Category Archives: psychology

Delta Blues, or how I spent my summer not being able to take a vacation

We still need all of these layers.

When I started writing this post, I was planning on a straightforward update on the current situation with the delta variant (sorry, I couldn’t resist the obvious title). And then a 13-year-old killed a classmate at a local middle school for no discernible reason. And then the Taliban took back Afghanistan.

The murdered boy was trying to talk his killer out of continuing to bully his friends. He stood up to him with words, doing exactly what most of us would teach our kids to do, what my daughter would do, what I would do. The right thing.

Going into Afghanistan was never the right thing. I remember writing “Can you say ‘quagmire’?” back then. Three quarters of Americans thought this war was a great idea. I was part of the other quarter. I take no pleasure in being right in this case. Afghanistan continues its reputation as the “graveyard of empires.”

In order to avenge the deaths of 3000 Americans, we killed or maimed tens of thousands more, plus tens of thousands of Afghans and then Iraqis, naturally including myriad children. We spent 20 years and a couple of trillion dollars and we accomplished what looks right now to be little or nothing.

And to begin with, the perpetrators of 9/11 were Saudis, and we never gave Saudi Arabia the slightest grief over that. We always fought the wrong battles for the wrong reasons. For so many years we, that is, our leaders knew we were failing and we just kept on going, perhaps in the belief that whenever we left things would be exactly as bad as they are now. And things were always worse than we realized.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/2021/08/10/afghanistan-papers-book-dick-cheney-attack/

I suppose I should not be surprised that instead of effectively fighting this pandemic and its wide-ranging ills, we spend so much of our energy fighting each other.

Pulling the Fangs Back

Anger at the unvaccinated and the irresponsible among us is real. While a more-transmissible strain like delta was bound to come along, wider uptake of vaccines and more stringent adherence to public health common sense would have helped limit the damage, and would still damp down the development of newer variants. Our US deniers and anti-vaxxers are only one aspect of this; many governments have been too poor or too inefficient to get vaccines out to the majority of their people. But seeing Americans die or cause others to get sick because they haven’t taken the most obvious steps to avoid it is maddening.

Dr. John Lapook said, on the Stephen Colbert show on 8/16, “We come into these conversations coiled.” He suggested “pulling the fangs back” when trying to convince someone that getting vaccinated would be a good idea. I didn’t realize how “coiled” I was until I ran into a certain friend at an outdoor event in July. She announced that she wasn’t hugging anyone because she wasn’t vaccinated, which she said was because of her health condition. She really does have a condition in which it’s reasonable to be extremely cautious about medications, but it could just as easily be said that she needs the vaccine all the more because of it— her situation is honestly a bit fuzzy and it’s not crazy that she has hesitated. She has also fallen for a lot of the misinformation, though, and that has been frustrating to deal with. Anyway, I lit into her. Without knowing I was going to do it, I snapped at her. That is, I snapped. She reacted just as badly. Not a productive exchange.

A doctor in Alabama has even refused to see patients who are not vaccinated. ‘“If they asked why, I told them covid is a miserable way to die and I can’t watch them die like that,” wrote Valentine, who has specialized in family medicine with Diagnostic and Medical Clinic since 2008.’ Alabama has the lowest vaccination rate in the US and a high number of residents hospitalized with COVID.


Summer Non-Vacation— Why Is This Happening?

What did you want to do this summer? I wanted to have the party I didn’t get for my 60th birthday last year. (Oh, well— at least I was alive to have another birthday!) It’s very unclear what to do now. Nothing involving a large group of people, certainly. Is it OK to have a small outdoor gathering with vaccinated family and friends? And should we stop attending any non-crucial indoor events of any kind, even with masks and good ventilation? How much have things changed now that delta has taken over?

Amanda Mull wrote a compassionate piece about where we stand with these questions, “Delta Has Changed the Pandemic Risk Calculus.”
‘Assessing risk pre-vaccination was often bleak, but at least the variables at play were somewhat limited: ventilation, masks, crowds, local spread. Now the number of additional, usually hyper-specific questions that people must ask themselves is itself a barrier to good decision making, says Jennifer Taber, a psychologist at Kent State University who studies health risk assessment. “When people feel like things are uncertain, they engage in avoidance,” Taber told me. That can manifest in disparate ways. An unwillingness to acknowledge that many new things are safe for the average vaccinated person is avoidance. So is a refusal to continue taking even minor precautions for the benefit of others.’
https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2021/08/delta-variant-pandemic-risk-safety/619798/

A big part of my job as a clinician is helping patients to sort through all the available information to answer health questions like this, and it’s not easy these days. Just as we’ve been through the entire pandemic, we’re still flying by the seat of our pants, trying to keep up with ever-changing conditions and advice. The rise of delta has been a predictable but chaotic and confusing development that hit us with a bait and switch just when we thought we were getting our lives back. It’s still new and we’re still figuring it out.

What I mean by predictable is that this is normal virus behavior. A more transmissible variant will obviously outcompete others, and it would have been a surprise had we not seen a variant like this eventually. Viruses “want” to produce as many copies of themselves as possible, and any mutation that leads to more chances to replicate is great for them.

In general, causing less illness and death is also good for viruses, because having hosts walking around spreading viral particles results in far more replication than having hosts lying isolated in hospital beds, or in graves. So over time a viral species is likely to become more transmissible but less deadly. Sadly, delta seems to cause at least as much and as severe disease as earlier forms of COVID, maybe more.
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/delta-variant.html

We had some small hope of getting enough people vaccinated quickly enough, as a planet, to limit the possibility of worse new variants popping up. We didn’t make it, and that too was predictable. Viruses can adapt much faster than we can. We can still hope to escape without a far more dangerous variant coming along, but time is not on our side. The more humans there are who cannot access or will not accept vaccines, and the more who refuse to take other precautions, the more opportunities the virus has to mutate.

Here’s a good way of putting it:
‘You might think of viral replication as buying lottery tickets, in which the virus accumulates random mutations that very occasionally help it spread. And the fewer lottery tickets the virus has, the less likely it is to hit the mutation jackpot. The appearance of troubling new variants may slow down.’*

The now-famous Provincetown outbreak around the 4th of July has taught us a great deal.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/08/05/provincetown-covid-outbreak/
The area population was so highly vaccinated that the tens of thousands of visitors who descended on the place didn’t worry about getting sick. They even packed cheek by jowl into indoor venues, without a mask in sight. No one expected to need them. Here you can get a sense of just how packed together the revelers got:
https://theboatslip.com/tea-dance
Then some folks noticed they were feeling unwell or had lost their sense of smell. By that time it was dawning on us all that delta was different and that we had been wrenched into a yet another new reality where we had to learn the rules all over again.

The misinformation mill has seized on Provincetown’s experience as an example of vaccines not working. That’s not remotely the case. Yes, 74% of the infections were in vaccinated people, but with over 900 infections, there were only 7 hospitalizations and zero deaths. An unvaccinated population would have a very, very different outcome. This article explains everything you need to know about the outbreak and what it means for the rest of us:
https://www.factcheck.org/2021/08/scicheck-posts-misinterpret-cdcs-provincetown-covid-19-outbreak-report/

You could just read the article, and you should, but I’m going to summarize some key points:

— Imagine a population that was 100% vaccinated. Vaccines are not perfect, so there would be some infections, and 100% of them would occur in vaccinated people.
— Infections in vaccinated people are rare, but since the vaccinated population consists of hundreds of millions of people, a significant number of people do get infected.
— The most important thing: With current strains of the virus, even if one does become infected, vaccination means essentially no chance of dying and very little chance of becoming severely ill.
— It looks like vaccinated people may harbor as much viral material in their noses as unvaccinated ones if they get infected, but infection doesn’t get as far into the body and the viral load goes down quickly as the immune system responds.

Research is ongoing to try to determine how likely an infected vaccinated person is to transmit the virus. That may be less than some studies suggest. From the same article:
‘For one, these sorts of PCR tests are good at identifying viral RNA, but they can’t tell whether that genetic material is in an intact, infectious virus particle or not. That becomes especially relevant for vaccinated people, Deepta Bhattacharya, an immunologist at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, said.
‘“Antibodies from a vaccinated person can coat the released virus and keep it from infecting other cells,” he told us. “And T cells can kill infected cells, releasing viral genetic material but not infectious particles.”
‘Second, the tests are only looking for RNA present in the nose and throat, not the lungs — even though vaccines are likely to have more of an impact there, according to previous research.
‘“Though it isn’t entirely clear how much of transmission comes from the lungs vs. the nose and throat,” Bhattacharya said in an email, “it is almost certainly some.” That would also suggest a vaccinated person with a similar cycle threshold as an unvaccinated person would be less infectious.
‘Vaccinated people also likely aren’t infected as long, since their immune systems are quicker to respond to the virus, which would also make them less likely to infect as many people as an unimmunized person.’

Here is a similar explainer, with data from the UK, where delta has run rampant:
https://theconversation.com/covid-the-reason-cases-are-rising-among-the-double-vaccinated-its-not-because-vaccines-arent-working-164797

Another highly vaccinated place that’s weathered a recent surge is Iceland.
‘Iceland, the experts say, is providing valuable information about breakthrough infections in the fully inoculated. Yet it also remains a vaccine success story.’
https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/iceland-has-been-a-vaccination-success-why-is-it-seeing-a-coronavirus-surge/ar-AANl2dx +

As with the surge in England, soccer was involved. ‘The country’s top health officials linked most of the cases to nightclubs and to residents who traveled to London to attend Euro 2020 soccer matches that some warned would be “a recipe for disaster.”’

Epidemiologist Brandon Guthrie gave some perspective in the Iceland article:
‘“We’ve handicapped ourselves in what the definition of success is,” he said. Scientists originally hoped for vaccines that were 50 percent effective, he said, and the goal was to prevent death and severe disease — not to provide blanket protection against any chance of infection.’
That is, the current reduced effectiveness of the vaccines is about as good as we hoped vaccines would be in the first place. Keep that in mind whenever you feel like despairing.

Even if it’s been quite a while since you were vaccinated, and you don’t have a lot of antibodies circulating in your blood, your T and B cells still remember how to recognize and fight SARS-CoV-2. Infection won’t get into your lungs because it will have been fought off by that time. It may take as much as 5-6 days for the body to marshal a good crop of antibodies, but generally it would take 10 or more days for a COVID infection to get as far as the lungs.

But meanwhile, kids are getting sick and being hospitalized, and some of them are dying of this disease that too many adults insist is no big deal for them. Vaccines for the under-12 cohort are on the way, but at this point the behavior of adults is the only real protection younger kids have, and in too many places adults are doing a crappy job.

“This new variant is a major contributor, but a major issue is that people’s behavior has changed,” said Gigi Gronvall, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “I don’t think we can absolve people and leaders of responsibility for this because it gives them a pass. The reason kids are getting infected is because we don’t have those precautions and parents and households are getting infected.”
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/kids-sick-covid-are-filling-children-s-hospitals-areas-seeing-n1276238

‘Kline said it is unclear what kind of long-term effects babies and children will face.
‘Specifically, Kline referenced the brain fog adults see after contracting the virus.
‘”How does that affect a baby who is still having a developing brain? We just don’t know.”
‘Kline said another concern is cardiac issues in children.
‘”It worries me a lot that people say sure, kids can get COVID-19 but most of them recover uneventfully,” said Kline. “We know almost nothing about what those infections could produce down the line. I think there is a real risk that a proportion of these kids will have some long-term effects.”’
https://www.wdsu.com/article/new-orleans-louisiana-children-sick-covid-19-unvaccianted-adults-responsible/37259391

And all this is before school starts in a lot of the country.

Conspiracy Theory Roundup

For the sake of readers who live in a bright future where this craziness is forgotten: Droves of parents are currently following right-wing leaders and fighting requirements to wear masks in schools, sometimes with physical violence against teachers, principles, health care providers, and other parents.

As far as I’m concerned, there is no excuse for willful failure to protect children; I suppose it relates to that tendency toward avoidance when things feel uncertain. Yet, even the parents who give the most insane reasons for refusing to let their kids wear masks believe they are doing their best for them. Some may have thought things through and come up with vaguely rational justifications, but most have surely spent too much time in the conspiracy-verse, where they find an endlessly creative cornucopia of crap being produced every day.

The funniest example going around is the claim that vaccinated people will grow tails. My first reaction to that was Cool!  Unlike the claim that we become magnetic, this one cleverly avoids being immediately disproven by saying that the tails will grow at some point in the future. At least that’s how I heard it. I hope it doesn’t take too long….

For a while we were hearing that women would become infertile if they were vaccinated. Now the same scary disinformation is being aimed at men.
https://www.factcheck.org/2021/06/scicheck-research-rebuts-baseless-claims-linking-covid-19-vaccines-to-male-infertility/

Oddly enough, sperm counts have actually been found to increase after vaccination! The reason is unclear, but it’s been a consistent effect.
https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2781360
“Sperm Parameters Before and After COVID-19 mRNA Vaccination”

President Former Guy rejected masks and publicly visible vaccinations as making him look less manly, but hey, maybe vaccines make for more manliness. I think we should really hammer on this selling point!

(Stephen Colbert pointed out that the conspiracy theory that vaccines cause a drop in fertility must be true— all those elderly people were vaccinated first, and sure enough none of them have had kids since.)

A more insidious claim is the one that COVID is being brought in by people coming over the border from Mexico; this is in line with centuries of blaming “foreigners” for disease. And of course it neatly deflects blame from the GOP fearmongers and unvaccinated Americans who are actually driving the high case counts. But this too is easily disprovable. We know that the bulk of transmission is coming from people within the US, not those coming from elsewhere, because we can track the genomes of various strains of the virus and see who is carrying which and where those strains are prevalent.

The lieutenant governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, added further venom to this trope by disgustingly blaming Black Texans for the state’s horrific rise in COVID illness and deaths. Patrick is the same guy who last year said people over 70, like him, should be willing to sacrifice their lives in order to keep the economy going. And he’s only doubled down in the face of criticism of his racist statements, which again are easily disproven.
‘Patrick acknowledged Texas’ public-health crisis — rising cases, hospitalizations, and fatalities — and said he’s aware of the criticisms of the state’s Republican leadership. But the lieutenant governor insisted the blame be directed at unvaccinated African Americans, not the GOP officials who remain passive toward the pandemic.
‘”The Democrats like to blame Republicans,” Patrick said. “Well, the biggest groups in most states is African Americans who are not vaccinated. Last time I checked, over 90 percent of them vote for Democrats in their major cities and major counties.”’
‘…In fact, the latest data suggests unvaccinated White Texans outnumber unvaccinated Black Texans by a roughly three-to-one margin.’
https://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/dan-patrick-falsely-blames-covid-surge-unvaccinated-black-texans-n1277307

Meanwhile, Patrick’s cohort Governor Greg Abbott continues to interfere with requirements for masks around the state in the name of “freedom.” He’s getting plenty of pushback, but why should anyone have to use up their energy— or money— fighting for the right to protect their or their children’s health? Meanwhile taxpayers’ funds are drained away in court battles the state need never have started, instead of meeting real human needs. If only we could immunize against stupidity and self-serving political posturing.

