No waiting for fruition

Within our days and our lifetime there are many things we aspire to accomplish. Long term goals and daily habits enter our mind and become wishes, hopes. While considering these future accomplishments we might picture ourselves basking in the light of enjoyment and/or completion. We might want to establish a discipline; of meditation, diet, weight loss, writing, music. We might picture ourselves in a home overlooking a lake, basking in the sun, finally in our dream location.

Goals and dreams are natural to many and can be useful for shaping our lives over time. They may never be accomplished but remain a regular fantasy throughout our days.

I believe the way in which we dream and fantasize has much to do with our accomplishment. If we want to take the goal further than the mind’s eye, there are some common pitfalls to consider. I am familiar with them from experience.

  • Placing our goal behind qualifications. If your meditation practice, for example, requires a particular setting, time, and conditions, you may never meet the right moment to begin. “I need this cushion, this altar, this temperature, a window, etc.” Accepting imperfect or basic conditions to begin, we are more likely to get our body to the mat.
  • Perfect accomplishment. If you have established a regular routine you will know that habits are refined through practice. In the beginning they often feel contrived, forced and uncomfortable. The first time I recited a Sutra prayer out loud I felt very odd. It took time to internalize the words, find a rhythm, and find meaning in them. “Perfection is the enemy of good enough”, a quote often attributed to Votaire, is a call to move our feet forward.
  • Intimidated by the act. Starting a habit or persisting may intimidate you. For me, writing is often a challenge to begin. The blank page doesn’t give me guidance or encouragement. It’s a little like jumping off a cliff into cold water. The anticipation of the shock (finding my voice in writing) can stop me in my tracks. The antidote requires jumping despite my hesitation; over and over and over again.
  • Intimidated by the scope of the act. I can get caught in the immensity of a goal. There are so many chords to learn, so many songs. It’s difficult to get my fingers in the right position not to mention moving them fast enough for the song. Singing and playing? Oh my god! I’ll never be able to accomplish that. These things are real but they don’t have to be accomplished in a single sitting. Can you enjoy the steps along the way. Truth be told, you probably won’t win a Grammy. Perhaps you need to revisit you purpose for playing.
  • Acceptance – Approval. Whether we struggle with approval from a voice inside or outside, the effect is the same. Closely related to our need for perfection, there is little we can do to satisfy this need except to acknowledge the green monster and move on. After recognizing the feeling of “not good enough”, we can do our practice despite it or even bring that energy into our practice.

Information Literacy or Alternative Facts

Last week saw the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. With a change in administration comes an entirely new set of priorities in everything including Covid relief, health care, climate change, the economy, racism / racist policy, and international relations to name a few. As if these challenges weren’t already systemic and complex, it is unclear is how we will move forward, out of the cloud of disinformation and extremism. Problems like these require a proactive approach but in order to be proactive we need accurate and defensible information. Our interdependence… call it shared fate, requires unity and a willingness to cooperate in the face of these extreme problems. Will we face these problems united?

“…without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury, no progress, only exhausting outrage, no nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge. And unity is the path forward. Hear me clearly: Disagreement must not lead to disunion.

Joe Biden – Inauguration on Jan 20, 2021

As I watched the swearing in and listened to the speakers, ministers, singers and poets I am encouraged to believe that we can repair the damage; damage in our confidence, in our institutions and in each other. Harris and Biden have the knowledge and skills in government that can help us repair the damage to agencies and their dedicated staff but they cannot succeed without the will of us all. I hope our representatives find consensus within the opposition, a willingness to rally resources that serve the needs of ALL people. People want to work, feed and support themselves and their families. But right now they need help. Better to put out immediate fires of the economy than let them build and consume it to the point of no return.

There are already questions about what and how the legislative agenda will be organized. How will the Biden administration balance a progressive agenda with mainstream agendas? How will they develop support from the ranks of Republicans; especially those that want to continue the assault on anything “democratic”. Acknowledging that a significant number of people question the legitimacy of the election, we need to find a way to restore faith in our government. What started as a “Tea Party”, questioning the need for taxes, has grown into a movement with a range of demands, roots in alternative facts*, not to mention name calling and disrespect. We need to understand the source of this dissatisfaction while we dispel lies.

Now that the incessant messages of the Trump administration have been quieted, it will be interesting to see how “alternative facts” are promoted. While there is no such thing as an alternative fact, it is essential that we practice and teach ourselves methods for separating fact from fiction.

