The Middle Path

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.” – The Jedi Code

One of my biggest concerns around the COVID19 is not the disease itself. My greatest fear is being locked down and being unable to function normally in society. The fear that many share is being socially cut off from people and being unable to work and participate in life. I believe that many recovering  alcoholics out there are suffering under lock-down and many have chosen to return to drinking and substance abuse deciding that life has no meaning and that they are doomed anyway.

The disease has a high rate of infection but it has a low lethality. The survival rate among persons aged 75 years or older is 95% which is comparative to other respiratory infectious diseases such as influenzas. Survival rates among younger people are staggeringly high and above 99.9%. The vast majority of people affected are those with comorbidities, suppressed immunity and advanced age. Those people can be protected and sheltered. People can be educated to take reasonable precautions such as basic hand hygiene, staying at home when feeling unwell and avoiding large crowded areas where possible. Masks can be optional rather than mandated and people can learn to cough in their elbows.

When I was a child I was taught the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. A healthy diet, exercise outdoors and a positive outlook help build the immune system and armour us from illness. As a child I was encouraged to play outside and explore nature. As a result I was often covered in dirt and mud and encountering insects, dead animals and all sorts of hazards. I survived and my immune system was fortified at the same time. Unless bed ridden and unable to move because of a cold, flu or the measles there was no lock down or isolation. We were cared for in a way that made sure we got better and were able to fight off future episodes. What happened to this way? Where did the common sense go?

Dr David Nabarro, a Special Envoy of the World Health Organization Director-General on COVID-19 suggested that the coronavirus is here to stay*. No amount of lock down will eradicate the risk. A vaccine would be unlikely to eliminate the virus from our lives. Dr Nabarro reasons that we should adopt a Middle Path. We should learn to to live with the virus instead of trying to fight it by harming the very people we are trying to protect through draconian laws. A Middle Path means taking reasonable measures that are proportionate to the risk. A reasoned and pragmatic solution can be found that saves lives and avoids the social and economic devastation of lock-downs especially among the disadvantaged and in poorer countries.

I understand taking extreme measures. Being alcoholic my behaviour was out of control. I had an attitude of “all or nothing”. Stopping at two or three drinks was out of the question, I had to keep drinking till either the booze ran out or I fell on my face. This distorted and extreme view of reality translated in to every aspect of my life. An insult or harsh words from a friend meant a fight and a ruined relationship. A reprimand from a boss meant the end of a job. I was convinced that a life without alcohol and selfish entitlement was not a life at all. Everything had to be forced and fit into my world view. I could not accept disagreement or contradiction.

In recovery I started with the same mindset. I tried to control and force everything. This is of course backfired. Recovery cannot be forced. Alcoholics learn that in order to recover they must first surrender self will and let go of the idea that they control everything. I wanted instant contented sobriety and spiritual enlightenment without putting in the time and work. As my progress faltered and slid back I doubled down and found myself even more frustrated with life, people, recovery and God.

I learned to take it easy and let go. Along the way I found the Middle Path. I knew that an inflexible and intolerant approach that forced a solution was not going to work. I also found there is no easy and soft way. Commitment, work, application, practice and discipline was necessary. The Middle Path meant doing it but doing it easy. I had to accept that things were going to be less than perfect. The goal was progress not perfection.

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda lived the Middle Path and avoided excesses or extremes. Jedi were pragmatic in approach. Emotions were valued and acknowledged but rarely played a part in decision making where reason, balance and objectivity were required.

In our reality today, listening to scientists is important but we should not blindly follow their guidelines as gospel. Application takes careful consideration of potential unwanted consequences. The Jedi Method would reject lock-downs as excessive and unnecessary and question the need for mandated masks. The virus can only be managed, not eradicated, at least not without causing untold suffering on humanity which we seek to avoid. The cure cannot be worse than cause whether we are talking about a virus or recovery.

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