One way out of the mess is to make masking voluntary, but as pediatrician Dr. Danny Benjamin said, a voluntary masking policy is “like having a no-peeing section in a pool.”

Onward with Delta Force

A major development just occurred: the FDA approved the Pfizer vaccine, so it is no longer being given under an Emergency Use Authorization. Moderna was later to submit data but its approval will be coming along soon. Many of the vaccine-hesitant have said this would make a difference in their acceptance of the shots.

The biggest question among my patients right now is when and where boosters will be available. I’m in the camp that wonders whether large numbers of us privileged sorts should be getting a third dose when so much of the world hasn’t even had a first one. We’re told that there are plenty of doses to go around in the US and that we can both give extra protection to Americans and send vaccines to poorer countries, but I personally don’t feel great about using a dose someone else may desperately need, and I recognize that the only way to protect everyone is to protect everyone.**

Giving a third dose to organ transplant recipients on immunosuppressants and others who have not been able to mount a strong response to their original vaccination is a different matter and a clear benefit as far as we know. For the rest of us, we’re told that we should probably get a booster about 8 months after our second shot. For me and a lot of health care workers, that’s early October, so we’ll need to decide pretty soon.

Surprisingly, it appears that flu shots give some protective effect against a range of severe symptoms of COVID. I was figuring that since I would likely stay masked this winter, and that if pandemic limitations continued we might have little or no flu season last year, a flu shot would be pretty worthless. The risk/benefit calculation has changed again. The authors suggest that for populations that have not had access to COVID vaccines, flu vaccine might be better than nothing.
https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0255541
“Examining the potential benefits of the influenza vaccine against SARS-CoV-2: A retrospective cohort analysis of 74,754 patients”

What about those who have already had COVID? Aren’t they immune? They do have some protection, though we aren’t sure how long it lasts. However, since the virus has ways to evade the immune system as part of its normal strategy, natural infection doesn’t confer immunity as well as the vaccine. If you have both a history of natural infection and the vaccine, you have the highest possible level of immune response. For you, a vaccine is essentially a booster. (Similarly, if you become infected despite being vaccinated, the disease has a booster effect.)
https://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2021/03/covid-19-survivors-may-be-able-skip-2nd-vaccine-dose

Last year when vaccines were being developed, there were breezy assurances that we would be able to tweak them to take new variants into account. Can’t we do that for delta? Well, yes, but no. The practical problem with creating vaccines against specific variants is that by the time studies are done and the product approved, that variant may be gone and another may be ascendant. If a variant comes along that completely evades current vaccines, though, we will need to meet that challenge.

Intranasal vaccines are being developed. Injecting a vaccine into the arm doesn’t teach the body to be on the lookout specifically for a respiratory virus. That is, giving a vaccine in the nose tells the body that the virus involved is going to enter through the nose and that’s where defenses need to be placed, so it’s a more efficient strategy. It should also be a bit easier on the needle-squeamish.

‘Charneau and a group of scientists in Paris have shown that natural SARS-CoV-2 infections trigger both systemic and mucosal immunity. But our current crop of COVID-19 vaccines offer only systemic protection. Developing vaccines that are sprayed up the nose, rather than injected into the arm, could change that, Charneau says. Mucosal immunity in our noses could be like a guard at the door, potentially helping stop even small infections of SARS-CoV-2 right where they start.’
https://cen.acs.org/pharmaceuticals/vaccines/Intranasal-nose-vaccines-stop-COVID/99/i21

I’ll leave you with another hopeful note, a story about former pastor Curtis Chang, who has been working within the vaccine-resistant evangelical community to dispel common myths.
https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/08/this-former-pastor-is-changing-evangelicals-minds-on-covid-vaccines/

‘Historically, the evangelical movement has baked into it a certain wariness of dominant secular institutions. And this can be captured in the saying that Jesus called us to be in the world, not of the world. We’re not of the world in the sense of just conforming automatically to the assumptions and beliefs the world. But what’s happened is that this orientation of being wary has gotten weaponized.

‘‘There’s been three main forces that I think have done that. One is that you can actually gain a lot of ratings by playing up those fears of what Washington is doing or what the left is doing. Christians are being bombarded by so much conservative media that they automatically just assume they’re out to get us. Another one is that conservative politicians have realized that you can gain a lot of votes by playing up these fears. And then the third is sort of outside conspiracy movements. QAnon, the anti-vaxxer movement—they have realized that evangelicals are fertile hunting grounds for their theories, because they are already primed to be distrustful of institutions, and so they can be easily kind of recruited into their deep conspiracies of distrust.’

Pastors, Chang says, are in a difficult position. Most of them are in favor of vaccination, but they risk backlash from their congregations if they speak too strongly about it— same problem GOP politicians have. (I would argue that both have helped create this problem.)

‘I understand that people are frustrated, that they’re losing patience, that they just want to make things via mandate, and give up trying to persuade these people. I think that’s short-sighted, for a couple of reasons. One, if you just resort to sheer coercion, it just confirms the narrative that they’re out to get us, that they are shoving things down our throat. You’re just laying the groundwork for a deepening divide. The second reason is that you have to realize that we’re still in the first or second inning of vaccine outreach, globally. You have to realize that parts of Africa and Asia are heavily influenced by Christian culture. A country like Uganda is like 90 percent Christian. Those churches, those places in Africa, they actually take their cultural cues to a great extent from American evangelicals, especially leading white evangelical voices. So America is—unfortunately, through evangelical culture—exporting its vaccine hesitancy. A lot of the same conspiracy theories and doubts and fears that we’ve been battling here, we are definitely seeing emerge and being replicated in the rest of the world. Changing American culture is not just about getting more American evangelicals to take the vaccine, it’s going to be critical to getting the rest of the world vaccinated. And ultimately, for all of us, if we don’t get the entire world vaccinated, we’re all at risk. ’

‘…What’s going to be really important is for Christians to convey to other Christians is that it’s okay to change your mind. The Christian virtues of grace and acceptance are going to be paramount here because people are going to be even more resistant if they think that in changing their mind they are going to be shamed.’

Grace and acceptance… those sure sound good right now.

***************************************************************
TAKEAWAYS for the Delta Era:
— You can still get infected even if you’re vaccinated, though most likely you won’t.
— Remember the Swiss cheese layer concept and take multiple precautions as reasonable and available.
— Be good to yourself and others and acknowledge the effects of the unrelenting pain and uncertainty of our time.
— WEAR THE DAMN MASK!

************************************************************

Original source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/iceland-covid-surge-vaccines/2021/08/14/bdd88d04-fabd-11eb-911c-524bc8b68f17_story.html

Data from the UK, May to July 2021: 
https://spiral.imperial.ac.uk/bitstream/10044/1/90800/2/react1_r13_final_preprint_final.pdf

*https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2021/08/how-we-live-coronavirus-forever/619783/
“The Coronavirus Is Here Forever. This Is How We Live With It.”

***https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2021/08/04/1019780576/why-who-is-calling-for-a-moratorium-on-covid-vaccine-boosters
Meanwhile, Israel is not waiting and has already given third doses to around 600,000 of their citizens— while Palestinians next door in Gaza and the West Bank have had so much trouble even getting a first dose. Here’s part of that sad tale, in which they were offered nearly-expired doses, for which Israel would have received fresh replacements:
 https://mondoweiss.net/2021/06/we-returned-them-palestinians-axe-1-million-pfizer-dose-deal-with-israel/

A new examination of the possible origins of COVID-19:
https://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2021/08/16/science.abh0117
“The animal origin of SARS-CoV-2”

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Filed under health and healing, history, nature, psychology, science

WandaVision: Unconscious in Our Episodes

“So long, darling….”

“Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”  — Marianne Williamson

The final episode of WandaVision has been in the past for a while now, so I’m figuring that any of you who were interested in seeing it already managed to do so. If not, I must add:

**SPOILER ALERT!**

I’m a rather vague and desultory fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That is, I’ve seen most of the movies from the past decade, and I was heavily into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., mostly because of my crush on Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson), but I don’t have the wide-ranging background knowledge necessary to understand WandaVision with all its cross-references, or the memory to keep track of everything I have seen over the years.

So I wasn’t really expecting to be, but I was immediately enthralled with this oddest addition to the MCU, and now I’m seriously crushing on both Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen.

We see the origins of a whole crew of super beings in this series, and those who knew them from the comics were excited to have them show up on the screen. The superhero tropes weren’t the point, though, and like some of the critics whose work I’ve read, I was a bit jarred and almost annoyed when the final magic-fire-smiting battle of the witches came along, iconic and necessary though it was. We were in it more for the small-screen, intimately emotional story at the core. 

Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff is incandescent even when she’s not throwing red fireballs around the neighborhood. She is catastrophically powerful, exquisitely vulnerable, and most of all profoundly broken. In her short life she has lost her parents, her home, her brother, her husband, and any chance at stability or normality. Unable to bear the latest and sharpest loss, she has retreated into a comforting world constructed from the American sitcoms that she enjoyed as a child, her last memories of happiness with her family.

It’s a perfect story for our reality-warped, grief-soaked, wrenchingly surreal time.

When the story begins, we’re confused and nonplussed. There is no explanation for the sudden appearance of these superhero characters in a ’50s-style sitcom. It doesn’t take long for the characters themselves to begin to realize that they don’t belong there and something is terribly wrong. At some level Wanda realizes that she’s creating this televised reality (including the pithy commercials) but she fights that knowledge with everything she’s got. Messages break through from the outside, but she rejects them. She has to be forced to understand what she has done.

It seems to me that this is pretty much what we’re all doing every day. 

Like Wanda, we are terrified of our own power and of the responsibility that comes with it. Wanda has been told that she is dangerous and will destroy the world. As individuals, we are unlikely to do that, but as a species, we know the destruction we are capable of, even as we protest our innocence.

The sitcom world is enticingly free of such concerns. Vision is the perfect husband, devoted, caring and empathetic, poetic and philosophical with a charming edge of goofiness— not to mention able to fly, walk through walls, and protect his family from sundry technological and supernatural attacks. Yes, he’s a synthezoid, but hey, we’ve made worse choices in romantic partners, right? Don’t judge.

And of course he is perfect; he is Wanda’s creation, everything she wants him to be, and he becomes acutely aware of that. In the series finale, just before the artificial world disintegrates and he is destroyed, he asks Wanda, “What am I?” She explains, ripping our hearts out: “You, Vision, are the piece of the Mind Stone that lives in me. You are a body of wires and blood and bone that I created. You are my sadness and my hope. But mostly, you’re my love.”

We do not, most of us at least, create our lovers’ physical forms. But I will argue that in a sense we create everything else about them. Do we ever know the true nature of anything we perceive, or only what we perceive of it? Demonstrably no. So do we ever know the true nature of the people in our lives, or only our perceptions of them? The answer is obvious.

(When I was a teenager, this truth slammed into me suddenly when I saw it in a play, before I was ready for it. I had a sort of nervous breakdown in response. I remember blubbering uncontrollably while my mother held me and wondered what in the world to do with me. Since then I have made peace with the fact that reality is slippery and undefined and no one quite exists as they appear.)

We all change form over time, and adjust to the programming necessary to live different lives. This is as true within one lifetime as it is across many. As Vision begins to dissolve, he recounts, with wonder, the very different forms he has taken over time. “Who knows what I might be next,” he concludes wistfully.

There is another truth embedded in this scene. Wanda has already stated firmly that “family is forever”— and that does appear to be the case in the real world, whether we like it or not! As Vision’s body dematerializes, the two agree, “We have said goodbye before, so it stands to reason…. we’ll say hello again.” Cheesy? Perhaps, but who cares? We needed it, and it’s true. Relationships don’t end with one lifetime/series/episode.  As for Vision, we know we can expect to see more of him in other stories, and most likely we’ll see the kids as well. 

I don’t know how to tell you what I was feeling as Wanda stood alone in the midst of the desolate lot that was all that was left of her dream home, or why I experienced that specific image with such intensity. It was visceral, a twisting in my chest, as if all the losses and griefs of the past year spun together into a black hole. All that even though I have not personally experienced the great losses that so many others have.  I believe that stories have been crucial to our emotional survival during the pandemic, but sometimes the processing they facilitate can be hard going.

So much more could be said about WandaVision, and so much has been.  Here’s a worthwhile example, an interview with someone at least as enthusiastic as I and way more knowledgeable about the MCU: https://news.yahoo.com/breaking-down-wandavision-thrilling-easter-235442212.html

I can’t end without mentioning everyone’s favorite quote, which we hear the real Vision say in a flashback: “What is grief, if not love persevering?”

Wanda is the heroine of this story, but she is also its primary villain. She has conscripted other living, conscious beings into her fantasy against their will, and that, too, is a fine metaphor for our time. The past year has felt like things just happen randomly, without our knowledge or consent, like we’ve been cast in someone’s movie for which we never auditioned. It’s good to be reminded that we are the writers, directors and producers.

Wanda says that she doesn’t understand her power, but she vows to learn. Let’s do that.

May the reality you create be beautiful and filled with love, and may it harm no one.

**********************************************************************

While looking for the Marianne Williamson quote above, I found some others that seemed relevant:

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”  — Carl Jung

“People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”  —Thich Nhat Hanh

“We are the sum of the things we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.” — Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” — James Baldwin

And the rest of the quote from A Return to Love:  “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

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Filed under art, mythology and metaphor, psychology, spirituality

Sorting Medical Fact from Fiction, Part IV: Vaccination, Variolation, and What Doctors Do Tell You

encased in plastic bubbles

Will we see more of this?

I wrote most of this on 10/27, and the HHS update I’m referring to below happened on that date. By a couple of days later things looked massively worse, with a record one-day case count of 1082 and a real threat to our health care system and its exhausted workers. We knew fall was likely to be difficult, and it is, here and in so many places.

As I write on this scariest 10/31, I’m thinking of the Berlin Philharmonic’s concert earlier today. The full orchestra was on stage together for the first time in all these months; they had been using smaller ensembles only. More amazingly, the seats were packed with audience members, whereas last week they had been separated by empty seats in between. I was boggled and a bit jealous that they had managed this. Weren’t things a lot worse in Germany too? Then came the announcement at the end of the show telling us that the orchestra’s hall would be closed Nov. 2-30. It was fun while it lasted….

Last time I talked about the epic stupidity of the Great Barrington Declaration.  Then, a couple of days ago, I saw that someone I had long admired and followed, Lynne McTaggart, had endorsed it and was telling people to sign it.  I guess I should have expected that, but I was still in shock.