In the early days of the Internet I considered digital literacy an important skill for children in our school district. At the time it seemed like a good idea. Now I would say it is a matter of survival. Without this basic skill, the long term survival of democracy, not to mention our health, is at risk. We need look no further than the misinformation that has been spread alongside the spread of Covid-19. If people can be led astray on something as essential as their personal health, then anything seems possible. Digital literacy isn’t about telling people what to believe, but giving them tools to separate opinion from fact and fact from fiction.

Alternative facts” was a phrase used by U.S. Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway during a Meet the Press interview on January 22, 2017, in which she defended White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s false statement about the attendance numbers of Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States. When pressed during the interview with Chuck Todd to explain why Spicer would “utter a provable falsehood”, Conway stated that Spicer was giving “alternative facts”. Todd responded, “Look, alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.”Wikipedia

Merry month of May

May Blooms at Home – David McGavock

It is impossible to grasp the myriad ways that people are sheltering and we’re just getting started. Yesterday I attended my sister-in-laws birthday party via Zoom. There were less than 10 of us and we represented at least 5 different towns, 3 different time zones. Listening to their stories, I realized how different our realities are. Shaped by climate, housing, family configuration, and the state and town we live in, each of us have a different way, a different perspective of sheltering. Though we were pretty much in agreement that sheltering is a necessary action, I sensed that there were variations in what we considered safe. The variations weren’t extreme but very present.

I have a brother in Missouri who has sheltered with both of his 2 adult children and their 4 children. With 2 houses on adjacent property and lots of acreage, one daughter has temporarily moved in to their home with her son. The other daughter lives in a house 100 yards across the field with her husband, daughter and 2 sons. In the weeks since sheltering began in their state and town, they have remained on the land and had the benefit (and the sacrifices) of close contact with only each other. They have home schooled the children, some have worked remotely and one has worked outside the home in an essential and solitary workplace. They have done shopping as needed but generally have kept to themselves. They express their gratitude that they are able to have this time together, even though it is under some duress.

My mother on the other hand is sheltered alone. From the last week in March to the present, she has left her home only once to shop. She has had her groceries delivered by the store or one of my brothers and has kept in touch with us via voice and video conversations. I am very thankful that, at 89, she has the skills and a sharp mind for negotiating her computer and phone. Living over 800 miles from her, the Internet is a precious gift for connecting with her. She seems to keep herself busy with reading books, playing games on her computer, watching television, reading Facebook and the news. Through it all she stays connected with the family and the world. In some ways her life hasn’t changed too much for her, thought she misses the periodic physical contact she used to have with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Mom – iPad – FaceTime

As some states reopen and loosen safe at home living, our style of interaction will vary even more. While we can read what the recommendations are and have experienced some safe social engagement in the course of these weeks, we are still trying to establish our level of comfort and consequently our behavior. Joni and I have engaged in several video chats with friends and family and it seems that there is a subtle debate and negotiation in our conversations about what we’ve heard, read; about what is allowed and what is safe. If this is true of like-minded friends and family one can only assume that there is even greater diversity of thought in other communities and groups. At the extreme are people, a small but vocal minority, who still consider infection to be a hoax and you have a lot of room for confusion.

  • What did you hear about parks being open? Can you hike? Can you camp?
  • Can we cross state and county lines? What happens when we do? Can they stop us?
  • Can I get my bike fixed?
  • How do I tell someone to give me space? How do I deal with their anger (and language) when I do?
  • How sick do I need to be to get a test? Is an antibody test more available? Is it just as good? How reliable are the tests? Can I feel safe if I have the antibodies?
  • How can I be sure that people who work at my house conduct themselves safely?
  • Should I allow people to pet my dog?
  • If my friend and I have both been in isolation for weeks, can we safely gather? Should we still maintain 6 feet? With or without face masks? Can I go in their house?
New York Time – May 1, 2020

These and other questions will get answered over the summer and into the fall and winter as we line up our social behavior with the change in infection rates. Hopefully we will have the tests that are reliable and accessible to measure our progress. Hopefully people will choose health over money, finding ways to bring commerce and comfort back without sacrificing their community.

New Reality – New Behavior

Plans for ending shelter in place are moving forward. Counties, cities, and states have announced new rules for public engagement with the goal of allowing people greater freedom of movement, small group gathering, and the resumption of services and retail business. The most restrictive plans are detailed by organization and require that people follow particular guidelines for reopening service and business. The variety of approaches are varied and sometimes difficult to follow but some news sources are trying to maintain updated status for all the 50 states.

