From the Black Plague to Coronavirus

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As physicians, we are trained to face death with compassion, to support nature’s built in resilience to disease, and to understand the laws of the life/death cycle to ease human suffering. The physician works at the tipping point between life and death, combining the best of science and art. In its deepest core, the practice of medicine aims to promote human vitality for meaningful action during the body’s lifespan. The sacred jewel of consciousness found in every human body is its creative mind.

Our brain is a creativity machine. Our mindful awareness and reflective consciousness generate meaningful narratives that amplify our tribal nature to form groups for optimizing survival. When our individual brain/mind forms secure bonds with others, we generate awesome creative resilience. As a species, we can go beyond the science and art of medicine by applying the fundamentals of individual resilience to human cultural evolution. Developing ‘species tribalism’ is the implicit goal for human organizations. As we use technology to activate global mindfulness, we may discover that our misperception of the ‘war with coronavirus’ is better framed as a ‘dance with death’.

Like the artists Guyot Marchant and Hans Holbein of the post Bubonic plague era in medieval times, we need to reframe our relationship with nature and impermanence to inspire human creativity. Human creative resilience to the millions of deaths during the black plague produced an artform called the ‘dance macabre’, where skeletons led the procession of people from the Pope to Kings to paupers parading to the grave. The profundity of these images helped people face the fear of death. By reframing our natural fear of death toward acceptance of impermanence, we can empower our creativity. Joy in life, wonderment at awareness, and embracing our deep emotional connectivity spawned the Renaissance—literally advancing human culture toward a fearless creative drive that would touch all human beings.

COVID-19 challenges our species to reflect on our greed and arrogance in respect to nature. Our reckless consumption of natural resources has pushed the biosphere to an existential brink. Our compulsion to kill each other in mindless wars knows no end. Death is as much a product of human behavior as it is a natural occurrence. The mindless attitudes of greed and arrogance perpetuate human self-sabotage.

By reframing our relationship with nature and the life/death cycle in the face of COVID-19, we may realize that understanding resilience to this virus requires that we activate our full potential to calm down, to connect with each other as a species, and to create a new global culture based on compassion and wisdom. The power of science and art can overcome the compulsion for greed and arrogance. Cultivating trust between all human beings is a great leap for mankind. By using our brilliant tools from Artificial Intelligence to social media, we may generate a ‘global mind’ from the global brain of the internet. As we evolve a mindful humanist culture that focuses of sustainability for ourselves on this planet, we hold the potential for using COVID-19 as an inspiration for new life, rather than seeing it as a specter of death.

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