The reason I should have expected it is that Lynne’s long-term brand is What Doctors Don’t Tell You.  So when Doctors Do Tell You and what they say is actually true, if you have the point of view that doctors are always trying to deceive you, you can’t hear them.

I’m trying to come to terms with this and with the gigantic number of people who STILL, despite the catastrophic spike in COVID-19 cases across the country, refuse to understand that they need to change their behavior if we are ever to get through this.  It’s gotten to where we seem to be unintentionally running the experiment the Great Barrington people were advocating. And it’s not going well.

Something occurred to me this morning: Maybe the deniers and anti-maskers and open-everythingers are unwilling to believe the virus is really so bad because the truth is just too painful and hard to face.* I mean, every day at least once I experience a moment of shock when it hits me again that this is really happening. It’s been like a bad dream all along. Do you have that feeling, too, that you’re going to wake up any minute now, but then you never do?

If someone has that persistent feeling of unreality, and then they are bombarded with messages that the pandemic isn’t real, perhaps they can be forgiven— just a little— for trying to find refuge in the belief that it’s all a hoax, or at least the danger has been overblown, so that there’s no problem with their usual habits. Nothing having a beer with their friends in a crowded bar can’t solve.

Today [10/27] I attended the weekly web update from Dr. David Scrase, the head of the New Mexico Department of Health and Human Services. Dr. Scrase manages to inject some gentle humor into the march of facts, even when the numbers are looking as dire as they have lately, and he always speaks with compassion as well as honesty. I get to these meetings most Tuesdays, and whenever possible I also hang out with a bunch of infectious disease and public health experts on Mondays at a UNM ECHO session. These are good people, doing their best to navigate rough and uncharted seas. They are Doctors Who Do Tell Us— to the extent that anyone knows anything for sure.

I hope HHS won’t mind that I’ve grabbed a couple of today’s slides to show you. This one illustrates the dizzying rise in cases in the past couple of weeks. What I’d like you to look at here is the sharp upward swoop of the purple line, the one that shows cases in people ages 35-64. The green line showing those 18-34 is less dramatic, but it’s pretty substantial. And you can see that cases are also notably up in kids and teens as well. If you’re still thinking that only older people are vulnerable to this disease, well, you are wrong.

In some parts of the country the virus is considered to be out of control, including places like the Dakotas who hardly had it at all for so long. I hope New Mexico’s case counts don’t reach that level. I hope they haven’t already. But getting back to a better situation requires a population that is united in doing all the right things, and we aren’t seeing that.

Now for another denier contention, the idea that if you do get COVID you’ll just get over it and everything will be fine, no big deal. Uh-uh. The following slide makes it clear that long-term symptoms are not just happening to an unlucky few, but are actually very common even in “mild” cases.

Here’s more about the brain damage that can accompany all this unpleasantness:
https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-brains-int/covids-cognitive-costs-some-patients-brains-may-age-10-years-idUSKBN27C1RN

Deniers also like to believe that if against all odds they somehow come down with the illness, it will be like the president told them, they’ll get the latest greatest treatments, which are miraculously effective. While I hope every patient will get the best possible treatments at the earliest possible time, the more patients need them at once, the less likely that becomes. The main limiting factor at this point is not so much hospital beds as skilled personnel to staff them. And one of the limitations on health care professionals being available is that some of them are getting COVID themselves.

Dr. Scrase told us that the health care personnel who get sick are usually not getting infected at work, but rather at social gatherings in the community— the same way that most of the laypeople are getting infected. The people who should know better are apparently doing the same dumb things as the rest.

At this point please imagine that I am shaking you and screaming that you don’t need to have a birthday party and invite 50 of your closest friends!

But pretty soon there is going to be a vaccine, you say, and we’re all going to be able to live our lives any way we want to again. Yes, in the next few months there is likely to be at least one vaccine that will be available to at least a few people, most likely front-line health care workers to begin with. That will start to help a little. But as you’ve probably heard, even in a best-case scenario of a very effective vaccine, it’s going to take ages to get shots to everybody who wants them. Not to mention the fact that many people will not want them. No matter how this goes, all that masking and distancing stuff that we hate is likely to be necessary for a very long time.

Now we’re going to look at how good a vaccine has to be in order to be useful, and how we can tell whether a vaccine candidate will meet that standard. What percentage of the time does a vaccine have to work in order to be considered effective? What percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated in order to create herd immunity (which is purely a vaccine-related concept, by the way)? There are formulas that can inform these decisions.

The following article is a month old, and that’s ages in COVID time. I’m including it because it gives a layperson-friendly explanation of how researchers decide whether a vaccine is working and whether it’s ready to be given to the public at large. Pfizer was supposed to have big news about its trial around the end of October, but that hasn’t happened as yet. Whether Pfizer’s effort pans out or not, this clarifies how to think about the process and what it all means.
https://www.propublica.org/article/a-real-vaccine-before-the-election-itd-take-a-miracle

I was surprised to see how few cases these momentous decisions may be based on. Especially with this unprecedentedly rushed research program, it’s hard to feel confident that we’re seeing real effectiveness, and even harder to feel confident about safety. About the same time that I read the ProPublica piece, I came across a September interview of Dr. Paul Offit by Dr. Eric Topol on Medscape, in which he expressed his own doubts. That really caught my eye. Dr. Offit has been a huge cheerleader of vaccines in general, very publicly gung-ho about them. If he is feeling cautious about COVID vaccines, I thought, there must really be something to be cautious about. He expressed some skepticism about both the drug companies’ promises and the politically compromised FDA.

“So you have this difficult-to-characterize, elusive virus that you are now about to meet with a handful of vaccine strategies for which you have no commercial experience,” he said. “I think you can assume that there may be a learning curve here.”

There are so many important points I wanted to quote in this interview that I have to ask you to go and read it for yourself. Honestly, you should. It’s a little unnerving, but it should also leave you with the feeling that there are some reasonable safeguards in place. Since it’s necessary to sign up with the Medscape site to read articles (although it is a free service), for your convenience I’ve parked a copy where you can get it easily:
https://app.box.com/s/rpammbltgrp4fbi9tmon1dzn1p6yhte0
‘Paul Offit’s Biggest Concern About COVID Vaccines’

If you don’t feel like going over to Box to grab that copy, this excerpt will give you some of the main points:

“[Offit:] We have two ways of stopping this virus: One is hygienic measures — face masks, social distancing, hand-washing — and the other is the vaccine. With those two, we will be able to bring this virus under control. But it will take both. What worries me is that if you had to pick which is the stronger of the two, I would go with hygienic measures. I mean, if I wear a mask and stand 6 feet away from you, and you wear a mask and stand 6 feet away from me, the chances that I’m going to get the virus from you or you from me is about zero. You have two things going for you. One, you have a mask, which is going to prohibit the virus’ small droplets from traveling very far. And two, even if I didn’t wear a mask and stand 6 feet away, the odds are also that you wouldn’t get it.

Topol: And by the way, if you do get it, you get a lower dose of virus, which is important.

Offit: That’s right. You might get more mild disease. On the other hand, if we have a vaccine and it’s 75% effective against moderate to severe disease, that means 1 out of every 4 people can still get sick, including very sick. It also means probably a larger percentage than that 25% could get mild infection, or asymptomatic infection, which they could still shed, even to the point of contagiousness. We’ve been asking these trials to look not only at whether they’re protecting against moderate to severe disease, but to what extent they are protecting against shed. I think that is important to know.
But people have such an unrealistic expectation of these vaccines that they see it as the panacea, as the magic bullet to make it all go away. [emphasis mine] If people have unrealistic expectations, such that they think “I’ve gotten the vaccine, I’m good. I don’t need to wear a mask. I don’t need to social distance. I can engage in high-risk activities,” then we’ve lost one of the important arms to bring this virus under control, arguably a more important arm. If, when we bring the vaccine up in terms of users, we move social distancing and masking down, we could end up having a sort of break-even effect.

Topol: Well, you’re bringing up a critical point and that is, the vaccine effect could actually increase the number of people who are asymptomatic carriers. Because they basically have protection from beyond their mucosa. But they still have the virus in their nose and their upper respiratory tract to spread. And that’s why this coupling of continued hygiene— masks, distance, and these other measures — is going to be important all the way through until we get a very dense immunity of the population, right?

Offit: There is a formula for this, actually. If you have a 75% effective vaccine against significant shedding, then you would need to immunize about two thirds of the American population to get the R0 to less than 1, meaning to stop spread, which is what you want.”

It may well be that a vaccine with 50% effectiveness will be the best we can do. It may be that there will be multiple vaccines available, with some being best for people of one age group or health status and others for other categories. Right now we don’t know much, so again I ask that everyone keep an open mind. No knee-jerk reactions, please! Whether you take every shot available or scrupulously avoid vaccinations, at this point you don’t have enough data to weigh risks against benefits. We have to have data, and we have to have clear messaging about it from the people in charge. That might be a tougher challenge than creating a vaccine to begin with.

In other sobering news this week, more evidence came in to show that immunity to COVID-19 does not appear to last very long— another blow against the Great Barrington mindset.
https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-health-coronavirus-britain-antibody-idUSKBN27C005
‘Antibodies against the novel coronavirus declined rapidly in the British population during the summer, a study found on Tuesday, suggesting protection after infection may not be long lasting and raising the prospect of waning immunity in the community.’

But all is not lost. Antibodies are not the entirety of the immune response. And with masking and distancing, those of us who don’t get sick may still be getting small doses of the virus as we go about our business, enough to teach the body how to recognize this pathogen and fight it to at least some degree. There is evidence that people who are exposed in this way tend to get infections that stay asymptomatic. Even if no really robust long-term immunity exists, some memory will develop in their immune systems, and they should be better off than they would be without any exposure. The author likens this to variolation, the strategy used to prevent smallpox before the vaccine was invented. The key would be small doses of the virus, not the uncontrolled onslaught of a big group event with no masks.
https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2026913
‘Facial Masking for Covid-19 — Potential for “Variolation” as We Await a Vaccine’

So even if we have an effective vaccine, we’ll still need to do all this other stuff that we’re getting so tired of, and there’s no end to it in the near term. I’m sorry. I would like to be able to give you better news. We just have to keep muddling along as best we can. I implore you not to make the situation any worse! Don’t travel. Don’t get together with a bunch of people indoors, and be careful outdoors. No big Thanksgiving dinner with family from far and near. Wear the damn mask. Just do it. The more effort we make now, the sooner we can be done with all this.

I can’t remember where I saw this:
COMMUNITY
IMMUNITY
I’M UNITY

Unity. Let’s try it.

************************************************************************

* Later I came across this:
 ‘Left to their own devices, people chart their paths based on their personality, how they see the world, and how they relate to risk. According to Geller, many people presented with a barrage of contradictory instructions just grow tired and give up. Others become hypervigilant, their behavior calcifying against new information that might let them ease up and enjoy life a little more. Still others simply choose optimism, no matter how dangerously misguided—such as the belief that “herd immunity” is near, or the assumption that catching the virus will have no long-term consequences for them. “People will gravitate to the positive message because it’s convenient, and it’s not scary, it’s not fearful,” Geller said.’


https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/10/pandemic-safety-america/616858/

And still later, an interview update came from Dr. Offit, in which he discusses what may happen with an emergency use authorization, and what distribution of a vaccine may look like:
https://edhub.ama-assn.org/jn-learning/video-player/18555773
He also demolishes the Great Barrington argument:
 ‘So now suddenly herd immunity induced by natural infection has become the plan, right? But the premise is wrong. The premise is that a virus could can affect enough people in the population, that would provide immunity such that that essentially the virus would put itself out of business. That’s never happened. That’s never happened for any virus. So historically there’s no support for it. Secondly, if you had to pick the perfect virus for which it would happen, it would be measles. I mean, measles is 10 times more contagious then this virus and SARS-COVID-2. It has an [inaudible], you know contagiousness index of close to 20, where this is less than two. Two, measles induces lifelong sterilizing immunity. You are protected against all manner of infection, including asymptomatic infection, that’s not going to be this virus. And nonetheless, despite that, before there was a measles vaccine every year there would be about one to two million cases of measles. There would be 50,000 hospitalizations, and there’d be 500 deaths from measles. So there’s no such thing as this Great Barrington declaration. Plus, about 30% to 40% of the population is really at high risk.’


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Filed under health and healing, politics, psychology

Sorting Medical Fact from Fiction, Part II: We Need Therapy

About the time I began writing this, at the annual meeting of our New Mexico Society for Acupuncture and Asian Medicine, we heard a presentation from David Riley, MD about how to write case reports for publication in medical journals. That brought home to me how much goes into each published study that we read and how slow and incremental the scientific process can be.

At the same meeting, one of my senior colleagues went into a passionate rant about how the SARS-CoV-2 virus was engineered as a bioweapon and we are at war, hydroxychloroquine was great, we should all go to Fox News and Newsmax to get The Truth, and most stunning of all, that President Trump was the highest order of doctor because he saved the lives of the people of America by instituting a travel ban.

The rest of us sat there and gazed bemusedly at our Zoom screens. It was deeply disturbing to find one of us, a highly educated and intelligent man of mature years, spouting poisonous bilge like that. In fact, it was almost physically painful.

Then, just a few days later, we got the news that the conspiracizer-in-chief himself had come down with COVID-19. Immediately more conspiracy theories began to fly from both left and right. He was given treatments that sounded reasonable, including an experimental antibody preparation. (I don’t know why they were not adding vitamin C to the vitamin D and zinc.) That is, the treatments sounded reasonable, if we can actually believe what we were being told about them— and we are in the habit of not believing much of anything anymore. The Old Man Who Cried Wolf has trained us that way.

Dexamethasone, a common steroid that is often given in severe cases of COVID, was part of the president’s regimen. Since getting out of the hospital, he’s been even more impulsive, erratic, and incomprehensible, and many observers are assuming he’s still dexamethazoned.

Conspicuously, he was NOT treated with his famously favored hydroxychloroquine. Isn’t that interesting.

I originally started writing this post because there are people I respect, people who are influential writers and teachers, who are still touting hydroxychloroquine and insisting that it is being kept from patients by nefarious forces, just like my colleague. They still believe the persistent myth that HCQ, either by itself or with azithromycin, is a terrific treatment for COVID-19 and can be used for prevention too, but is being suppressed by Big Pharma, the FDA, The Government, etc. in order to market more expensive drugs and/or force everyone to accept a vaccine, take your pick.

Let’s try applying some logic to this. (I know, I know, nobody does that anymore.)

In order for this contention to be valid, first, there would have to BE an expensive and effective drug to market instead, either one already in existence or one being developed. As far as I know there is no such thing. Remdesivir might be what they have in mind, as it has shown itself to be useful and costs over $3000 per course, but it isn’t a “cure” and it doesn’t help with prevention. In fact, it’s still unclear whether it really helps much at all.

