how might I contribute in some way to something as large scale as global cooperation without getting overwhelmed?

In past blog posts, I’ve written about the Big Life experience I had and the insights I gained from it. Similar in meaning to the quote above from Four Worlds International and United Indians of All Tribes Foundation, I learned that we are interconnected with each other and with some greater consciousness. Also, an individual’s thoughts, words, and actions can be subject to affecting the overall vibrancy of the whole circle, with negative thoughts, words or actions being a burden and positive ones being a contribution.

With recovery from the impact of the virus potentially being W-shaped, it is not hard to imagine that the next 2 years is a period of uncertainty and ambiguity on a personal level. In this time period, my ability to handle uncertainty and ambiguity may be tested repeatedly. Choosing to be a passive recipient, or “victim,” of this uncertainty and ambiguity is subject to creating states of stress, fear and anxiety, debilitating one personally and decreasing the ability to respond effectively. Instead, making a choice to engage in intentional practices to grow my capacity to handle uncertainty and ambiguity with positivity during this time frame can actually increase that capacity. This can then increase my positive responses, and hence contribute to the vibrancy of us all. Here is a scenario that illustrates this:

As my husband approaches retirement during this time frame, there is uncertainty about whether we have saved enough money. There is uncertainty and ambiguity about how well we will safely navigate this time physically, mentally, and financially. Can we see our family and friends in person and not infect them or get infected? Will I become a victim of Asian racism linked to COVID-19? How will the rising cost of basic necessities affect us?

These questions and more contribute to the uncertainty and ambiguity that periodically weigh me down. When I leave the home, in addition to potentially carrying this weight, I need to remember to bring a mask. (Wearing a mask is a personal choice. I am sharing my experience here as a metaphor in aid of my point and not as an agenda to convince you to wear one.) I wear a mask when in a place where it is difficult to be socially distant. When I am wearing a mask for a long period of time, like on a narrow hiking trail where others pass by me regularly, it gets quite uncomfortable—my masks starts to get hot and wet with saliva and breathing becomes more difficult. On those days, when uncertainty and ambiguity wear me down, an uncomfortable mask becomes a symbol of the strangling hold the impact of COVID-19 has on me, and I just want to rip off the mask and feel free.

But according to British’s top science academy, Royal Society, wearing a mask, even my home-made one, “could reduce onward transmission,” thus doing my part to help reduce the spread of the virus to others and to myself—a positive act subject to contributing positively to the vibrancy of the whole circle. So, ripping off the mask or not putting it on in the first place due to the stress of the uncertainty and ambiguity in my life, may be a negative act, and thus a burden to the whole circle. In this instance keeping my mask on requires me not being a victim to the uncertainty and ambiguity that I feel is happening in my life.

How might this example I just shared contribute in any way global to cooperation? Similar to the concepts of the butterfly effect, Web of Life, and Indra’s Net, my experience of Big Life gave me a visceral sense of how my negative or positive thoughts, words and/or actions can negatively or positively affect the whole of life on Earth because everything, especially us humans, is interconnected and interdependent. According to the Brookings Institute, “Pandemic prevention and containment is a global public good, and providing it requires increased global coordination as well as adaptive, temporary, and coordinated decoupling [e.g. restricted air travel].” This will require keeping channels of communication open so that people directly involved in this global public good for COVID-19, as well as other global transformational catalysts, can do their work. While I’m not directly involved in this effort, by me working on being more positive in thoughts, words and actions, through increased capacity to handle uncertainty and ambiguity with positivity, I am not burdening the whole circle—I am helping to contribute and lift the whole circle, something I can easily imagine is needed for those people directly involved in a global cooperation effort.

Conclusion

In summary, a possible overall impact of COVID-19, as well as other transformational catalysts, are an invitation to global cooperation, and one’s contribution to this vision is to learn to navigate this possible 2-year challenging period by increasing one’s capacity to handle uncertainty and ambiguity with positivity: Think globally, act locally, grow personally. For the health of the entire planet through global cooperation, take action locally, and, through one’s interactions with others on a local scale, intentionally set one’s sights on personal development.

