There are so many thoughts rambling through my mind. Consider how the COVID-19 pandemic has been compared to a war. How people of color, the poor and the elderly are disproportionately dying from the corona virus. The economic devastation occurring as a result of the measures necessary to contain the contagion. The distressing aspects of the American experience with the pandemic as a political dispute that exacerbates the disease. This must be true of all of us.
Thursday evening, I was watching a documentary on Franklin D. Roosevelt, from the Great Depression through World War II. My understanding of WWII and the Great Depression is informed from a host of historical treatments; standard American (the nation comes together to overcome hardship and fascism), Howard Zinn’s, A People’s History of the United States, film and so many novels among them and colored with my family’s recollections. This documentary was of the man and forces acting upon him through the 13 years of his administration. Was he right or wrong in his actions? Both. What struck me was the disharmony, the partisan political rancor, and FDR’s persistence in the face of crushing adversity. This required a concentrated focus on solutions rather than being consumed by insoluble problems.
Watching white people waving Confederate, American, and Nazi flags, carrying weapons and nooses, while protesting rational public health guidelines depresses me. It makes me despair that our nation is populated by ignorant, bigoted, racist, populists with whom I share extraordinarily little.
A Kansas farmer donated a N95 mask to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month. This gives me hope.
Then on March 28, a veteran paramedic got in an ambulance and drove for 27 hours straight from Colorado Springs to New York City, trading shifts at the wheel with his colleague. They were part of a fleet of 29 private ambulances and 72 medics from across the country, from the company Ambulnz, headed there to ease the burden on the city’s overwhelmed EMS services (The Washington Post). Then we found out he died from COVID -19 and was carried home by a funeral procession. This filled me with a sense of the sacrifice so many are making, in many cases with their lives.
We see the worst of humanity counterposed to the best of humanity. That is the reality of this pandemic. The Great depression and WW II were extreme occurrences that brought out the best and the worst. That is the nature of great calamity.
My emotions go up and down. I apply the principles of the Four Brahma Viharas, 1) Loving Kindness, 2) Compassion, 3) Sympathetic Joy, and 4) Equanimity, so often during this time. Letting myself remain in a state of being angry or hopeful, sad or happy, is not useful and can be debilitating. Speaking for myself, I need to be focused on what I can do, right now, today, this week. This provides a therapy to the emotional roller coaster we might otherwise be on.
Food pantries are running low on food they can make available to families in need. Food insecurity was a problem before the pandemic. Now there is an estimate that the number of children going hungry is three times higher than the number at the height of the Great Recession in 2008. A disruption of the food supply is affecting everyone. To the unemployed it is not a disruption it is famine. Paradoxically, the White House is proposing a cut in the SNAP program (food stamps). Can this be true in the richest country on earth?
There are now over 33 million people recently unemployed starting seven weeks ago, which is approximately a 25% unemployment rate. Economists tell us that there is an undercount due to the way in which unemployment statistics are compiled. Unemployment is at depression levels. People who never would have conceived of going to a food pantry are lining up for hours to receive the diminishing supplies.
Originally, I was thinking of having Tendai Buddhist Institute accept food for delivery to the Chatham Silent Food Pantry. However, after hearing someone from the Capital District Regional Bank on WAMC it is obvious that they can make a dollar go farther than the cans of tomato soup we can donate. Please consider sending a monetary donation at https://regionalfoodbank.net/, http://www.chathamsilentpantry.org/ or the Food Pantry in your area.
Resources that you might find of use or interesting.
- The film we spoke about during the Wednesday Evening Virtual Gathering on April 29th is Fantastic Fungi. It can be rented for $5 at: https://fantasticfungi.com/. For those who were not at the Gathering, this film expresses sentiency in a way that I was not able to convey adequate. After renting it I realized I need to buy it for an occasional reminder of what is at the root of our existence. Have an open mind and celebrate life with this film.
- Nearly 50% of Twitter Accounts Talking about Coronavirus Might Be Bots: Twitter is dealing with a pandemic of bots jamming the platform with misinformation about COVID-19. The link to the article is: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/dygnwz/if-youre-talking-about-coronavirus-on-twitter-youre-probably-a-bot
- An article that provides up to date information on when we might be able to relax social distancing and the issues related to that. This was provided by Chorin Peter Donahoe. The link to the article is: http://erinbromage.wixsite.com/covid19/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them?fbclid=IwAR1MpRPOYTi_omIH1Ib1IOYH2ik4aDzkanzipjNVojwKq63a0j_kQb8-n_4
This last Sunday the 3rd was a glorious day around Tendai Buddhist Institute. The temperature was about 74° f., the sun was shining. Sitting on the front porch, reading The Silk Roads: A New History of The World, Nikki the dog sitting beside me, Tamami was working in the garden, and Kairen was cutting the lawn. Cars were driving on the road in front with some regularity. It certainly did not feel like we had been in isolation for over 60 days. It felt like any Sunday this time of the year. My orientation is one of being in solitude rather than isolation. I am fortunate to be in a position to experience this trying time as solitude. Not everyone is so privileged.
By approaching my days with a sense of gratitude and humility I feel a sense of connectedness with the environment around me, as well as being less lonely and detached from the people who are important to me, such as you, the sangha, the larger community, and all sentient beings.
Reorienting our frame of reference from isolation to solitude does not solve our loneliness or provide false hope. It does give our thoughts space to experience this moment as this moment, this being as this being, without imposing unrealistic expectations and desires. Approaching the sacrifices of others with gratitude and humility provides perspective for constructive reflection.
Knowing that you are not alone in this exceptional time affords a flicker of compassion toward all sentient beings.
Do not despair – focus on what can be done – not on what cannot be done.
You are loved. You are a precious being.
Please accept my prayers and thoughts with an open heart/mind/spirit.
Love and gassho . . . Monshin