“J. Randall Curtis gives remdesivir to his seriously ill coronavirus patients based on statistics, not his own experience. From the bedside, he said, benefits of the drug are undetectable.
“It’s hard when you’re on the front line, knowing whether it makes a difference. People are not jumping out of bed and saying, ‘Thanks, you saved my life,’ ” said Curtis, a doctor at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center. “We are continuing to use it, because if you look at all the data in total, there probably is some benefit.”

Second, some very inexpensive drugs and substances have come to the forefront. They are still not “cures,” but they are helping quite a lot. Dexamethasone is one. It only helps in advanced cases where a person needs help to breathe, but in those cases dexamethasone and other well-known steroids can damp down the inflammatory reactions that kill people. These are familiar medications, basic medical workhorses with wide applications, being repurposed for the present situation. There’s no new drama to be found in this story— steroids are being used to combat inflammation just like always— and there are no prominent politicians hyping it at rallies, so no one seems to be making up myths about it. Yet it’s one of the more important discoveries that’s been made about treating COVID-19.

A few months ago there was excitement about another cheap and widely available drug, famotidine (Pepcid), because people who had been taking it for heartburn and then got COVID did better than COVID patients who had not been taking it. As far as I know there is still research going on with famotidine, but I couldn’t find any very recent references to studies about it. I did hear that it was given to the president— but he hasn’t even mentioned it.

https://www.healio.com/news/gastroenterology/20200817/famotidine-linked-to-improved-outcomes-in-covid19

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/coronavirus-covid-19-heartburn-medicine-pepcid-does-not-work-antiviral

The concept is that famotidine and other histamine blockers may be able to block the cytokine storms (catastrophically overwhelming immune system reactions) that contribute to deaths from COVID. An intriguing study combined famotidine with the antihistamine cetirizine (Zyrtec):
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1094553920301462

Anticoagulants, including the old standby heparin, are important in countering the widespread clotting that often occurs with COVID-19 and can cause strokes and heart attacks. Here is one of many reports about that:
https://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/articles/2020/08/26/12/45/anticoagulants-associated-with-better-survival-lower-risk-of-intubation-in-covid-19-patients

Azithromycin, very often given for sinus infections as a “Z-Pack,” was famously given along with HCQ, and is being studied in other contexts. Since antibiotics in general don’t kill viruses, why is this happening? It seems that azithromycin may actually have a role in fighting certain viral infections.
“Azithromycin is known to have immunomodulating and antiviral properties. In vitro studies have demonstrated the capacity of azithromycin in reducing production of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-8, IL-6, TNF alpha, reduce oxidative stress, and modulate T-helper functions. At the same time there are multiple clinical evidences of the role of azithromycin in acute respiratory distress syndrome and against Middle East Respiratory syndrome (MERS).”

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924857920302235

(Unfortunately, this article adds, “Furthermore, there are some concerns regarding the association of azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine because of potential QT prolongation. In fact, both drugs have this as a potential side effect and evidence regarding the safe use of this combination is controversial.”)

Are any of these drugs being “suppressed”? No. Are right-wing politicians yelling about them? Not that I know of. Maybe they should be, as the public would probably like to know more about them. But they’ve already invented their conspiracy theory, and I guess they don’t need another one.

Not that hydroxychloroquine is useless by any means. I have patients with autoimmune conditions who depend on it. But I also know of someone who died when his employer required him to take it as supposed prevention for COVID. The fact that it isn’t being widely used to combat this pandemic is NOT, I repeat NOT, a sign of a conspiracy to suppress it. It just hasn’t panned out as hoped. Nothing I have found from any credible source has said that it helped a majority of COVID patients. Some, it appeared to make worse. 

You don’t have to take my word for it. Even the most cursory search brings up multiple studies and articles.
https://www.statnews.com/2020/07/16/new-covid-19-study-despite-flaws-adds-to-case-against-hydroxychloroquine/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/04/21/anti-malarial-drug-trump-touted-is-linked-higher-rates-death-va-coronavirus-patients-study-says/

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa2019014

https://bgr.com/2020/05/22/coronavirus-drug-hydroxychloroquine-harmfull-side-effects-death-covid-19/

I note that one study that appeared to show benefit from HCQ used it in conjunction with steroids, which may have been the part that actually worked.
https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/health-news/study-finds-hydroxychloroquine-helped-coronavirus-patients-survive-better/ar-BB16hifu

There are still sources I consider very respectable who are recommending hydrochloroquine, such as the following. As far as I can tell, such sources are quoting studies from a number of months ago, which is a lifetime in terms of COVID-19 research. More recent studies are not looking favorable, and those are the ones I’m paying the most attention to.
https://chriswoollamshealthwatch.com/your-illness/general-health/potential-covid-19-treatment-chloroquine/

Has HCQ helped anybody recover from COVID-19? Possibly. People are all biochemically different from each other. A given person might respond to a given treatment that didn’t work for most others. In the search for treatments that help the broadest population of patients, though, HCQ has appeared to be a dead end.

You have to realize that health care professionals, especially those who work in hospitals, have every reason to want effective medications for COVID. They are the ones most directly in the line of fire. If something is seen to work, even the least altruistic doctor one can imagine is going to want to have it available. If hydroxychloroquine, or HCQ plus azithromycin and/or zinc, really knocked down COVID-19 infections, and did it safely, I can’t think of any downside to distributing it everywhere. Who could possibly object? We’d all be a lot closer to resuming our regularly-scheduled lives by now.

It’s reprehensible that this has become a matter of politics. We can’t afford for it to be political.

My impression is that people often think medical authorities or pharma companies have far more information at hand than they really do, and that they must be hiding it from the rest of us. The reality is that we are all figuring this pandemic out as we go along. By the time you read this, there may have been some truly game-changing discovery— one can hope. More likely, we’ll just keep incrementally adding to our understanding. Science is a slow process, one that’s supposed to be careful and rigorous. No one is supposed to make claims before they have solid evidence, and evidence takes time to accumulate. I’ve spent many hours in virtual meetings and webinars with local infectious disease experts and public health workers, and what I see is a bunch of sincere, intelligent people doing their best to make sense of a situation that no one completely understands yet.

There has also been a persistent charge that the authorities must be dishonest because they have changed their recommendations at times. Science, as well as plain common sense, changes our understanding as new information comes in. Holding to the same opinions no matter what facts come along is more like religious belief, and that sort of bullheaded unwillingness to think has no place in a public health crisis, where we must all be willing to adapt to constantly changing knowledge and circumstances.

 

ICAM, vitamin C, and other supplements

What about vitamin C? To the best of my knowledge and googling skills, research on the use of IV vitamin C in hospitalized COVID-19 patients is ongoing and we don’t yet have study results. This summary comes from the Linus Pauling Institute:
https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/COVID19/IV-VitaminC-virus

My colleague Daniel Cobb, DOM wrote this extremely intriguing article which postulates that advanced cases of COVID-19 result in a form of scurvy. The idea is that fighting the virus uses up so much of the body’s store of vitamin C that collagen fibers can’t be replaced, leading to breakdown of tissues in the lungs and blood vessels, with fluid in the lungs and bleeding plus clotting in the vascular system. This can help explain why a patient may appear to be recovering, then suddenly crash.
https://www.faim.org/covid-19-is-really-two-diseases-to-treat-the-second-one-you-have-to-name-it-correctly

If I were hospitalized with COVID-19 or any severe pneumonia or similar illness, I would want to be given IV vitamin C. The evidence looks strong enough to me, and harm looks relatively unlikely.

Vitamin C is a major part of a strategy developed in Florida called ICAM.
https://bgr.com/2020/09/26/coronavirus-cure-icam-protocol-florida/
“ICAM isn’t a new drug, it’s an acronym for a combination of existing medications used simultaneously on patients. It uses Immunosupport drugs (Vitamin C and Zinc), Corticosteroids against inflammation, Anticoagulants against blood clots, and Macrolides to help fight infection.”
“…Norwood-Williams continued, ‘What we found out was that ICAM works as a strategy for super defense for the body. It doesn’t kill coronavirus, but it doesn’t need to. Viruses are self-limiting anyway. They have a very short life cycle. What kills people are the consequences of coronavirus in multiple ways.’”

(Macrolides are a class of antibiotics that includes azithromycin.)

A role has also been suggested for B vitamins in preventing deadly cytokine storms.
https://www.maturitas.org/article/S0378-5122(20)30348-0/fulltext#%20

Of course vitamin D is also important in any problem involving the immune system. It has been shown that low vitamin D levels make people more vulnerable to infection. What hasn’t been shown as yet is that giving vitamin D to a person who is already ill makes a difference. The most important thing we know regarding vitamins is that it’s best to keep your internal shelves well stocked with them at all times.

What should you take away from all that? If you were my patient, I would definitely recommend continuing supplements of C and D as well as a good-quality multivitamin. In general, keep your nutritional status as high as you can, eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, olive oil, nuts, and fish, as tolerated. I would say that under any circumstances, but it’s truer than ever now.

The Linus Pauling Institute has a good summary of general nutrition for immunity too:
https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/COVID19/nutritional-strategies-immune-system

 

Chinese herbs, in China and in the US

It would be easy for us practitioners of herbal medicine to fall into paranoia when thinking about the lack of use of antiviral and other herbs for COVID-19 in the US. Have Chinese herbs been suppressed as a treatment? Well, sort of, because of the way our US regulatory system works. I just don’t think it’s a Nefarious Plot.

Chinese doctors already had experience developing herb formulas to treat SARS in the early 2000s, as well as for epidemics over the centuries. When COVID hit, they had a place to start. They quickly put together herbal strategies that could treat the range of symptoms they were seeing, and the published literature on those looks quite positive. They also ramped up the use of venerable formulas for prevention.

John and Tina Chen at Evergreen Herbs/Lotus Institute have done a great service by translating materials from China about specific herbs and formulas that have been used against COVID. A lot of this is layperson-friendly, and all of it is free to access.
https://www.elotus.org/articles

Herbal pharmacology is a well-established science, and many herbs have been shown to inhibit the reproduction of viruses, prevent them from entering cells, break up thick phlegm, act as anticoagulants, or do other things that are relevant to this disease. John Chen has given webinars that explicated specific mechanisms by which components of herbs can accomplish their actions against coronaviruses, some of which are the same as those of antiviral drugs. It’s fascinating.

I’ve stocked up my clinic’s pharmacy with all the herbs I can get from the Chinese protocols. Since I have not needed to treat any patients with current cases of COVID, thankfully, I haven’t used the formulas for the acute disease, but if I or my family members get sick, we can start treating immediately, and if patients do report symptoms, I can deliver herbs to them. We have been making use of time-honored preventive formulas over the months.

However, in this country, we are not even allowed to say that we can treat COVID with any means outside mainstream medicine. (Note that I am telling you only that certain protocols have been shown to help in China and that certain herbs have been shown objectively to have relevant actions, not claiming that any specific herbs treat or cure the disease.) Colleagues across the country have used herbs successfully against this virus nonetheless. I have yapped as loud as I could about this to any medical person who would listen.

There hasn’t been a big result. Does this mean that They are trying to suppress the use of herbs? Not necessarily. In the US, herbs are regulated more like food and less like drugs; another regulatory category for traditional medicine is clearly needed but has not been created as yet (long story, won’t go into it here). That means that making claims that an herbal product treats a disease is fraught with difficulties.

In China, herbs are prescribed in hospitals, often cooked as water decoctions in the traditional manner. Here there is no way to accomplish that in a hospital. If doctors in American hospitals wanted to give already-prepared herb formulas in pills, I suppose they could, but then there would be no insurance reimbursement, nor pharmacists who knew what to do with those medications. Our system just isn’t set up to use natural substances in hospital settings, or to make them affordable to patients who can’t pay out of pocket. My impression from trying to get the information from China in front of MDs is that they are often very much open to it, but they’re not sure how to make use of it. In practical terms, that means it all falls by the wayside.

In addition, there is some prejudice here about studies done in other countries, very much including China. American regulators and doctors typically want to see evidence from studies done here, or at least done exactly the way they would be done here, whether that makes sense in a given case or not.

I have the most intense hope that medicinal herbs will be employed far more than they have been so far, and that we can tap into the wealth of Asian medical experience to improve our own situation. On a small scale, I’m sure we can. Unfortunately, the same kinds of holes in our healthcare “system” that plague us on other levels make it unlikely that this will happen in a widespread way anytime soon.

Despite all that, we should be making more use of herbs, and I would like to see forces within my own profession advocating more strongly for them. We don’t have a lot of options. MDs complain that we don’t have enough tools in our toolbox, but most of them don’t even know about these important tools that we’ve had for many years.

 

One definite upside to this year of medical horror is that we are being forced to learn so much, knowledge that will help us to cope not only with this pandemic but with the next one and the next.

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Filed under health and healing, politics, psychology

Sorting Medical Fact from Fiction, Part I: The Two Earths

No, not the Silurians.

A couple of decades ago, a friend introduced me to the work of a person who was then known as Anna Hayes. Supposedly her teachings were “downloaded” (not channeled, she said) from a galactic council of aliens who were trying to be helpful to humanity and fight other aliens, including that perennial mainstay the reptilians, who were working to keep us confused and divided. Following her and doing the practices she taught was supposed to raise people’s vibratory states and allow them to rise above these malevolent influences and create a better reality.

Some of her practices appeared to be worthwhile for one’s health. Some of the very, very dense verbiage involved was obviously crap. And a lot was so hard to understand that one might not be quite sure. There was one contention she had that keeps coming up in my mind, though: a prediction that in the not too distant future, the earth would split into two planets— not physically, but energetically— and the two would go their separate ways, with no communication between them.

And metaphorically speaking, that is exactly what has happened. Strikingly, stunningly so.

This teaching was not meant to be taken metaphorically, though. The idea was that the people of higher vibrations would go one way, and those who hadn’t bothered to enlighten and advance themselves would go the other. The unenlightened ones would be under the tyranny of forces that wanted to use them for their own purposes.

Again, bingo. (Not that I’m being judgmental….)

Anna Hayes— not her original name— became Ashayana Deane, and now is known as E-Ashayana, which certainly sounds more exotic. Her writings are full of what appear to be made-up words, along with a sprinkling of terms that have been used in esoteric contexts for centuries. Her “alien” language makes her stories far more difficult to decipher, let alone analyze, criticize or argue against.

Sometimes, though, you can be sure you’re being given a load of sh*t. For example, the claims of another “spiritual teacher,” Teal Swan, are earth-based and relatively easy to debunk. She claims to have been horribly abused as a child by satanist— Mormon satanist!— cult members. One of her assertions is that at the age of 8 she was sewn inside the dead body of an adult. This is not physically possible.  Such deceptions unfortunately contaminate whatever may be of real value in her teachings.

