We have to unlearn the notion that being grounded is bad
HOW CORONAVIRUS IS TEACHING US SKILLS WE WILL NEED FOR THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY
Did you hear about the first driverless car that killed a pedestrian?
It happened in Arizona in 2018, when Elaine Hertzberg was pushing her bike across a road in Arizona, and an Uber-owned self-driving Volvo drove into her. The Volvo’s software initially classified her as an unknown object, then as a vehicle, and finally as a bicycle. The software had predicted a different path for each option. By the time it worked out that Elaine was a person, it was too late.
This article isn’t about autonomous cars: this article is using autonomous cars to illustrate what might be happening to human consciousness in the era of Covid-19 (using me as a guinea pig). The underlying purpose is to report how Covid-19 is altering our brain’s software, maybe permanently, using the self-driving car as an analogy — and how to make it a useful learning experience.
By the way, you don’t have to believe in a god to understand the analogy. All you need to do is to accept is that there is an overarching design which facilitates humanity’s existence. A sort of DNA for it all. That’s hopefully within most people’s tolerance levels. There is a slight addendum: I believe that the overarching design is benevolent — that existence favours positive outcomes. Why else are we here? When we get sick, our body battles to get better. When we experience distress, our minds try to heal us. We are not born to suffer endlessly in a malevolent universe. If we feel that way, it’s probably a result of human activity. We are born onto a beautiful planet with everything we need to nourish us — air, water, food, shelter. The bad things — war, poverty, hunger, crime— are the outcome of humanity’s choices.
Much has been rightly made of the terrible physical toll that covid takes on the human body — the viral onslaught has claimed 6,339,899 lives since December 2019. We know that 560 million people have had coronavirus, and we know that around 40 per cent of those who have contracted it have experienced longer-term symptoms — long covid. Their symptoms have included loss of taste and smell, loss of memory, muscle wastage and cognitive impairment.
It is hard to reconcile this utterly appalling catalogue of human disaster with the idea of a benevolent universe, but this is what we must try to do (knowing what to plan for increases our chances of survival). So is covid a result of human behaviour, or a natural consequence of living in a world of bacteria which can turn against us sometimes? It’s early days on that one, and others will cover that ground better than I could, but I’ve not read too many studies on how covid affects you energetically, so that’s what I’m here to report on. I’ve had covid twice now, and there have been similarities about each experience.
The first thing to say is that when you have covid you do the decent thing and socially withdraw from society as much as is possible. In my situation, I’m able to buy groceries and have them delivered to me, and I’m able to work from home: I’ve been very fortunate. And my symptoms have been relatively mild, and for that I’m grateful (to my DNA, to god, to nature, to the universe, whatever you prefer).
But effectively, you are grounded when you get the virus. You have to stay home. Now ‘grounded’ is a significant word, given negative connotations by society — it refers to a means of control. So if you mess up as a child, or as a pupil, you’re ‘grounded’. You can’t go out and have fun, you have to stay at home (or in class). To be grounded, in our society, is seen as a punishment, and this is the first thing you have to deal with when you have covid: to see being grounded as not a punishment, but as a potentially positive experience. Being grounded doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, but it does mean coming to terms with a reduced sphere of activity.
How is that a positive experience, you might ask? On the most prosaic level it’s a chance to learn. When you take things slowly, your body chemistry changes. Usually the changes are subtle, but what we know about covid is that it makes changes in your brain. Most lose between 0.2% and 2% of their grey matter. Others experience changes — energetic changes. In other words, yes we may be losing brain power, but there are parts of our brains that are probably underused, and these energetic changes are interesting and potentially useful in that context. In fact, energetic changes are almost always designed to make you better aligned with the universe’s DNA, which underpins the way the laws of nature are set up. And voluntarily making those changes might be for our own good, might help us adapt to the next stage of the human journey, which is going to feel a lot like being grounded, except ongoingly. And maybe covid is the first harbinger of this.
So what happens when you accept being grounded?
Energetically, you get what I call a ‘covid persona’ when you have covid. It’s similar to your other persona, but offset. I’ll talk more about this later but for the moment, what this means is that you must make friends with your new alter ego. What’s that saying — ‘keep your friends close, but your enemies closer’? You need to keep track of the wreckage — or potential wreckage — this juggernaut is going to create.