In my next blog post, I will write more about increasing one’s capacity to handle uncertainty and ambiguity with positivity. I invite you to come along.

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are inspired from the author’s experience of the essence of Dynamic Peace and are not intended to reflect the official policy or position of Dynamic Peace. Assumptions made in this analysis are not reflective of any entity other than the author. The viewpoints and biases, if any, of the resources (news clips, videos, articles, etc.) used in this blog are not intended to reflect those of Dynamic Peace and its members.

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10 Comments

  1. Dawn
    Reply June 16, 00:27 #1 Dawn

    Thank you for acknowledging the situation we are all in and providing the supporting resources. Although at first I felt a moment of dread, your article gave me a deeper sense of hope for the changes that will occur. I feel a connection with people
    around the globe.

    • Lisa Capa
      Reply June 16, 00:42 Lisa Capa Author

      Thank you, Dawn. The quote in the beginning by Ovid helps me to see that in challenging times, there are seeds of light for what may come should we water these seeds. Like Richard Tarnas, I do think that the cosmos is compassionate, and should we choose to water these seeds of light the cosmos will back us with its support.

  2. Marcela
    Reply June 14, 16:10 #2 Marcela

    Thank you for this article Lisa, it helped me to relate the anxiety I feel sometimes with the ambiguity and uncertainty you talk about. Looking forward to read your next article!

    • Lisa Capa
      Reply June 14, 16:50 Lisa Capa Author

      Thank you, Marcela. I’m glad this article was of help. I do find myself still being caught by the ambiguity and uncertainty. The practices I have do help a lot. I plan to post future blogs about these practices and more.

  3. John
    Reply June 13, 17:57 #3 John

    Thanks, Lisa, for your thoughtful reflection and insight. The W fits for my perspective and reminds me that wherever we are on the curve invites us to be present in the now. In so doing we add to the critical mass creating a mindset for a world that works for all. That is the direction I want to go.
    namaste

    • Lisa Capa
      Reply June 13, 19:11 Lisa Capa Author

      Thank you, John. When I originally started writing this piece, the resurgence of covid-19 cases weren’t happening as much as they are now. So it seems more obvious now that the shape of things is more W whether we like it or not. I consider “being more here now” and “being in the doing” as a life long practice of mine, basically a path I take very seriously. I totally agree with your statement: “wherever we are on the curve invites us to be present in the now. In so doing we add to the critical mass creating a mindset for a world that works for all.” Well said!

  4. Mary
    Reply June 11, 00:12 #4 Mary

    Thank you for this thoughtful and hopeful perspective. “A perspective on all of this is to see that within these coexisting transformational catalysts are the positive seeds of a change that is possible for all of us.” It’s so challenging to develop my own capacity for ambiguity and uncertainty to be big enough to stay balanced these days—I appreciate a perspective that reminds me of the bigger, more transformational picture and to uunderstand my own actions within that bigger context.

    • Lisa Capa
      Reply June 11, 04:59 Lisa Capa Author

      Hi Mary, Thank you for your words. I’m glad this post gave you a helpful perspective on these times. It does help me to know that in the darkness there is always the light.

      • Auky
        Reply June 19, 04:41 Auky

        Hi Lisa,
        I really appreciate all the threads you are bringing together, and all the levels you point to that bring this message to us pointing to the positive and the possible, a scale from stellar to intercontinental to communal to individual (external choices and internal states of being. Thanks for putting it out there for all our benefit!

        • Lisa Capa
          Reply June 19, 16:41 Lisa Capa Author

          Thank you, dear Auky. I like that you write about the threads that come together. I deeply listened and read, and then patterns emerged. I think many other people also sees patterns for all of us to consider.