I have compassion for people who are having trouble sorting everything out (all of us), because it usually isn’t so simple. To muddle matters further, I personally know people who perceive entities rather like the ones E-Ashayana postulates, and their understanding is that these beings are indeed attempting to manipulate us for their own ends. I don’t perceive such beings myself, so I’m agnostic. However, most entities I’ve encountered appear to be trying to help, and my psychic friends see those too.  I prefer to think that most beings, human or otherwise, want to work for good.  Even the farthest-out conspiracy theorists appear to have altruistic motives and believe they are battling evil, no matter how twisted their efforts may become.

But human brains are easily confused.  I suspect that for many people, the languages of science and medicine may seem nearly as unintelligible as E-Ashayana’s “alien” vocabulary. When the true story is complex and unfamiliar, it’s easy to swallow a competing story that sounds plausible on the surface. And of course if the story reinforces our preconceived notions, we’re sitting ducks for it.  Add the constant, overwhelming bombardment of messages from all sources, and how is a person supposed to keep their head on straight?

The meta-story of how a powerful They are constantly suppressing The Truth in order to control downtrodden Us never seems to get old. Of course it’s not a big stretch to believe in it. Heaven knows we’ve heard enough proven examples of deceit from large corporations, such as Exxon insisting climate change was bunk when they knew very well what a problem it was. We know of government agencies exposing citizens to nuclear tests or injecting soldiers with LSD. It’s not hard to accept the notion that powerful forces or beings, human or otherwise, might be trying to keep us in the dark. We have little reason to trust the good intentions of our corporate overlords, who appear to worship profit above all, nor certain politicians who have made it very clear that power is their sole motivation.

The two ladies I’ve mentioned also turn huge profits at the expense of their followers, and whatever they may claim about their motives, they have certainly gained power over them as well.  Since I am not personally acquainted with either one, I will say no more.  You can probably find examples of similar business models without much trouble.

Here’s where pop-culture gurus and more mainstream sources are in general agreement: We’re often told that if we stay centered and calm, keep our minds on our spiritual values and on love rather than fear, and consume a solid information diet instead of mental junk food, we are a lot harder to manipulate. That seems like an objective truth to me.

I would also like to submit that science and scholarship are real.  Science too can go astray, and can be manipulated for the sake of money or power, but the scientific process tends to right itself eventually.  Forces who want to manipulate us typically work to limit education and defund and muzzle science.  That’s one way you can recognize them. Isaac Asimov, who was very much concerned with finding truth and explaining it in a way people could understand, had this to say: ‘There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”’

No, ignorance isn’t good, ever.

Next: Ways to think clearly about touted treatments for COVID-19.

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Filed under history, mythology and metaphor, politics, psychology

The SoulPhone: Who Ya Gonna Call?

These past few months, it’s been hard to think about anything beyond our immediate survival and how to move past the pandemic crisis. It’s a good time for a reminder that in reality, we are infinite beings and our lives are far richer than the present limitations suggest.

I first heard of Dr. Gary Schwartz’s SoulPhone project at the University of Arizona a few years ago, and at the time I was not particularly impressed. What I read then was that his research had led to success with yes/no answers to questions posed to “postmaterial” persons, by means of a sensitive switch that they could affect. Knowing that nonphysical entities are quite capable of exerting force on physical objects, and being familiar with electronic voice phenomena and other clever ways those in spirit have found to get through our thick skulls, I was underwhelmed. I was also vaguely suspicious because the “Hypothesized Communicating Spirits” were all Famous Dead People*, though of course that has been true of a number of cross-world projects.

OK, I may have been a bit jaded. I should have been jumping up and down with joy that someone had been able to accomplish this in a rigorous and unassailably scientific manner. But with communication through skilled mediums being relatively easy and this yes/no thing giving so little information by comparison, I let the SoulPhone slip from my attention.

I stayed on their mailing list, but since I was overwhelmed with email in general, I didn’t keep up very well. The other day the researchers sent out a new video summarizing their recent progress, and I did take a look at that.

WOW.

Things have moved along quite a lot! Much more than a simple switch. And this switch, if combined with 30 or so others, can theoretically become a keyboard. Which means that if all goes as planned, you may be able to text your grandma beyond the veil— and get a reply.

(Nik, if you’re listening, I know you’ve already texted your mom on her regular phone, but not every postmaterial kid is as talented as you are!)

What piqued my interest most was a statement that our postmaterial friends are actually visible to the human eye, but our visual systems can’t process enough frames per second to perceive the images properly. This was said to explain those times when you see a flash of a being out of the corner of your eye, but when you try to focus on it, it isn’t there. (It may also explain why sometimes we can get photos of nonphysical entities that we can’t see on our own.) Logically enough, the SoulPhone team is working on equipment that can capture these elusive images, and ultimately they want to stack up still pictures to create video.

It won’t be necessary for me to write a lot about this here, because so much has already been written and is easily accessible. A good place to start is this blog post from Dr. Mark Pitstick, the director of the SoulPhone Foundation. It clearly outlines the phases and goals of the project:
 https://www.soulproof.com/soulphone-want-call/

Note the “P word” incorporated into the domain name. Dr. Pitstick stated in the video that they are not ready to say they’ve proven that life goes on after death, so they avoid the P word, but that with other centers working to replicate their research, by the end of 2020 they may be able to actually say they have proof.

Let that sink in for a moment. If you’ve come with me on my blog journey this far, you probably know that there is already overwhelming evidence for the existence of human consciousness beyond the body, but we are talking about a different level of evidence here, gathered over thousands of trials with carefully designed instrumentation and rigorous controls. Proof of life after death, not just strong evidence, could change the world.

If anyone pays attention, that is. There are so many fundamental areas where humans would just as soon not pay attention. But that’s a concern for later.

Now that you’ve got an overview, if you would like to spend an entertaining and enlightening hour, it’s a good time to check out the video.

Gobsmacked yet? Mind-boggled? Excited for a future that seems a little more hopeful?

I know, it’s a stretch to accept all this, even for those of us who are familiar with afterlife research. If I didn’t know who I know and hadn’t met who I’ve met on the other side, I might guffaw at the A-list names of the “dead” luminaries working on this project. I mean, as soon as you mention Tesla, you’re likely to lose a lot of your audience, since his name is so often bandied about by questionable sources. And Einstein’s in on it too? Riiiight. But if Beethoven and friends have been trying to pour some encouragement onto our poor sphere, why not these guys. The overarching message is that the team on their side is trying to help us heal our world. Lord, we could sure use all the help we can get! I could almost begin to feel some optimism.

I’ve often thought how frustrating and painful it must be for more advanced minds to watch us screw up so gigantically here on the planet and not be able to do much about it. I have no trouble believing that many would like to intervene or at least provide some moral support. Channeled messages over the past century or more have sometimes mentioned a desire to build technologies for communication between the worlds, or even attempts to do so from the nonphysical side.

Dr. Pitstick mentioned that it seemed like a terrible waste of time for a brilliant being like Einstein to have to spend hour after hour playing something like Twenty Questions to establish his identity and refine the method. Intriguingly, he reported that the postmaterial team members had said they need to use only about 20% of their attention to do these tasks, while the rest of their mind is engaged in far more interesting activities. And we too, they say, are only about 20% involved in our earth-based lives, while 80% of our real selves is/are living elsewhere and maybe elsewhen, doing things our earth brains can hardly imagine.

(Do you ever have the sense that a lot of your energy is directed somewhere other than here? I do. I’ve assumed that it isn’t healthy for my earth life, but maybe it’s just normal.)

There is so much to speculate about with the SoulPhone and related issues. I ran across someone who is putting his wide-ranging and fascinating speculations into a blog, which I highly recommend.
https://soulphonenews.com/

Here’s a post from this author, Joshua Bagby, that asks useful questions about what a working technology for talking with the “dead” might mean for society here. For example:
“How would law enforcement and the court system handle accusations and evidence acquired from postmaterial sources?
“How would soul phone technology figure in international relations and global politics? Would postmaterial luminaries take sides?
“Would governments ever consider soul phone technology a national security risk and attempt to ban it, including by executive order?”

Those are daunting questions, and there are many more in the post. Considering all these sticky matters, I suppose I’m relieved that the SoulPhone isn’t going to be ready for widespread use for quite a while. Although a device advanced enough to cause these issues is still only theoretical, we may well have to come up with ways to deal with them. Meanwhile, we can keep developing our own awareness and openness to inspiration from those we care about who are no longer wearing their “earthsuits.”

The SoulPhone project’s official site is here:
 https://www.thesoulphonefoundation.org/

Addendum 7/14/20:  Please see an addition to this post in the comment section.

*The issue of Famous Dead People:  https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2019/01/15/1136/

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Filed under channeling, physics and cosmology, psychology, spirit communication

What Are Viruses? In a Way They Are Us

Coronavirus structure. An artistic response to the last SARS epidemic, in glass. https://www.lukejerram.com/glass/gallery/sars-corona-virus

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about the goddess Kali, having no idea how soon she’d be coming after us.

I also wrote about the interconnectedness of everything on the planet and everywhere, and how the dichotomy of humans vs. nature is false.

It turns out that even the dichotomy of viruses vs. us is false. We all learned in school that viruses are tiny beings that exist in a strange twilight zone between the living and the nonliving, and that they can’t reproduce without using the machinery of plant or animal cells. I hadn’t followed that thought to its conclusion, which is that since viruses must build themselves out of the materials of our own cells, they are in a sense made out of us. They, too, are inextricably entwined with ourselves.

This came up when I was looking for layperson-friendly articles to explain viral structures and functions to my readers and patients. Here is a source:
“Conserved and host-specific features of influenza virion architecture.”
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25226414

“Abstract: Viruses use virions to spread between hosts, and virion composition is therefore the primary determinant of viral transmissibility and immunogenicity. However, the virions of many viruses are complex and pleomorphic, making them difficult to analyse in detail. Here we address this by identifying and quantifying virion proteins with mass spectrometry, producing a complete and quantified model of the hundreds of host-encoded and viral proteins that make up the pleomorphic virions of influenza viruses. We show that a conserved influenza virion architecture is maintained across diverse combinations of virus and host. This ‘core’ architecture, which includes substantial quantities of host proteins as well as the viral protein NS1, is elaborated with abundant host-dependent features. As a result, influenza virions produced by mammalian and avian hosts have distinct protein compositions. Finally, we note that influenza virions share an underlying protein composition with exosomes, suggesting that influenza virions form by subverting microvesicle production.”

OK, that was not a particularly layperson-friendly paragraph, so let’s unpack it. First, what is a virus? It is simply a chain of RNA or DNA, which normally is covered by a coating or envelope of protein. A virion is the whole package of genetic material plus the coating that allows it to get into cells, that is, the infective form of the virus. Note that virions are pleomorphic— they can exist in different forms. We’ll come back to that.

 Virions contain “substantial quantities of host proteins.” That’s the part where they’re made out of us. That’s also how we know what sort of host the virus developed in originally, and can tell that the current SARS-CoV-2 came from bats.*

But there is a deeper answer to the question “what is a virus?” and it is that a virus is information. That information is constantly transmitted between species, just as similar particles are generated and used by organisms within themselves. From the same paper as above:
“Spherical influenza virions are a similar size to exosomes, membrane-bound structures which also transfer protein and RNA between cells. By comparing separately-purified exosomes and virions we show here that they also have a strikingly similar protein profile – by many measures, an influenza virion is simply an exosome that has been enriched with additional components. Similarities have been noted between exosomes and a number of other enveloped viruses, most notably HIV, for which the ‘Trojan exosome hypothesis’ was proposed to explain virion budding as a subversion of cellular pathways for exosome biogenesis.”

I’m embarrassed to tell you that in decades of reading in medicine and biology, I had never learned of the existence of exosomes. It turns out that cells are constantly releasing exosomes, which are little packets of information in the form of microRNAs with coatings, very similar to viruses, and which can turn genes on or off and affect the functions of other cells that encounter them. This includes exosomes we ingest in our food!  This is one of the mechanisms by which substances in foods create benefits to our health.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4851829/
“Interspecies communication between plant and mouse gut host cells through edible plant derived exosome-like nanoparticles”
“It has been known for decades that people eating a variety of edible plants daily are the recipients of many beneficial health effects when compared to subjects that ingest fewer types of edible plants. Ingesting EPDENs from a variety of fruits and vegetables daily would be expected to provide greater beneficial effects for maintaining gut homeostasis than ingesting EPDENs from a single edible plant.”

Exosomes are even present in breast milk, providing a way to convey the mother’s immunity to the baby.

“With the recent discovery that non-coding microRNA’s in food are capable of directly altering gene expression within human physiology, this new study further concretizes the notion that the age old aphorism ‘you are what you eat’ is now consistent with cutting edge molecular biology.”
— Sayer Ji, https://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/amazing-food-science-discovery-edible-plants-talk-animal-cells-promote-healing

Indeed, you are what you eat, and you are also what you breathe in. Back to viruses. What gobsmacked me when I read all this is that I had seen very similar ideas way back in my youth, in the Seth material! It turns out that decades before these discoveries, the Seth entity (famously channeled by Jane Roberts) had been telling us the same things. And I had been thinking about his ideas when I first considered writing this post; for some reason they had stuck in my mind all these years. I didn’t expect to be able to find specific quotes, but the internet being such a magical place, I was able to come up with some right away:

“Many viruses INHERENTLY capable of causing death, in normal conditions contribute to the overall health of the body, existing side by side as it were with other viruses, each contributing quite necessary activities that maintain bodily equilibrium.”

“All viruses of any kind are important to the stability of your planetary life. They are a part of the planet’s biological heritage and memory. You cannot eradicate a virus, though at any given time you destroy every member alive of any given strain. They exist in the earth’s memory, to be recreated, as they were before, whenever the need arises.”

“Viruses appear to be “the bad guys,” and as a rule you think of them separately, as for example the smallpox virus. There are overall affiliations in which viruses take part, however, in which delicate balances are maintained biologically. Each body contains countless viruses that could be deadly at any given time and under certain conditions. These — and I am putting it as simply as possible — take turns being active or inactive within the body, in accordance with the body’s overall condition. Viruses that are “deadly” in certain stages are not in others, and in those later stages they react biologically in quite beneficial ways, adding to the body’s stability by bringing about necessary changes, say, in cellular activities that are helpful at given rates of action. These in turn trigger other cellular changes, again of a beneficial nature.”

“Now: In the same way that a member of such a society can go [askew], blow his stack, go overboard, commit antisocial acts, so in the same fashion such a person can instead trigger the viruses, wreck their biological social order, so that some of them suddenly become deadly, or run [amok]. So of course the resulting diseases are infectious. To that degree they are social diseases. It is not so much that a virus, say, suddenly turns destructive — though it does — as it is that the entire cooperative structure within which all the viruses are involved becomes insecure and threatened.

“You are not aware of the inner army of viruses within the body that protect it constantly. Host and virus both need each other, and both are part of the same life cycle.”