Speaking of juggernauts, in much the same way as we have created AI-driven cars (or robots), we have also been created with certain faculties, and a toolkit to make use of them. If you’re not making use of all these faculties, you’re underperforming, and there’s a toolkit to tinker around with that. It could be education, or exercise. The universe, god, nature, whatever you want to call it, has offered you various colours and shades to display, and if you’re not using this palette to its full potential there are ways the universe will nudge you, and covid is one helluva nudge. In fact covid is what happens when the great universal shape-shifter uses a next-level toolbox to fix the toolbox. And maybe we need it, because as a species we’re massively underperforming. (For sure it would’ve been nicer if we could have identified the issue earlier and resolved it before it ran over more than 6 million people.)
If being grounded is reframed as a positive experience, we can adapt to it. It offers an opportunity to reevaluate your life, to think through your purpose, and reshape it where necessary. And I’m pretty sure this experience of being temporarily grounded is a foretaste of what’s going to be happening for billions of people on Earth in the relatively near future (I’m pulling punches, it’s already happening). This new state of being grounded as a fact of life will occur both as a choice — travelling uses up lots of resources which we need to conserve for future generations — and as a necessity, because resources such as fuel to drive or fly will become unaffordable or unavailable. (It’s shockingly complacent that commercial flying is still seen as OK.)
What else about being grounded? Well you start to notice other entities which are also grounded. This could be a person, or it could be a tree, or a bird, or a dog. The separation between the manifestation of the entity and its core connectedness to Earth, our survival mechanism, becomes less important. On one level, all life is sentient, even a rock. What’s our excuse?
Another aspect of being grounded is that it forces you to create your own entertainment. The brain is actually very good at this. You only have to read accounts of people that were chained to a radiator for years, or Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, to appreciate that. For me and, I suspect, many others, the entertainment comes from thinking back on the fun times you’ve had, and maybe considering or reconsidering situations which you didn’t fully appreciate first time around. I do a lot of this anyway, but the difference I’ve found with covid is that your thinking is, as I’ve said, offset, so maybe you visualise different situations, or see familiar situations from a different point of view. Even my dreams have been radically different during the bouts I’ve had with the virus. My brain is throwing up different images and memories, viewed from a slightly different angle. And by the way, I’m way past the point when this could be a mid-life crisis!
In general, what I’ve learned is that I’ve allowed a lot of things to remain unfinished. Unfinished conversations, unfinished projects, unfinished relationships, and with many of them they never will be finished in any conventional form (bear in mind that as you get older you sadly lose a lot of people that you had formative experiences with in your life). It’s okay to go through this (as distressing or poignant as it may be) as long as you remind yourself that the past can’t be changed, but I have made a commitment to myself to not embark on journeys which are destined to leave me rudderless in the middle of a storm with no sight of land in future. Probably something I ought to have learned without covid, but we are where we are. And of course you don’t need to catch covid to do this — a lot of people reevaluated their lives during the lockdowns we’ve had, and have a better appreciation of nature and mental health as a result.
This isn’t about regret or, heaven forbid, self-pity. It’s all about the toolkit, remember? So any piece of reevaluated experience I can now take forward into future experiences. I can — and must — learn from this, if only as a way to honour those who lost their lives without having the chance to resume any sort of normal life.
So it’s early days, but grounding this energy is crucial. There’s too much ungrounded energy flying around. Ungrounded energy leads to misunderstandings, and misunderstandings lead to break-ups, arguments, and — in their most extreme expression — war. Let’s not do that any more. Let’s not treat nature like Uber treated Elaine — let’s identify what is really in front of us, and correct our course in time. And that means getting our facts straight, accepting them, and making the best of the hand that we’ve been dealt, now and evermore.
Out of the ghastliness of covid must emerge some good — the prioritising of mental health in every aspect of our lives, from jobs to relationships. It won’t emerge of its own accord, it needs to be enacted by everyone, but we need to do it now because the next great struggle will be climate change, and we will need stronger bonds — and stronger stomachs — when we finally wake up to the challenge. And we need to do that fast if, as I suspect, covid is just the trailer for the climate emergency.
As Floyd Red Crow Westerman says: “Our DNA is made out of the same DNA as the tree, the tree breaths what we exhale, we need what the tree exhales. So we have a common destiny with the tree.
“We are all from the earth, and when the earth, the water, the atmosphere is corrupted, then it will create its own reaction. The mother is reacting.
“In the Hopi prophecy, they say the storms and floods will become greater. To me, it’s not a negative thing to know that there will be great changes. It’s not negative, it’s evolution. When you look at it as evolution, it’s time, nothing stays the same. You should learn how to plant something. That is the first connection.
“You should treat all things as spirit, realise that we are one family. It’s never something like the end. It’s like life, there is no end to life.”