Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Power, Pandemics, and "Lyme Disease Awareness Month"


COVID remains the epidemic of particular concern in these days and weeks. Yet the month of May is still "Lyme Disease Awareness Month." I hesitate to say much about this mysterious disease that has cast a long shadow over a great portion of my adult life. I don't want to scare anyone, because my peculiar condition dates back to the late 1980s and to extensive exposure to ticks while trekking through the woods of my beautiful Shenandoah Valley and this portion of the Appalachian Mountains called the Blue Ridge.

But there was little or no "Lyme Disease Awareness" back in the '80s (outside of New England), and I was particularly incautious in some of my youthful adventures. There was no practical possibility for the initial signs of the infection to be diagnosed or properly treated, and by the time the more perplexing stage of the disease had developed and (in my case) become debilitating, I could only fight it into what is (I suppose) "remission," and follow what is in some ways a more subdued lifestyle so as to keep it there.

It hasn't been easy. Doors closed in some areas of my life, but windows opened. The condition has been "manageable," and although it has brought some external limitations and some sorrow, these are small in the light of the many joys of my years since 2008. Here I speak for myself only. Many people suffer far more than me, and my heart goes out to them.

We still don't know much about Lyme Disease, but we know a lot more than we used to, and we are more "aware."

So remember to be aware! It's Springtime, which means check for ticks after outdoor activities; if you develop early symptoms of infection, get treated with antibiotics as soon as possible, and you will very probably be fine. It seems to me that, for whatever reasons (possibly immune system related, possibly with a genetic basis?), many people get the Lyme bacteria from tickbites but never develop any significant symptoms, or only very mild symptoms. The medical community still has lots to learn, and there is important research work being done. To become more aware of Lyme Disease, resources are available from places like the Global Lyme Alliance (click HERE).

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging in some places in the world. Many parts of the United States of America, however, appear to be getting closer to the light at the end of the tunnel. Over 50% of the adult population in the USA is fully vaccinated, and numerous States are revising or even lifting entirely their complicated structures of legal prohibitions, restrictions and public health "recommendations" regarding gatherings, social distancing, wearing masks, etc.

The Governor of Virginia is removing most restrictions effective May 28th, just in time for Memorial Day Weekend. People are looking forward to the prospect of their lives getting "back to normal," which is understandable. But the consequences of this whole experience will take some time to work themselves out. 

Really, the Pandemic and its global social repercussions have been just one particularly intense manifestation of the tumultuous transitional period of human history we are all living through. Having accumulated an enormous quantity of information on the processes of the material world, humans of the emerging new epoch have taken the reigns of material power into their hands in an unprecedented way. COVID-19 has pointed out that unpredictable consequences can arise from our use of material power - in this case, that our construction of a vast and interconnected technologically-driven infrastructure can facilitate the unexpected, rapid spread of new diseases. 

Suffice it to say, we should recognize the fact that technological development will not generate utopia. No doubt, we will continue to learn that the undeniable goods of material development will also give rise to new and complex problems. We cannot deny that the increasing crisis involving the global ecosystem continues to loom large over the world, demanding attention not only from scientific techniques but also from a deeper human wisdom.

No matter how extensive and gigantic our power becomes, no matter how clever our technological manipulations, we will never be the self-sufficient "masters of the universe" that some people dreamed about in the anthropocentric philosophies of recent centuries.

One way or another, reality will always continue to challenge us and impose limitations that hinder or even prevent us from doing some things we want, while also surprising us with opportunities and gratuitous experiences that are beyond anything we had planned or anticipated.

We must still do our best to understand and make use of what is given to us. This does not mean we must sacrifice the true greatness of our aspirations. It means becoming free from pompous, grandiose, violent illusions of constructing the total scope of our lives by our own power. It means engaging life intensely according to our own gifts and possibilities, in collaboration with others, with mutual esteem, with patience, and with the humility and hope that open us to receive the ultimate measure of our fulfillment as a gift. This is the human way to use power, to love reality, to practice restraint, and to exercize stewardship over what has been entrusted to us.