“Thoughts interact with the body and become part of it as viruses do. Some viruses have great therapeutic value. The physical body will often let down its own barriers to these, knowing they will counteract certain others that are not beneficial at the time.
So-called harmful viruses are ever-present within the body. You are very rarely vulnerable to any but a small percentage, though you carry within you traces of the most deadly of them all of the time. Viruses themselves undergo transformations completely unsuspected by medical men. If one virus disappears and another is found, it is never suspected that the first may have changed into the second; and yet through certain alterations of quite natural character such is the case.” [Remember the pleomorphic nature of flu viruses that we read about above.]

“More is always involved, however, for those viruses that you consider communicable do indeed in one way or another represent communications on a biological level. They are biological statements, literally social communications, biologically made, and they can be of many kinds.”

“There are all kinds of biological reactions between bodies that go unnoticed, and they are all basically of a social nature, dealing with biological communications. In a fashion viruses—in a fashion—again, are a way of dealing with or controlling the environment. These are natural interactions, and since you live in a world where, overall, people are healthy enough to contribute through labor, energy, and ideas, health is the dominating ingredient—but there are biological interactions between all physical bodies that are the basis for that health, and the mechanisms include the interactions of viruses, and even the periods of indisposition, that are not understood.”

“The species is also always in the process of keeping within its genetic bank millions of characteristics that might be needed in various contingencies, and in that regard there is a connection, of course, between, say, viruses of many strains and the health not only of man but of other species.”

“The epidemics then serve many purposes — warning that certain conditions will not be tolerated. There is a biological outrage that will be continually expressed until the conditions are changed.”

Wow. If there was ever a time for biological outrage, surely it is now. 

Sayer Ji elaborates this “open-access” view of the biome in an article connecting it with our non-coding “junk” DNA and the Gaia hypothesis:

“This view also invites a complete re-visioning of the tree of life. Unlike the conventional model, where the DNA is hermetically sealed off within the lockbox of each species, evolving in isolation at a glacial pace, except for extremely rare horizontal gene transfer events (such as retroviral vectors that incorporate into the germline and become endogenized as endogenous retroviruses), the newer, more “open access” model would permit species to alter and affect another’s phenotype in real-time, along with potentially altering its long-term evolutionary trajectory by affecting epigenetic inheritance patterns. This speaks to a co-evolutionary and co-operative model, with all areas of the tree of life, co-developing in a highly complex and seemingly highly intelligent, carefully orchestrated manner.

… So, in the post-Genomic era, it is starting to look like the ‘dark matter’ of the human genome is eclipsing in importance the known, protein-coding sequences, which account for only about 1.5% of the DNA’s 3 billion base pairs. Why? Because it has been recently discovered that most of our genome (estimated 70-90%) is transcribed into non-coding RNAs. And why would this be so, if not for a purpose? Life does not concern itself with producing anything without reason.” [my emphasis]
https://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/genetic-dark-matter-and-return-goddess

Please consider this very carefully. Species can affect each other’s structure and function in the moment, and they can affect each other’s evolutionary path by changing inherited traits, something that until fairly recently was considered laughable. And viruses are part of that web of communication. 

One might wonder why terrible diseases exist. Many explanations could be brought up, but it is important to remember that most viruses, most bacteria, most fungi do not create disease, and some actually prevent it. Among these are the viruses which kill harmful bacteria in our mouths, and of course the crucially needed bacteria that live in our guts. Like it or not, we are not so much individuals as communities in motion, ships carrying innumerable passengers and crew who must all work together to stay afloat.

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The Seth entity and many others remind us that disease and resistance to it are largely (or entirely) produced by our thoughts, both on an individual and a population level. This does not mean that we should stop our physical-world measures to reduce transmission of COVID-19 or any other illness. Although the physical world is essentially an illusion, if you jump off a cliff, gravity will have something to say about it! We have to live in our shared reality and follow its rules. However, we can also use our thoughts to reduce the trouble we find ourselves in and to create new structures as we recover.

EFT teacher Dawson Church reports: 
“Three years ago, with a wonderful group of research colleagues, I studied the levels of immunoglobulin antibodies in people at a 2 day EcoMeditation workshop (with a lot of tapping) at Esalen (Groesbeck et al., 2018). Plus a weeklong EFT tapping workshop (including EcoMeditation; Bach et al., 2019).

“We found that the weekend retreat was associated with a rise in immunoglobulin levels of 27%! That’s a big increase in your body’s ability to fight off invading viruses!”

“While the coronavirus is a “novel” virus and we don’t know how well our existing antibodies work against it, we do know that it’s very useful to have 27% better general immunity!”

He can be found at https://www.eftuniverse.com/

Lynne McTaggart, well-known for her Intention Experiments and Power of 8 intention groups, is holding weekly Facebook Live sessions of applying group thoughts to mitigate the coronavirus crisis, as well as weekly group sessions to help with healing for individuals. https://lynnemctaggart.com/

EFT tapping, meditation, prayer, whatever you choose— you can use your coronacation time to improve your individual situation and the world. I sincerely hope that you are physically and mentally well and that you have enough material goods and finances to get by. If you don’t, please reach out for help in any way you can!

 

 

*‘But how did the outbreak occur? Solving this medical mystery is important to prevent future pandemics. What’s increasingly clear is that the initial “origin story” — that the virus was spread by people who ate contaminated animals at the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan — is shaky.

‘Scientists have identified the culprit as a bat coronavirus, through genetic sequencing; bats weren’t sold at the seafood market, although that market or others could have sold animals that had contact with bats. The Lancet noted in a January study that the first covid-19 case in Wuhan had no connection to the seafood market.’
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/how-did-covid-19-begin-its-initial-origin-story-is-shaky/2020/04/02/1475d488-7521-11ea-87da-77a8136c1a6d_story.html

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Here is more of the relevant Seth material, with the quotes above in context. There was far too much to include in the body of the post. I found these passages at https://findingseth.com, https://www.wireclub.com/topics/philosophy/conversations/UmK3dAOnShBELwai0, and the Seth Quotes page on Facebook.

These books contain the quotes:
NoME = The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events
NoPR = The Nature of Personal Reality
TES = The Early Sessions
DEaVF = Dreams, Evolution and Value Fulfillment
WTH = The Way Toward Health

“The viruses and infections were of course present. They always are. They are themselves fragments, struggling small fragments without intention of harm. You have general immunity, believe it or not, to all such viruses and infections. Ideally you can inhabit a plane with them without fear. It is only when you give tacit agreement that harm is inflicted upon you by these fragments.” -Seth, Early Sessions, Vol 1

“Give us a moment … In those terms, thoughts move far quicker of course than viruses. The action of the virus follows the thought. Each thought is registered biologically. Basically (underlined), when you have an immunity to a disease you have a mental immunity.
You think of viruses as evil, spreading perhaps from country to country, to “invade” scores of physical mechanisms. Now thoughts are “contagious.” You have a natural immunity against all thoughts that do not fit in with your own purposes and beliefs, and naturally (pause, groping), you are “inoculated” with a wholesome trust and belief in your own thoughts above others. The old ideas of voodooism recognized some of these concepts, but complicated and distorted them with fears of evil, psychic invasion, psychic killing, and so forth. You cannot divide, say, mental and physical health, nor can you divide a person’s philosophy from his bodily condition.”
—NoME Chapter 6: Session 841, March 14, 1979

“The patient, therefore, often feels relatively powerless and at the mercy of any stray virus that might come along. The facts are that you choose even the kind of illness that you have according to the nature of your beliefs. You are immune from ill health as long as you believe that you are.”
—NoPR Chapter 5: Session 624, October 30, 1972

“Many viruses INHERENTLY capable of causing death, in normal conditions contribute to the overall health of the body, existing side by side as it were with other viruses, each contributing quite necessary activities that maintain bodily equilibrium.
“If (certain viruses) are triggered, however, to higher activity or overproduction by mental states, they then become ‘deadly.’ Physically they may be passed on in whatever manner is peculiar to a specific strain.
“Literally, individual mental problems of sufficient severity emerge as social, mass diseases.”
—The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, Session 802

NoME Chapter 6: Session 840, March 12, 1979   5/52
[… 3 paragraphs …]
(When I arose early on the 26th so that I could wrap the proofs for mailing, however, I noticed that Billy [their cat] didn’t appear to feel well. Jane watched him while I went to the post office. He was no better when I returned, and as the morning passed we came to realize that he had a urinary problem. That afternoon I took him to the veterinarian, who kept him for treatment; the problem was serious; by then the cat was in great pain. Jane and I both wondered: Why Billy? Why should such a seemingly perfect young creature suddenly become that sick, for no observable reason? “We were shocked,1 no doubt about it,” I wrote in my notes for the 836th session, a private or nonbook one which Jane gave that evening. During the session Seth discussed Billy’s illness to some extent, while also giving the first “installment” of an answer to a longstanding question of mine: I was curious about the relationship between the host — whether human, animal, or plant — and a disease it might contract, one that was “caused,” say, by a virus. I’ll return to the question at the end of these notes.
[… 6 paragraphs …]
(“All viruses of any kind are important to the stability of your planetary life. They are a part of the planet’s biological heritage and memory. You cannot eradicate a virus, though at any given time you destroy every member alive of any given strain. They exist in the earth’s memory, to be recreated, as they were before, whenever the need arises.
[… 5 paragraphs …]
(Pause.) Viruses appear to be “the bad guys,” and as a rule you think of them separately, as for example the smallpox virus. There are overall affiliations in which viruses take part, however, in which delicate balances are maintained biologically. Each body contains countless viruses that could be deadly at any given time and under certain conditions. These — and I am putting it as simply as possible — take turns being active or inactive within the body, in accordance with the body’s overall condition. Viruses that are “deadly” in certain stages are not in others, and in those later stages they react biologically in quite beneficial ways, adding to the body’s stability by bringing about necessary changes, say, in cellular activities that are helpful at given rates of action. These in turn trigger other cellular changes, again of a beneficial nature.
[… 3 paragraphs …]
Now: In the same way that a member of such a society can go [askew], blow his stack, go overboard, commit antisocial acts, so in the same fashion such a person can instead trigger the viruses, wreck their biological social order, so that some of them suddenly become deadly, or run [amok]. So of course the resulting diseases are infectious. To that degree they are social diseases. It is not so much that a virus, say, suddenly turns destructive — though it does — as it is that the entire cooperative structure within which all the viruses are involved becomes insecure and threatened.
[… 3 paragraphs …]
You are not aware of the inner army of viruses within the body that protect it constantly. Host and virus both need each other, and both are part of the same life cycle.

NoME Chapter 6: Session 841, March 14, 1979   8/21
[… 5 paragraphs …]
The case was startling, again, because of the obvious suicidal acts. The poison was, after all, left as evidence. Had the same number of people been found dead (pause) of a vicious disease — smallpox or whatever — the virus involved would have been the villain. I want to discuss thoughts and viruses, along with the health of the body.
You think of viruses as physical, and of thoughts as mental. You should know that thoughts also have their physical aspects in the body, and that viruses have their mental aspects in the body. At times you have both asked why an ailing body does not simply assert itself and use its healing abilities, throwing off the negative influence of a given set of beliefs and thoughts.
When you think of thoughts as mental and viruses as physical, the question is understandable. It is not just that thoughts influence the body, as of course they do; but each one of them represents a triggering stimulus, bringing about hormonal changes and altering the entire physical situation at any given time.
(Pause at 9:16.) Your physical body … give us time … is, as an entity, the fleshed-out version — the physically alive version — of the body of your thoughts. It is not that your thoughts just trigger chemical reactions in the body, but that your thoughts have a chemical reality besides their recognizable mental aspects. I will have to use an analogy. It is not the best, but I hope it will get the point across: It is as if your thoughts turned into the various appendages of your body. (Emphatically:) They have an invisible existence within your body as surely as viruses do. Your body is composed not only of the stuff within it that, say, X-rays or autopsies can reveal, but it also involves profound relationships, alliances and affiliations that nowhere physically show. Your thoughts are as physically pertinent to your body as viruses are, as alive and self-propagating, and they themselves form inner affiliations. Their vitality automatically triggers (long pause, eyes open) all of the body’s inner responses. When you think thoughts, they are conscious. You think in sentences, or paragraphs, or perhaps in images. Those thoughts, as clearly as I can explain this, rise from inner components of which you are unaware.
[… 1 paragraph …]
(9:28.) Give us a moment … In those terms, thoughts move far quicker of course than viruses. The action of the virus follows the thought. Each thought is registered biologically. Basically (underlined), when you have an immunity to a disease you have a mental immunity.
You think of viruses as evil, spreading perhaps from country to country, to “invade” scores of physical mechanisms. Now thoughts are “contagious.” You have a natural immunity against all thoughts that do not fit in with your own purposes and beliefs, and naturally (pause, groping), you are “inoculated” with a wholesome trust and belief in your own thoughts above others. The old ideas of voodooism recognized some of these concepts, but complicated and distorted them with fears of evil, psychic invasion, psychic killing, and so forth. You cannot divide, say, mental and physical health, nor can you divide a person’s philosophy from his bodily condition.
Give us a moment … While I say all of this about thoughts and viruses, remember the context of the discussion, for new information and insights are always available to an individual from Framework 2, and the body does indeed send its own signals.
[… 2 paragraphs …]
The people who died at Jonestown believed that they must die. They wanted to die. How could their thoughts allow them to bring about their [bodily deaths]? Again, the question makes sense only if you do not realize that your thoughts are as physically a part of your body as viruses are (intently).
[… 5 paragraphs …]

NoPR Chapter 7: Session 631, December 18, 1972   7/23
[… 5 paragraphs …]
You must remember that you dwell always in a natural framework — which means that your thoughts themselves are as natural, say, as the locks of your hair. In what may seem to you to be an odd analogy I will compare your thoughts with viruses,* for they are alive, always present, responsive, and possess their own kind of mobility. Physically speaking at least, thoughts are chemically propelled, and they travel through the universal body as viruses travel through your temporal form.
Thoughts interact with the body and become part of it as viruses do. Some viruses have great therapeutic value. The physical body will often let down its own barriers to these, knowing they will counteract certain others that are not beneficial at the time.
So-called harmful viruses are ever-present within the body. You are very rarely vulnerable to any but a small percentage, though you carry within you traces of the most deadly of them all of the time. Viruses themselves undergo transformations completely unsuspected by medical men. If one virus disappears and another is found, it is never suspected that the first may have changed into the second; and yet through certain alterations of quite natural character such is the case.
So viruses can be beneficial or deadly according to the condition, state, and needs of the body at any given time. It is known that one disease can often cure another; sometimes, left alone, an individual will go from a serious disease through a series of less severe ones that are seemingly unrelated to the original problem.
[… 1 paragraph …]
(Pause at 9:58.) I am not suggesting that you not visit doctors or not take drugs of that nature, as long as you believe in the structure of medical discipline that the Western world has evolved. Your bodies have been conditioned to it through the use of such medications since birth. There are many casualties, but this is still a system that you have chosen, and your ideas still form your reality. No one dies who has not made the decision to do so — and no disease is accepted blindly. Put simply, your thoughts can be regarded as invisible viruses, carriers, sparks setting off reactions not only within the body but the entire physical system as you know it.
Your thoughts are as natural as the cells within your body, and as real. They interact with one another as viruses do. While you are in this reality there is no division between the mental, the spiritual, and the physical. If you think there is, then you do not sufficiently understand the spirituality of the flesh or the physical reality of your thought.
[… 5 paragraphs …]
It is natural to live after death, and natural to return the body to earth and [then to] form another. It is natural for your thoughts to be as quick, responsive, and alive as viruses. It is natural for you to have probable selves as well as reincarnational existences.

