What is beginning to boggle my mind is how life, that is nature, may be applying or suggesting ways in which we humans, by recognizing our connectedness to and dependence on nature, can allow the planet to return to a state of health and abundance. Whether or not we heed the call is yet to be determined, but the possibility that nature, no questions asked, is ready and able to turn it around if we decide to cooperate, makes me feel like we belong (duh!) and have our part to play in the healing of our planet.
I got my latest smack in the head from Zach Bush, a medical doctor, endocrinologist, and student of biophysical wellness. He has been on the forefront of disseminating the recent discoveries of the importance of the microbiome and the virome in maintaining health. We know that the microbiome in our gut is as vital to our health as is the microbiome in the soil, water, air—basically everywhere. This awareness has been unfolding ever since the invention of the microscope. The microbiome refers to bacteria and fungi, but we are now becoming aware of an even more fundamental role being played by viruses or what is coming to be called the virome.
Viruses are not actually living, if you define that as something that has DNA and a distinct cellular boundary. Viruses have no cells, but are packets of genetic information. Akin to the paradigm change in physics from Newton’s world to that of Einstein, Bush says that viruses are now being seen as something like a program update on your computer. The old idea that your physical nature is solely determined by the DNA you inherited from your parents is being replaced by a much more elegant idea that genetic material is being constantly updated by feedback through viruses that enter our bodies by the billions all the time. Whether that leads to health or sickness depends on the biodiversity and health of the environment “we” inhabit. The “we” is in quotes because the true “we” in a holistic system is the whole, so I’m talking about the health of your individual body and the inseparable world of which it is only a part.
He says an imbalance in the quantity and variety of viruses we ingest, along with the ingestion of toxins from our environment, creates a stressful situation where our immune systems can be overloaded and our bodies become diseased. Remoteness from the biodiversity of the natural environment, and the presence of pollution are prime characteristics of an urban environment in which more and more of us live. The long-term effect is the growing incidence of disease, such as autism, depression, ADHD, diabetes, AIDS, cancer, etc. This is still in the realm of speculation, but we do know that, in the 60’s, 4% of children had autoimmune diseases, and by 2015, this number rose to 46%.
A third factor leading to a breakdown in our immune systems is stress due to economic and social factors such as overpopulation, injustice, inequality of income, racism, xenophobia, lack of community, and any other factors that create the illusion of separateness.
Through the vehicle of the pandemic, nature could be trying to correct the imbalance and restore health by reining in human activity, either by eliminating us or by threat of elimination. If viruses are in fact a feedback mechanism, then going back to the old normal will mean that we haven’t learned how to listen. In the same vein, expecting a vaccine to fix a holistic problem may very well lead to disappointment.
Now I’m going to go out on a limb, but I want you to consider this. I know that, for a lot of you, attributing some kind of overriding consciousness or intentionality to life itself may be more than you are willing to accept. That being said, I have to point to one more way that nature may be expressing intentionality. People on the autism spectrum are considered handicapped in that they can’t immerse themselves so readily into social interaction. Another side of that is the ability to stand back and get a fresh perspective. Greta Thunberg is on the autism spectrum and has been immensely important in raising our consciousness about the climate emergency. Another is Temple Grandin who has revolutionized our thinking about the emotional consciousness of animals. Many of these autistic people could be considered as having one foot planted in a new paradigm that the rest of us, completely immersed in the present-day world, are unable to see. Could this be a way that nature is attempting to point the way for us?