Here in Colorado our governor has announced a second stage strategy for increasing movement while trying to keep the lid on Covid-19 infection. In his afternoon press conference today (April 27) he repeatedly said, “if we as a state slack off on social distancing measures and other ways to prevent the spread of the virus, additional restrictions could come back. It is up to us to keep moving towards fewer restrictions.” This warning is the governor’s attempt to motivate Coloradan’s even as experts are short on testing data; a shortage of information regarding infection of asymptomatic individuals (infected but not showing symptoms). Today the governor intends to address testing in particular. The worry is that we will move to Stage 3 of the plan before we have valid data.

US Post Office – Glenwood Springs, CO – David McGavock

The governor directed people to go to the Colorado State website to read the details and plan their strategy for opening: https://covid19.colorado.gov/safer-at-home .

The details of the new restrictions are not simply recommendations but directives for conducting business safely. Polis made it clear that the state has always maintained health guidelines for business and would continue to through this crisis.

If that’s what they are doing [ignoring state restrictions], then that is unsafe for the residents of Weld County, which has one of the highest per capita rates of COVID-19 in the state, and we will absolutely use every mechanism we have including they will forego their own eligibility for emergency funds. Those businesses could lose their license to operate under the state if they’re state-licensed businesses.

Jared Polis Newsconference – April 27, 2020

The threat of these consequences may not be as easy to apply as they sound. Weld County has already received their emergency funds so that cow has left the barn. But businesses should be careful not to risk their license as well as their reputation and concern for public safety. The consequences may be their end. I predict that businesses will do all they can to advertise and maintain the steps they take to protect customers if they are going to survive. Hilton Hotels have already begun.

While the variety of restrictions and recommendations that are streaming from various jurisdictions may seem confusing and contradictory, they can be boiled down to a few common sense reminders for most of us:

  • Pay attention to your health, especially symptoms that indicate Covid-19 infection. Do not leave home if you’re exhibiting these symptoms. Consult with a doctor.
  • Under age 65. Stay at home unless you have something essential do. This includes food or home maintenance shopping, exercise, work, medical or other essential activity.
  • Over 65. Stay safe at home. Ask for help in getting essential supplies.
  • Carry a mask with you if you leave the house.
  • Maintain 6 foot distance whenever possible.
  • Put mask on when you cannot maitain 6 foot distance.

These 6 reminders will contribute to your health and the health of those around you. I expect they will become a part of our daily living and common courtesy into the next few years. Settle in, practice and these actions will become second nature.

Negotiations Begin

The march to flatten the curve of Covid-19 infection continues with the inevitable twists and turns of human denial, bargaining, acceptance and adaptation. Sometimes it feels like progress, as though we are getting a handle on the disease and it’s many complications for living. At other times it feels hopeless, as though it will never end. We aren’t accustomed to being inconvenienced here in the US, even for an hour. We are like children in the car on family vacation, whining “Are we there yet!?”. The problem is, there are many stops along the way to a cure (18 months at the earliest). The stops; infection testing, antibody testing, symptom monitoring, social distancing and inoculation are coming slower and with more sacrifice than we would like. When we “get there”, the landscape, how we behave, how we structure public gatherings and how we plan our life will be very different.

“The Shape of Patriotism” – Photoshop by David McGavock

Deny Science? at your own peril

The accommodations we make will be a negotiation between our desires/impulses/comfort/ideals and what promotes health for all. The balance is being negotiated in the courts and on the streets of America as I write. While healthy behavior is respected by 60-70% of the population, a minority feels that health and safety should not be the primary goal. In the courts, the right of people to assemble in church is being argued. Do people have the right to assemble for church if the assembly is contrary to public health? Some church leaders are arguing that if people can take a walk in the park, go to the grocery and hardware store, they should have the right to attend church services. They assert that states simply have no right to restrict their right to worship as they choose. They are ignoring the difference between the close assembly of a church and the open air, low density assembly in a park.

At state capitals people are protesting restrictions in movement. The motivation for the protests are diverse. Some decry the loss of jobs, business and income. Some simply don’t think the government has the right to make them isolate. Last week, stay-at-home protests took place in California, Michigan, Kentucky, Minnesota, Virginia, Utah, North Carolina and Ohio. On Sunday five other state including Colorado, Florida, Tennessee, Illinois, California, and Washington capitals saw protests. These protests are heavily represented by Trump supporters who have been emboldened by his calls to “liberate” their states from excessive stay-at-home orders. With news coverage as it is, this allows him to cover all the bases with his schizophrenic message. I digress…

There are no precedents for restricting people’s movement in the law. Does that mean that it shouldn’t be done – for the safety and long term security of our people and the economy.