DEaVF1 Chapter 6: Session 906, March 6, 1980   10/39
[… 8 paragraphs …]
Subject: Viruses as part of the body’s overall health system, and viruses as biological statements.
Viruses serve many purposes, as I have said before.1 The body contains all kinds of viruses, including those considered deadly, but those are usually not only harmless, or inactive, but beneficial to the body’s overall balance.
[… 1 paragraph …]
(9:01.) In certain fashions (underlined), that system also keeps the body from squandering its energies, preserving biological integrity. Otherwise it would be as if you did not know where your own house began or ended, and so tried to heat the entire neighborhood. So some indispositions “caused by viruses” are accepted by the body as welcome triggers, to clean out that system, and this applies to your present indispositions.
More is always involved, however, for those viruses that you consider communicable do indeed in one way or another represent communications on a biological level. They are biological statements, literally social communications, biologically made, and they can be of many kinds.
(Still quietly, but at a good pace:) When a skunk is frightened, it throws off a foul odor indeed, and when people are frightened they react in somewhat the same fashion at times, biologically reacting to stimuli in the environment that they consider alarming. They throw off a barrage of “foul viruses”—that is, they actually collect and mobilize from within their own bodies viruses that are potentially harmful, biologically trigger these, or activate them, and send them out into the environment in self-protection, to ward off the enemy (more vigorously).
In a fashion this is a kind of biological aggression. The viruses, however, also represent tensions that the person involved is getting rid of. That is one kind of statement. It is often used in a very strong manner in times of war, or great social upheaval, when people feel frightened.
Now, your friend had been to the Olympics (last month, at Lake Placid, New York), and he was charged by the great physical vitality that he felt watching that athletic panorama. [Because of that, and for other personal reasons], he could find no release for the intense energy he felt, so he got rid of it, protected himself, and threw out his threatening biological posture: the viruses.
[… 2 paragraphs …]
(Pause at 9:17.) There are all kinds of biological reactions between bodies that go unnoticed, and they are all basically of a social nature, dealing with biological communications. In a fashion viruses—in a fashion—again, are a way of dealing with or controlling the environment. These are natural interactions, and since you live in a world where, overall, people are healthy enough to contribute through labor, energy, and ideas, health is the dominating ingredient—but there are biological interactions between all physical bodies that are the basis for that health, and the mechanisms include the interactions of viruses, and even the periods of indisposition, that are not understood.
[… 12 paragraphs …]
1. Seth first mentioned viruses in the 17th session for January 26, 1964, when I asked him to comment upon the recent deaths of our dog, Mischa, at the age of 11, and of a pair of kittens Jane had obtained from the janitor of the art gallery where she worked part time. (The kittens had the same mother, but had come from successive litters.) I was 44 and Jane was 34, and in conventional terms both of us were still struggling—not only to learn about ourselves and the world, but to find our creative ways in that world. Seth’s answer to my question was more than a little surprising and saddening to us, and opened up a number of insights:
[… 1 paragraph …]
“The viruses and infections were of course present. They always are. They are themselves fragments, struggling small fragments without intention of harm. You have general immunity, believe it or not, to all such viruses and infections. Ideally, you can inhabit a plane with them without fear. It is only when you give tacit agreement that harm is inflicted upon you by these fragments. To some degree, lesser, dependent lives such as household pets are dependent upon your psychic strength. They have their own, it is true, but unknowingly you reinforce their energy and health.
[… 5 paragraphs …]

DEaVF2 Chapter 7: Session 906, March 6, 1980   1/34
[… 11 paragraphs …]
The species is also always in the process of keeping within its genetic bank millions of characteristics that might be needed in various contingencies, and in that regard there is a connection, of course, between, say, viruses of many strains and the health not only of man but of other species.

WTH Chapter 2: January 28, 1984   2/33
[… 9 paragraphs …]
— is instead the result of an exaggeration or overextension of perfectly normal body processes. You are not attacked by viruses, for instance, for all kinds of viruses exist normally in the body. There are no killer (underlined) viruses, then, but viruses that go beyond their usual bounds. We will have more to say about such issues later on in the book — for I hope to show you how certain feelings and beliefs do indeed promote health, while others promote an unfortunate extension or exaggeration of perfectly normal bodily processes, or viral activity.
[… 3 paragraphs …]
(Long pause.) People have been taught that their bodies are a kind of battleground, and that they must be in a constant state of readiness lest they be attacked or invaded by alien germs or viruses or diseases that can strike without warning.

NoME Chapter 1: Session 802, April 25, 1977   9/63
[… 4 paragraphs …]
Dictation: (Pause, one of many.) Now: To a certain extent (underlined), epidemics are the result of a mass suicide phenomenon on the parts of those involved. Biological, sociological, or even economic factors may be involved, in that for a variety of reasons, and at different levels, whole groups of individuals want to die at any given time — but in such a way that their individual deaths amount to a mass statement.
[… 8 paragraphs …]
Now if you believe in one life only, then such conditions will seem most disastrous, and in your terms they clearly are not pretty. Yet, though each victim in an epidemic may die his or her own death, that death becomes part of a mass social protest. The lives of intimate survivors are shaken, and according to the extent of the epidemic the various elements of social life itself are disturbed, altered, rearranged. Sometimes such epidemics are eventually responsible for the overthrow of governments, the loss of wars.
[… 1 paragraph …]
The epidemics then serve many purposes — warning that certain conditions will not be tolerated. There is a biological outrage that will be continually expressed until the conditions are changed.
[… 1 paragraph …]
The sight of the dying gave them visions of the meaning of life, and stirred new [ideas] of sociological, political, and spiritual natures, so that in your terms the dead did not die in vain. Epidemics by their public nature speak of public problems — problems that sociologically threaten to sweep the individual to psychic disaster as the physical materialization does biologically.
(Pause.) These are the reasons also for the range or the limits of various epidemics — why they sweep through one area and leave another clear. Why one in the family will die and another survive — for in this mass venture, the individual still forms his or her private reality.
[… 17 paragraphs …]
They do not “worry.” They do not anticipate disaster when no signs of it are apparent in their immediate environment. On their own they do not need preventative medicine. Pet animals are inoculated against diseases, however. In your society this almost becomes a necessity. In a “purely natural” setting you would not have as many living puppies or kittens. There are stages of physical existence, and in those terms nature knows what it is doing. When a species overproduces, the incidences of, say, epidemics grow. This applies to human populations as well as to the animals.
[… 2 paragraphs …]
There are also “trial runs” in human and animal species alike, in which peeks are taken, or glimpses, of physical life, and that is all. Epidemics sweeping through animal populations are also biological and psychic statements, then, in which each individual knows that only its own greatest fulfillment can satisfy the quality of life on an individual basis, and thus contribute to the mass survival of the species.
[… 2 paragraphs …]
Many children, who, it seems, should have died of disease, of “childhood epidemics,” nevertheless survive because of their different intents. The world of thought and feeling may be invisible, and yet it activates all physical systems with which you are acquainted.
[… 1 paragraph …]
Love involves self-respect, the trust in individual biological zest and integrity. To that extent, in their way animal epidemics have the same causes as human ones.

https://www.wireclub.com/topics/philosophy/conversations/UmK3dAOnShBELwai0
from The Individual And Nature of Mass Events.–by Jane Roberts———–
—— “Unfortunately, many of your public health programs, and commercial statements through the various media, provide you with mass meditations of a most deplorable kind. I refer to those in which the specific symptoms of various diseases are given, in which the individual is further told to examine the body with those symptoms in mind. I also refer to those statements that just as unfortunately specify diseases for which the individual may experience no symptoms of an observable kind, but is cautioned that these disastrous physical events may be happening despite his or her feelings of good health. Here the generalized fears fostered by religious, scientific, and cultural beliefs are often given as blueprints of diseases in which a person can find a specific focus-the individual can say: `Of course, I feel listless, or panicky, or unsafe, since I have suchandsuch a disease.’
————— “The breast cancer suggestions associated with self examinations have caused more cancers than any treatments have cured. They involve intense meditation of the body, and adverse imagery that itself affects the bodily cells. Public health announcements about high blood pressure themselves raise the blood pressure of millions of television viewers.
—— “Your current ideas of preventative medicine, therefore, generate the very kind of fear that causes disease. They all undermine the individual’s sense of bodily security and increase stress, while offering the body a specific, detailed disease plan. But most of all, they operate to increase the individual sense of alienation from the body, and to promote a sense of powerlessness and duality. Your “medical commercials” are equally disease promoting. Many, meaning to offer you relief through a product, instead actually promote the condition through suggestion, thereby generating a need for the product itself.”

“Examine the literature that you read, the television programs that you watch, and tell yourself to ignore those indications given of the body’s weaknesses.

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Filed under channeling, health and healing, history, nature, psychology, spirit communication

The Scariest Thing of All

entwined trees

Connection/individuality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love and fear are strange partners
They have been together a long time
They know each other well
Where one is found, so is the other
Seeming opposites, they occupy
the same coin’s two aspects
and flip back and forth
as our hearts open and close.

 

I wrote that poem while embroiled in the most complicated relationship of my life. I often thought that it was like an Olympics of relationshipping, requiring huge stretches and leaps, unprecedentedly tricky psychological and emotional gymnastics, greater skills than I had ever had to develop before.

I did not stick the landing.

Last weekend I performed in one of our monthly dance salons sponsored by the Farfesha troupe. It was the Halloween edition, but I didn’t have anything specific to the holiday planned. Then it occurred to me that the gentle, lyrical song I was dancing to, “Lamma bada yatathanna,” was about one of the things that scares people the most: helplessness in the face of love and desire.

It ends by repeating Aman, aman… “Mercy! Mercy!”

Lots of things in this world are scary. Maybe it sounds a bit histrionic to say that love and desire are among the ones that give people the most serious cases of the heebie-jeebies. But as an empath, that’s what I’ve experienced. I’ve also been told about it in so many words, as in, “Sometimes I want to be close to you, too, but it’s just too frightening.”

With the anniversary of the sprained soul I sustained at the end of that overcomplicated relationship coming up, I am thinking again about love and fear. Can they be separated? Is it ever possible to have only love? I would say that this is the case with my husband and me, but then, there is always the fear of loss. Even though the loss of a person to death is not truly real— they only appear to be gone— the pain can be beyond what we can cope with, and that can go on and on. Of course we fear it.

I think that the fear associated with love is always a fear of loss— loss of control above all, perhaps loss of one’s definition of oneself. Fears about losing freedom, autonomy and safety are common, though in a viable relationship those things will not really be lost. All of these are in some way fear of change.

My husband thought I was a little nuts writing about love being frightening. “Well,” I said, “what about when a guy goes out with a girl and really likes her a lot, and then he never calls her? That’s fear, right?”

“Yeah, if she likes him, then he’s stuck.” (His life will change for sure.) “And if she doesn’t like him, she’ll step on him and smash him like a spider!” (Yeeks!)

In the case of my gymnastics partner, as far as I can tell, a fundamental fear was about having to change his view of himself and what was possible for him. He didn’t have the flexibility to manage that. I acknowledge that this is a pretty terrifying thing, and I don’t blame him for being nervous about it.

The fear that permeated that association, though, was beyond anything reasonable. It was pervasive and infected every moment. Every time I thought we had gotten past it, it reared its head again. It lurked behind every affectionate gesture and every sincere word of kindness.

All along I kept trying to identify and root out my own phobias and anxieties. I thought I was going through some intense and useful spiritual development. Being an empath, I was constantly attending to the messages beneath the surface as well as the overt ones. I came up with new skills and new methods to make sense of the odd things that went on. It seemed like all that would keep me out of trouble, but ultimately I was no better off.

It was an epic fail, and I can’t advise you on how to avoid the same. All I know is that when there is a choice between love and fear, the path of fear will never get you where you want to go. Loving more thoroughly, more clear-headedly, with less ego, is the better strategy, and that means applying love and compassion to yourself as well. It may be that continuing the relationship is not compatible with this kind of love, that the truly loving course is to let it end.

I remind myself that if something is impossible, failing to accomplish it is not a real failure. We know that no one ever passed the Kobayashi Maru test without cheating.

**************************************************************************

As I told you about last time, I had the great privilege to hear and meet Nadia Bolz-Weber at an event on October 20. I literally looked up to her— my goodness, she’s tall, and she was wearing 3” heels. Someone who makes no attempt to hide. She wasn’t always that way, though. Her book Shameless: A Sexual Reformation, which I’m rereading, describes her early life within a very repressive Protestant denomination.

 I was on the verge of tears all through her presentation that day, and wasn’t quite sure why. I felt that I had long since worked through the issues of shame and guilt and not-good-enough that she was talking about. While waiting for the event to start, I opened Shameless in e-book form on my phone, and my eye fell on the phrase “the inherent goodness of the human body.”

That is still an area of blockage for me. It struck me that for those of us struggling with or coming to terms with chronic illness, chronic pain, disability, or even just plain aging, finding ourselves in contention with recalcitrant bodies, it is hard to remember their inherent goodness. Even if we have cleared away millennia of religious asceticism and dualism that tell us our bodies are sinful and must be suppressed and disciplined, it can still be a real challenge to be friends with our physical forms. Rev. Nadia is talking about the goodness of the body in terms of its sexual and sensual nature, but there is far more to be found in that concept.

All this brings up questions of why we live in physical bodies to begin with, and what we are to make of our relationship with this physical world. But clearly our bodies are meant to touch other bodies, as Rev. Nadia points out. The desire to connect, it seems to me, can be seen in spiritual terms as a need to connect with our Source.

The dance of love and fear is based in the conflict between the desire for connection and merging and the desire for individuation. All beings want to connect and belong, and all beings have an innate drive to keep existing. The mistake we make is in believing that love and connection threaten our continued existence as individuals.

