I recently envisioned the simple metaphor of pulse as a way to begin to understand the reign of the virus. The essential rhythm of all of life is a pulse: the contraction and expansion of the tides, the moon, the seasons, the dance of life and death itself. A life pulse is the fundamental, intrinsic way life is regulated and sustained.
Our human pulse, our heart beat, defines our very lives. It is the first indicator of our new life and the last indicator that our life has ended. We rely on its persistent, complex, magically electronically stimulated, two-part function of contraction and expansion that circulates the nutrients in the blood that we need to stay alive. We rely on our pulsating heart every second of our lives.
But at times the heart pulse may also go off kilter. Our hearts flutter and malfunction. When that happens our lives are threatened, and some medical intervention, like my pacemaker, is needed to stabilize and provide the consistent life-giving contraction and expansion pulse that sustains existence.
In terms of the planet itself, the pulse metaphor provides both a sense of how all of life is supposed to work, and it also helps to explain how turbulent life systems become when the essential rhythm is disrupted and life-threatening. We obviously live in such a turbulent time.
As a planet we are clearly now arrhythmic with a weak, pandemic-infected, compromised pulse. Unlike the ability of our own damaged hearts to receive proven successful, established corrective medical intervention to bring us back to a normal rhythm, the planet may need the equivalent of a "heart transplant,” a radical transformation to not just return us to more sustainable rhythm, but to offer a major reset. I am encouraged by the possibility of a new “pulse” of contraction and expansion to include major progressive tax reform with a graduated income tax that would receive and redistribute wealth more equitably with universal safety nets and commitment to care for “the least of these." Might a new "heart” also assure fairer policies of food distribution and health care systems? Like human heart transplants the complex process would involve extensive technology, cost, expertise, huge risks, and the ability and willingness to cope with the resulting pain and recovery. But do we, individually, nationally, and planetarily, really do not have a choice?
While I find consolation in the possibility for radical future change, I write tonight from the perspective of a terrible national news week: racial murder and racially based riots in the streets of Seattle and other cities; Corvid-19 pandemic deaths in the U.S. now over 100,000; cultural wars about wearing masks; the beginning of an early and likely climate change-induced, devastating hurricane season; political leadership bordering on the mad; and children around the world, like our grandchildren, feeling the stress of being largely home bound with no encouraging prospects for improvement over the summer and perhaps into the fall. We are becoming increasingly aware that something so historically large is overcoming us with new pulses and rhythms we cannot yet envision. Our EKG monitor is reeling.
In spite of all the bad news we must learn to live somehow with this crazy, arrhythmic pulse during the pandemic and the stressors it is creating. And we need to look for ways to join in planning for substantial change while also being graciously as possible attentive to the daily demands in our restricted lives. I am also regularly reminded there is much to celebrate these days as well, especially our improving competencies with Zoom and FaceTime that maintain ongoing warm relationships, welcome shared wisdom, and joy and laughter. Above all we are challenged to hold faith in the inherent capacity for life itself to somehow right its sustainable pulse, with or without human intervention. However we name it, we are living in an unprecedented faith journey for each of us personally and for the planet itself.