Is the Virus our Vaccine?

COVID-19: Chinese Curse, Causing Crisis and Collapse; or Canary in the Coalmine and Catalyst for Change?

Rory Spowers

‘This essay by Rory Spowers is the best overview of our current situation I have found and a genuine contribution to collective sense-making, including many actionable items.’

Daniel Pinchbeck

‘May You Live In Interesting Times’

Considering the purported Chinese origins of COVID-19 (C-19), it seems apt that two expressions I have heard repeated most since the pandemic emerged, should not only be associated with Chinese culture, but also convey the inherent paradoxes of our time. The first – ‘May you live in interesting times’ – appears to be a blessing, but is in fact known as the ‘Chinese curse’. On deeper investigation, it appears that any connection with China is in fact apocryphal, the expression being cited as a poor translation from another Chinese saying by British statesman Joseph Chamberlain, at the end of the 19th century. It seems likely that the origins of C-19 might always be shrouded in equally mysterious, ambiguous origins. But could this virus itself, which appears to be a curse for humanity, ultimately prove a blessing for the future of life on earth? Is the virus therefore the metaphorical ‘vaccine’ that we all need to wake up and save ourselves from an inexorable and inevitable demise? Or might even some vaccines themselves, as some doctors are now suggesting, prove to be the vectors for the virus they are supposed to cure?

The second expression is the Taoist ideogram wei-chi, which translates as both crisis and opportunity. As we will see, this appears to be supported by both historical events and our own personal experience. Deep systemic change, on a personal or societal level, is always catalysed by crisis. Personal psychological ‘breakdowns’ are often implicit for ‘breakthroughs’ to become possible; addicts have to hit ‘rock bottom’ for radical healing to emerge. Even a transformative mystical experience can be regarded as a ‘spiritual emergency’ – from which we can ‘emerge and see’.

The maverick ‘anti-guru’ Indian teacher UG Krishnamurti – not be confused with the more famous J Krishnamurti – usually referred to his enlightenment as his ‘calamity’, also coining the expression of the ‘de-clutched mind’ to describe what this nebulous term actually denotes. Dr John Vervaeke, a Professor of Psychology, Cognitive Science and Eastern Religion at the University of Toronto, colleague of Jordan Peterson and one of the leading commentators on our ‘crisis of meaning’ within the ‘intellectual dark web’, has highlighted some of the cultural ‘step changes’ that emerged from the Bubonic Plague in the 14th century. Dr Zachary Stein, another leading writer and philosopher in this landscape, talks of this liminal space we find ourselves in, unmoored and cast adrift in this ‘time of pure potential and change, between worlds’, during which we can ‘reshape ourselves as spiritual, scientific, and ethical beings’

Fittingly, both expressions point to the inherent paradoxes of the new reality we now find ourselves in. And, perhaps even more pertinently, this discomfort we feel when confronted by ambiguous information, reveals some fundamental flaws within the mainstream science that has informed our shared notions of consensus reality for hundreds of years. Read more