************************************************************************

A hypnotic choreography to the version of “Lamma bada” I used, by Lena Chamamyan:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxIj4ni07Q0&list=WL&index=6&t=0s

The song is a venerable one from the Andalusian tradition, in sama’i rhythm with 10 beats per measure. Here is one of many versions of the lyrics:

Lamma bada yatathanna… Hubbi jamalu fatanna
Amru mâ bi-laHza asarna
Ghusnun thanâ Hina mal
Wa’adi wa ya Hirati
Man li raHimu shakwati… Fil-Hubbi min law’ati
Illa maliku l-jamal
Aman’ Aman’ Aman’ Aman

https://lyricstranslate.com

And a couple of the many translations:

When he was bending, when he was bending (this means he is dancing or doing something graceful)
My love, his beauty struck us
Something about it captivated us
beauty, as soon as he began to bend

My promise, oh my confusion, my promise, oh my confusion
Who could be the one to alleviate my sufferings in love, from my torment, except the one of beauty
Oh mercy, oh mercy, oh mercy

http://www.arabicmusictranslation.com/2008/10/lena-chamamyan-when-he-looked-bent-lama.html

She walked with a swaying gait
her beauty amazed me

Her eyes have taken me prisoner
Her stem folded as she bent over

Oh, my promise, oh, my perplexity
Who can answer my lament of love and distress
but the graceful one, the queen of beauty?

http://www.qiyanskrets.se/lyrics.htm

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Filed under music, psychology, sexuality, spirituality

The Blue Lady and Marian Apparitions

Photo of the sky over Conyers, GA in 1990, attributed to someone named Ferdinando. My Blue Lady looked a lot like this.

Last time, I told you about my vision of an entity I thought of as the Blue Lady. While looking for images that might convey something of what I saw, I came across this:

http://www.zeitun-eg.org/zeitoun1.htm

“For more than a year, starting on the eve of Tuesday, April 2, 1968, the Blessed Holy Virgin Saint Mary, Mother of God, appeared in different forms over the domes of the Coptic Orthodox Church named after Her at Zeitoun, Cairo, Egypt.”

That is, for more than a year, something or someone appeared over St. Mary Coptic Orthodox Church. The something was a glowing form resembling a woman in long robes, with rays of light around her head. This apparition was often accompanied by others, including forms like white doves that came and went suddenly and flew without visibly flapping their wings. Sometimes the strange sights went on for over two hours. A great many people saw them, and quite a few striking photos and even movies exist. No matter how skeptical we may be or how uncomfortable religious imagery may be for a lot of us, this evidence is there to confront us.

Please take a moment to boggle at the pictures at the link above.  Here is an example.


And here are some more: http://jesusphotos.altervista.org/Apparition_at_Zeitoun.htm

Even for those of us who are accustomed to Seeing Things and knowing that others see even more, this is a freaky event to contemplate, especially since it involved so many observers at once. Blessed Mother sightings are not uncommon, though, and have been well documented over many decades.

I am curious as to whether the Blue Lady I saw had anything to do with this phenomenon. I’m also wondering whether the apparitions are related to the being described by Clark Strand in his book Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age, which I reported on here: https://elenedom.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/review-waking-up-to-the-dark/

Recounting Strand’s experiences, I wrote: “As he progressed with his exploration of the depths of night, at some point the darkness itself, the Yin principle one might say, began to visit him in the form of a beautiful young woman, three-dimensional, visible, audible, and solid to the touch. When he first saw her, her lips were sealed by a creepily evocative X of black electrical tape, which she wordlessly pleaded with him to remove. Sometimes her appearance would change. He recognized her as Mary, Isis, Sophia, Diana, the Shekinah, the Queen of Heaven, and especially the Black Madonna. In all cases, She is the personification of Earth and Nature, the Mother we all come from and who we ignore at our peril, the feminine essence that so many human societies have suppressed with desperate force.”

I would like to know whether people in completely different cultures, not exposed to the Mary mythos, have similar visions. Certainly Mary has become conflated and entwined with the goddesses of other cultures, as we see in Our Lady of Guadalupe:

“Following the Conquest in 1519–21, the Spanish destroyed a temple of the mother goddess Tonantzin at Tepeyac outside Mexico City, and built a chapel dedicated to the Virgin on the same site. Tonantzin (the beloved mother of the gods) was celebrated around each winter solstice which occurred on different dates, the winter solstice of 1531 occurred on December 12, 1531 according to the UNAM. Even many of the newly converted to Catholicism natives then continued to come from afar to worship there, often addressing the renamed native image, as if she were the Virgin Mary, which they had known as their Tonantzin.” [December 12, 1531 was the climactic day of the visions seen by the peasant Juan Diego.]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_Guadalupe

It would be no surprise if various peoples saw the image of the Mother in a guise familiar to them. As one of the Zeitoun website pages put it, “She sometimes made Her apparition with the Babe Jesus Christ in Her arms. It is not strange to see the Child Jesus Christ in an apparition; heavenly apparitions may take forms known to us, so that we can understand them.” The image of a powerful, all-loving, nurturing Mother is as fundamental to the human psyche as anything can possibly be, and She is real in at least a psychological and emotional sense. Perhaps seeing Her in so many times and places is to be expected.

That’s about as much as I can say about the visions themselves at this point. Your thoughts are welcome. I would especially like to know if you have experienced anything along these lines yourself.

I do want to add something about Her names. Often these apparitions are referred to by the acronym “BVM”— Blessed Virgin Mary. I have always been bugged by the Blessed Virgin concept. Virgin and Mother are incompatible archetypes! The story of the mother of Jesus being a virgin was added well after his death, and is based in Greek and Roman, not Jewish, mythology. The reason it bugs me so much is not only because it’s just plain not historically true, but because it seems to me to insult and repudiate women, and all of nature along with us. It is a perfect expression of a patriarchal culture that could not deal well with sexuality or human bodies. It’s as if God built the world a certain way, then decided that he had messed it up when He invented mammals and their means of reproduction.

Adyashanti’s interpretation made me feel a little better about this. He said the story means that the divine principle came directly into the world without requiring the duality of male and female, remaining one purely divine reality. Whatever. I prefer to contemplate the ancient image of the Mother without painting the unnecessary Virgin layer over her.

It would be wonderful to believe that Someone is watching over us with loving attention, and like any mom, will comfort us when we inevitably fall and get bruised. But perhaps, like any mom, she will set limits on our nonsense, and apply consequences. If only she could make us stop fighting with our brothers and sisters….


Still more photos of apparitions or purported apparitions:

Apparitions at another place in Egypt in 2009, still photos and video
http://jesusphotos.altervista.org/Apparition_at_Warraq.htm

“Photographs of the Virgin Mary in the clouds”
http://jesusphotos.altervista.org/Virgin%20Mary%20in%20the%20clouds.htm

 

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Be Still: Riding the Waves of the Sea of Fear

Back in September, our house was burglarized. That was the beginning of the feeling of being under siege. Within a few weeks I developed the high-pitched tinnitus I’ve told you about, which is like having an alarm going off 24/7. On Election Day, I took a bad fall on concrete, which caused injuries I’m still dealing with and for a while made me nervous even of walking.

In early January, I saw a new primary care physician for the first time, and it was pretty much the worst experience I’ve had with a medical appointment in my entire life, truly traumatizing. It had nothing to do with “care,” and little to do with “physician,” as the woman was strangely refusing to practice medicine. But it was clear, both from what she said and from her body language, that she had been badly mistreated herself. I had never seen a doctor in such a stressed, terrified state. She was literally trembling, and I don’t mean in the sense of having a neurological condition.

I felt very concerned for this woman*, but outraged that she would think it was remotely OK to treat a patient, or any human being, the way she treated me. More critically, I was being put in danger by her refusal to take my health issue seriously. I sank into a state of complete terror myself.

Just a few days later, our house was broken into and robbed again, this time with a lot of damage. They didn’t get much of any monetary value, but they took the few shreds of a sense of safety we had left.

As soon as I could pull out from the shock and anxiety, I took a look at the big picture as best I could. Perhaps my being mired in fear had helped to attract the burglar? I scanned around my body and the perimeter of the house and found a lot of energetic holes. Big ones. I patched everything up and worked at shifting my attitude and expectations.

If the abusive doctor had been put in my path for a reason, I thought, it was so that I could perceive, yet again, that fear is the fundamental problem.

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One of the things I’ve been doing to keep myself on an even keel is to listen to recordings of Adyashanti, the American Buddhist teacher, which I find both soothing and inspiring. I’m in the midst of an audio course called Resurrecting Jesus: Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic. The course invites a deeper engagement with the story of Jesus’ life by digging into the metaphorical and mythological aspects of the Gospels, treating the story as story with all its psychological connections, not worrying about whether a given event happened in the physical world exactly as described. This is a bit of a departure for me, since I have spent a lot of time studying the history of early Christianity and trying to understand what did literally happen and what was invented later. I’ve been more involved with the facts, to the extent that they can be known. But I am completely fine with the concept that a story can be true without being something that actually happened.

At times Adyashanti seems a little off the mark to me in this course, but for the most part his interpretations make tremendous sense. He even came up with a way of thinking about the myth of the virgin birth that makes it no longer offensive to me. (More on that in the next post, in case you’re curious.) He emphasizes over and over that Jesus was pointing toward the Divine Nature within all of us. I wish we had all been taught this way to begin with. I don’t think we would fight ourselves or each other as much as we do.

The story that’s most relevant to my theme today is the one where Jesus and his friends are out on the Sea of Galilee in a boat when a terrible storm comes up, one that terrifies even the experienced fishermen among them. The disciples panic, sure they are all going to die, but Jesus is peacefully sleeping in the back of the boat. He knows the storm is nothing to be concerned about. They wake him up, shouting, “Master, we’re going to drown!” Jesus simply says to the storm, “Quiet! Be still!” and everything immediately becomes calm. “Where is your faith?” he asks the men.

Adyashanti riffs on the metaphorical meaning of water, which among other things can symbolize the unconscious. The storm-tossed sea is the myriad unsettled and unsettling things roiling around in the darkness inside all of us. Adyashanti takes this even further, with an idea I wouldn’t have thought of: previously, Jesus had cast the demons who called themselves Legion out of a man and into a herd of pigs, which then threw themselves off a cliff and drowned in a lake. Wait, was that really supposed to be the same body of water which later was the scene of the storm? For now, for the sake of a good parable, let’s just go along with Adyashanti’s device.

The demons are now in the water, lots of them, all loose and ready to make trouble. Think of any demons you can identify in your present moment. Threats to the climate. Yemen, Syria, Venezuela. The Brexit fiasco. MAGA hats. Intolerance. Xenophobia. Burglaries. Murders. Interior demons like self-hatred. [Your issue here.] There are infinite numbers of “demons” that might fill that stormy sea.

But Jesus, as an advanced spiritual master, is not bothered by any of them, because he knows what is truly real and what is delusion. When he says, “Be still,” he speaks with absolute authority, and they instantly obey. The disciples, still in thrall to what appears to be reality, cannot understand this. Can we? Can we bring ourselves to be still?

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The look on your face when your boggle threshold is exceeded.

Meanwhile, Star Trek: Discovery continues its aspirations to create modern mythology. As you may remember, Discovery’s first officer, Saru the Kelpien, is a creature who, being a prey animal, is ruled by fear. Or at least, he was until…

*SPOILER ALERT!!!* If you haven’t yet seen the fourth episode of season 2, and you plan to, stop right here and come back later.

… he has a near-death experience that transforms all of that.

Kelpiens are fast, capable of running around 80 kph. They’re super-smart, or at least Saru is— he has learned 94 languages, and in his youth he was able to figure out technological devices without any training. The main reason the Kelpiens have allowed themselves to be kept as livestock is that they believe that the “Great Balance” demands it. They don’t resist. They don’t even consider the possibility of resistance.

At some point in a Kelpien’s life, he or she undergoes a process called the vahar’ai, which is supposed to signal impending death. At this time, the Kelpien is expected to submit to being taken and slaughtered for food by the Ba’ul. The vahar’ai is extremely painful, so the affected Kelpien presumably looks forward to the end. All this is accepted calmly as the just the way things are; one should not think of trying to change it or having any other kind of life. The village priests reinforce this belief system.

In the recent episode “An Obol for Charon,” the vahar’ai is triggered in Saru by the death throes of a mysterious planet-like entity. Seeing no alternative to death, and in great pain, Saru begs Michael Burnham to cut off his threat ganglia (the sensory organs that warn Kelpiens of danger), which will kill him quickly and end his suffering. Weeping, Michael raises the knife to fulfill his request, but before she can begin to cut, the threat ganglia fall off of their own accord.

And Saru is not only still alive, he is suddenly free of fear, transformed in a way no Kelpien ever realized was possible. He has died to one version of reality and been born to another. He says that he feels his own power.

Which, in reality, he has always had.

How’s that for a metaphor?

Earlier in the day that this episode premiered, I had been contending again with the intersections of love and fear, hope and despair. As had happened when I was introduced to the mycelial network concept, I was given a perfect parable to fit the moment.

(It turns out, two episodes later, that things with the Kelpiens are even more complex, and their power more far-reaching, but I’ll let you watch and find out about that.)

Discovery has brought up yet another image that resonates for me, the “Red Angel.” We don’t know yet what this being really is, or whether it is good, evil, or something less definable. We know that a threat to all life in the galaxy is on the way, and the Red Angel may be connected to it, but so far we have only seen the mysterious entity acting to save people, a lot of them, including Michael Burnham. (*Extra spoiler*: As of the sixth episode of the season, we have evidence that the Angel is a humanoid using advanced technology, not a spiritual being.)

The neon-like pictures of the Red Angel reminded me of something or someone I saw years ago, when my mother-in-law was in the hospital after her stroke. While I was doing energy work for her, a vision of a glowing blue being, like a neon outline of a woman in flowing robes, appeared before my eyes. It was unusual in its vividness, and because it seemed as if I saw it floating in the room, rather than only in my mind’s eye. The vision went on for a few seconds. The Blue Lady, as I called her, didn’t do anything in particular, but she had a comforting effect.

I’ve wondered if I might have seen the entity or phenomenon that is responsible for the many “BVM” (Blessed Virgin Mary) sightings that have been recorded around the world. Whether or not that is so, I am completely agnostic about the nature or meaning of the Blue Lady. At the time I felt that she was there to help. I would like to think that she is still out there, still available, whatever and whoever she is.

The Red Angel may or may not be meant to convey a similar sense of security, comfort and hope. Fans are speculating intensively. We should get some clarification in a matter of weeks. Meanwhile, I will hold to the hope— I should say faith, but I have so much trouble with that word— that Someone has our backs as we navigate the murky waters of this dark and confusing time.

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Not long ago we had an alarm system installed in our home. We’re still getting used to it. I understand that, although it is called a “security system,” it cannot really create security or safety. It can’t stop anyone from entering our home; it can only make them extremely uncomfortable and discourage them from staying. True security can’t be found that way. It has to be gained from understanding what is real and what is not.

I’m working on it.

 

 

*Something is even more horribly wrong with our broken system than I had realized. I’ve been trying to figure out what to do to help support our MDs so that they can better support patients, and I have a few ideas, but haven’t found the path to put them into practice yet. Your thoughts on this matter are welcome.

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