Health experts agree that a long term recovery will require:

  • A sustained, gradually modified, stay-at-home (SAH) effort. Modifying the SAH orders in accordance with infection data will increase the chances that new outbreaks will not occur. We need time to put other precautions (listed) in place. Republican and Democratic governors agree that their states still don’t have adequate supplies to respond comprehensively despite the presidents denials to the contrary. Our health cannot be driven by politics.
  • Continued social distancing when you leave home. The 6 foot distance does not lend itself to sporting events, concerts, rallys, traditional church services and other large gatherings. The risk is greater when people sing, shout, exchanging fluids in the process.
  • Tracking symptoms. While comprehensive testing of our population would be the ideal, tracking symptoms on a wide scale is necessary to understand the pattern of outbreaks.
  • Reliable testing. The fact that people can be infected and infectious without symptoms, means that testing is crucial. We need to double or triple the current level of testing.
  • Preparation for outbreaks. Our hospitals need to be outfitted with adequate supplies and space to respond quickly and safely to new outbreaks.

These precautions are accepted by public health experts, including the presidents advisors (and periodically by the president himself). And yet these precautions are white-washed by a very vocal albeit minority of opposition. Personally, I get lost trying to understand the motivation of people who deny these difficult but simple facts. I understand that the loss of income is devastating and motivates denial and rebellion. None of us want to stay home but we have to forgo our short term satisfaction for long term gain. What can be done?

Finding our way

The precautions (restrictions if you please) are non-negotiable. The sooner we face and enact them the faster we will recover our health and our economy. The question is not what but how can we negotiate our behavior within the boundaries of the restrictions. There are many examples of people doing just that. I submit that the energy of protests would be better spent figuring out how to work within these restrictions rather than railing against them. Here’s a short list:

Drive through – a truly American tradition. Since the advent of the automobile, people have found innovative ways to use their cars to eat, drink, watch movies, worship, marry, and procreate. In the throws of the pandemic we have added to the list of uses to get tested, check symptoms, “congregate” and pray,order take out food, and simply get out of the house. True, we have been asked to reign in the distance we travel, but this too will pass.

Shopping with distance and masks – While much is made about restricting our right to buy some products, shopping will slowly return as infection decreases. The face of shopping will (literally) change into the foreseeable future. I’m happy to see that all our stores in Colorado are enforcing masks with signs

Church assembly online and parking lots. It is difficult for me to feel sorry for people who complain that their right to worship is being denied. First of all, church is not a place or destination, but a state of heart and mind. The physical contact is important but must be weighed against the damage we may do to our community at large. Even if you disagree with my perspective on the meaning of church, suffice it to say that when we turn the corner on infection, this restriction will be modified. Until then, gather online, in cars, on the phone. Find support, communion, fellowship in any creative way you can. Many people are doing it across denominations, faiths and locals.

Here are some ideas for how to socialize while social distancing (from the Des Moines Register):

  • Hold a virtual dinner party. Bring the webcam to the table and share a meal together.
  • Browser extensions like Netflix Party allow you to sync up streaming shows and movies with your friends.
  • Some video games, like Minecraft or Animal Crossing, allow players to play together remotely.
  • The Marco Polo app allows users to send short videos to each other. It’s more personal than just a text message. 
  • Have a PowerPoint party: Each participant makes a presentation about a topic they’re passionate about and then presents it. 
  • Write a pen-and-paper letter. The postal system is still working, and there’s a certain charm to getting a letter in the mail.
  • Have a cocktail party over video — you won’t have to get a ride home afterward.
  • Start a book club over video or email. 
  • Livestream on apps like Facebook to read books or tell stories to kids. Your friends who are parents will thank you!
  • Learn a new skill with friends. Crochet or paint watercolors together. 
  • If you’re musically inclined, hold a virtual jam session.

Right to Liberty is a right to Health

The right to liberty is the foundation of our country as stated in the 14 Amendment:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Find Law

Acknowledging this, our (temporary and validated) restrictions on movement are at the foundation of life and liberty for without taking these measures, our states would be abdicating their responsibility for insuring both life and liberty. I realize that this is beside the point for people who are simply looking for a fight. That’s another story.

If you are interested, here is a summary of the state by state restrictions.